If you have ever suffered from severe insomnia, you will probably understand the skin prickling dread associated with that word. There is nothing worse than lying in bed for hours and hours, watching the world outside your window get gradually lighter.
Sleep has always been a big part of my life – and not for the right reasons.
Ever since I can remember I have had insomnia. Sleep, or lack of sleep, has become such a huge issue in my life. Whether I have had a good night’s sleep or not can severely impact how well my following day goes – largely because of the impact it has on my mood.
Which is why I am so determined to crack it. It sometimes feels like I have tried everything – from going to bed at the same time each night, to getting up the same time each morning, to cutting out caffeine, not having electricals in the bedroom. Herbal tea. Sleeping pills. You name it, I’ve tried it.
Yet nothing seems to be a one-stop solution.
For me, sleep is a great cause of anxiety. I get worried before I go to bed that I’m not going to be able to sleep – which in turn means that I am not going to be able to sleep. It’s like a vicious circle.
And when people ask me why I can’t sleep?
I don’t know. I really wish I did. It’s like my brain doesn’t have an off switch and just keeps churning away all night. It seems to think that when I should be sleeping is the perfect time to dwell over completely insignificant and random events that happened years ago.
I’ve decided to talk about sleep as the first topic in my happiness project series as I think it is so important to our mood.
After years of trial and error, these are five things I have found that actually help me with insomnia. They are by no means fool-proof, but I have found by sticking to these rules I experience less severe insomnia than usual.
- Get up early, even if you don’t feel refreshed
By getting up at around 6:30am on weekdays (and not trying to lie-in too much past that at weekends), I have found it much easier to get to sleep at night.
It makes sense really. Even though some mornings it can be a struggle if you haven’t had much kip!
- No caffeine after lunch
I would love to be able to say I have given up caffeine completely. And maybe I will one day. I try to avoid coffee completely, and any caffeinated drinks after lunch.
I can’t quite give up my morning cuppa quite yet.
- The bedroom is for sleeping only
Following on from not having electronics in the bedroom – don’t watch TV or do work in bed. Make your bedroom somewhere associated with sleep.
This was much harder to do when I was a student – as you generally have your desk, TV, everything you own in your room.
- Talk it out/ write it down
Don’t go to bed with something on your mind. Talk about it with whoever you are with, or failing that write it down.
As much as I hate it, it does help. Although I would say just some gentle walking or yoga works best for me in terms of sleep. And if I do exercise too close to bed-time it actually has the opposite effect and keeps me awake.
I have steered away from talking about sleeping tablets or supplements. I do believe these can work in the short term. However, for me personally, even if I get a good night’s sleep with the aid of sleeping tablets, I still feel groggy the next day. This therefore can leave me feeling worse off, and not any happier than I would be with a poor night sleep anyway.
I am very interested to hear any tips about insomnia. So please do get in touch!