These days my insomnia usually strikes on Sunday night. My mind won’t stop cycling through all of my Monday To Dos, all of the ways I could and should have been more productive over the weekend. My biological clock has a magical way of alerting me nearly every hour, on the hour, and I start panicking once I do the math on how many hours remain till the alarm rings.
There are a couple general categories of insomnia. I’ve learned this because I used to reasearch “insomnia” from my phone, in bed, in the middle of the night. The type I have had is Onset Insomnia: the inability to actually fall asleep. The other is Maintenance Insomnia: trouble staying asleep. They sound equally infuriating.
My insomnia used to be worse when I worked my prior job at an office heavy in politics and bully bosses who made a good case for hostile work environment that I decided not to pursue. But that’s for another post.
Bottom line is that I rarely slept at all then and it was tortuous. I tried so many online “remedies” and most of them just made me feel silly. Here are things that actually worked for me, and a few that definitely didn’t.
1. On nights you do sleep (like weekends), get up early. Try to get up around your normal workday time and resist the urge to sleep in or catch up on lost sleep. Waking early gives your body a chance to get tired at a decent hour. Establishing a routine sets in muscle memory. Your body starts to adapt to what’s expected of it.
2. Get out of bed. Rather than toss and turn and listen to your mate’s snoring, remove yourself from the situation. Leave the room if you can. Clean out your magazine collection. Toss expired condiments from your fridge. Set aside clothes ready for the drycleaners. If you must, turn the TV to an informercial or a movie you’ve seen a dozen times. Watch from someplace other than your bed. Recognize that sleep just isn’t happening and tell yourself that you’ll power through the day and try again another night.
3. Consider therapy. I mean this in the kindest way possible. Therapy can help you work through that gunk that’s clouding your mind. Maybe it’s time to make some big life changes. Maybe you need to see a doctor for sleep medications. Maybe you’re clinically depressed. Maybe you have sleep apnea. Insomnia can be a medical condition and you might need expert input.
4. Exercise. I don’t lead by example enough on this one but exercise is a natural stress reliever and relieving stress can set your mind at ease enough to help you fall asleep and stay that way till dawn.5. Meditation. Hear me out on this one. Meditation is hard. If you’re like me, you don’t understand total silence and self-awareness. Having and repeating a mantra doesn’t sound natural. Sitting cross-legged hasn’t happened since elementary school. There’s too much going on around you to just be..still. The thing is, meditation can be massively beneficial to your mental health and clarity. Those benefits might actually outweigh the awkwardness you feel as a beginning practitioner. I suggest starting with a quick 3-5 minute meditation in the morning, before you really start getting ready for work, maybe just after brushing your teeth. There’s no need to sit averts in way or to place your hands anywhere in partular. Just sit comfortably. I started with a guided meditation app. There are some free ones and you can find some via YouTube. Being guided keeps you from getting bored, overthinking, and wandering too much.
6. Take a long bath, shower, or soak. This solution takes some notice. Jumping up from bed at 2am for a hot shower probably isn’t gonna put you to sleep. Especially if your hair is wet. Consider establishing a bathtub or shower routine a few nights a week. I have a membership to a spot in town where you can sit and soak in warm mineral baths for hours. The last time I did that, I ended up with great night’s sleep.
7. Go tech-free. Turn off the phone (after finishing this article), TV, Kindle, pad, podcast. It’s all overstimulation. Make sure there are no blinking lights and streetlights flooding your room; keep it as dark as possible. Consider a sleep mask. I’m not claiming this will be easy, but you can start but setting your phone to Do Not Disturb so you aren’t tempted by buzzing and notifications. My phone has scheduled for Do Not Disturb from 9pm to 9am daily. It’s set so that only my husband and my parents contacts can get through with a phone call during emergencies. Otherwise I’m in disconnected ignorance. In time, you’ll start to realize that almost every bit of news, celebrity gossip, Facebook status updates, and even the thre most recent Instagram posts in your feed can totally wait till morning. You’re really not missing out.8. Spend some time preparing for the day ahead. Lay out tomorrow’s clothes, change your razor blade, fluff your pillows, have a herbal tea. Write a quick To Do List–on paper–and include on it things you’ll be able to knock out with ease: a glass of water upon waking, say “Hello” to cubicle mate, make it through two green lights in a row, check lottery numbers, let the dog out… What hasn’t worked for me: warm milk, tart cherry juice, turkey, white noise, sheep counting. These remedies may be science-backed. They might work on paper. For me, they just leave me in bed waiting for them to kick in. I start wondering how long they take to kick in, if they work for more people than not, and whether there’s an abnormality within me that prevents them from working on me. Back to Onset Insomnia for me.
These 8 remedies have worked for me on and off over the years, sometimes solo and other times in combination with each other. What works for you? Have you tried a novel insomnia approach? Tell me about it in the comments.