Tuesday, December 4

Insomnia


I have always had a problem with sleeping. It seems to run in my family. My dad famously can't sleep (well its pretty famous in our family at least) and his mother also was a night owl. Last summer I had the longest run of sleeplessness of my whole life and I made a lot of mistakes and cried sobbed and screamed! a lot from frustration. I went to see a doctor because I was so desperate. I thought he would just give me meds (which is why I hate doctors), but he didn't. Instead he told me that because I have no medical condition that would cause me to have insomnia that I shouldn't take any meds at all. Instead he gave me a new perspective and some tools. I hold this list near to my heart because it works and I have finally felt like I have control over my insomnia. You are not the boss of me insomnia!

1. Most people can't sleep because they can't stop thinking. So make a list of everything you have to do the next day, or whatever is on your mind. Recently I just took out my notebook and wrote just what came to my mind because I knew I had anxiety, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Sure enough my brain barfed it up all over the page. I usually get everything ready for the next day at this time too, like send myself emails, or double check my calendar. I also visualize my morning, and if I have anything pressing then I visualize myself arriving on time, or making that big sale, or laughing and having a good time!

2. You need to create a sleep deficit.  Seems totally counter intuitive since when you have insomnia all you can think about during the day is how little you slept the night before but I swear this works. Go to bed at 12 or 1, then wake up at 6am. Add 30 minutes of sleep every day until you get to 7-8 hours. I always thought that I had to get to bed early so I would force myself into bed at 10, dreading it, feeling tension all over my body, probably crying because I knew I would never sleep. Wrong! Instead I read until I can't stand it any longer which leads me to my next tip...

3. Only stay in bed for 20 minutes. If you are still not asleep get up! This is the very hardest one for me. Go back to the chair and read again, or watch something on TV that doesn't stimulate you. Don't watch the news like my dad does because it gets your heart rate up. I have done this multiple times a night before. I like to stretch, sometimes I just pace around the house too. DO NOT use this time to catch up on work because hey, you'r up right? I still have to fight this impulse.

Bath time! I usually like lower lighting. Sometimes I even take a shower with just candle light. Its very soothing to be in hot water, obvs. I did dark showers a lot in NYC when I would come home from work too blasted to deal. Try it! Also remember to make it pretty and clean and neat. 
 4. Don't do anything in bed but sleep (and sexy time is ok too). No laptop or iPad. No reading. Nothing. Only get in bed when you are ready to drop. I set up a chair, ottoman and table with lamp in my bedroom so that I could hang out there when I am reading before bed. I read really slow historical fiction before sleep btw. Makes my brain go to a totally new place.

5. Create a routine that makes your brain realize "it's time for bed dummy." A hot bath helps because it raises your body temp so that when you cool off and your body temp dips lower, it brings sleepiness with it. Cool huh? I make my bed all pretty, turn the heat off (I like it cold) and do my ablutions so I am all clean and comfy and ready to read. I also stretch a lot because I have a lot of muscle tension. Other helpful things: burn a nice candle, turn the lights down in the house, no TV sounds or screens after a certain time in the evening, kitchen is cleaned and closed...

6. Dietary sleep wreckers! Don't have a full tummy. For me this means don't eat dinner. Personally I think dinner is for dates only. What a silly meal! Lets eat the biggest meal of the day with a bunch of protein and carbs together (digestive suicide for me) a few hours before we sleep. What? Don't do it. Eat a larger meal at 3, latest. Then nothing until bed. If you are hungry, drink some water. If you are digesting a meal while laying in bed, it will make it harder to fall asleep.

Also, no alcohol at all. Even a small amount of booze will kill your sleep buzz. You may be able to fall asleep quickly, but you will probably wake up soon after and then what? I only drink on the weekends and it doesn't effect me as much. I used to drink wine every day! It was a vicious cycle. Come home so tired I can't breath, drink a glass of wine, feel better. Then no sleep. Makes a really huge difference.

7. If you fall sleep, but then wake up a few hours later and can't fall asleep again you need a strategy! My doctor is from England, and he told me that he imagines that he is taking a walk in his hometown when he was a kid. He strolls along in his mind, seeing the shops and the people. Also counting helps a lot. He told me to count each breath in rounds of 20. I admit I rolled my eyes. "Really? counting? Good thing I am at the fucking doctor!" But ya'll it actually works.

It took this when I was wandering around the house getting it read for bed. I like dim lights, my cozy christmas pijamas (that I wear all year round) and a neat house so that when I wake up the next morning it looks nice and pretty. Plus I like taking pictures up my nose.

Mostly now when its time to sleep I think "This is my time. Nothing is allowed to sabotage my special, personal brain space." When I have thoughts that start to invade my calm I just push them away because I know I have prepared everything I can to be successful in sleeping, and in my day coming up (see number 1.)

Ok, so what is your experience? Tried any of these? Do you have a fail-safe voodoo spell that has been passed down in your family for years? hmmmmm?

16 comments:

  1. My insomnia too a result of my gene pool...and none of them before me passed down any spells. I have learned to embrace it...can be some of my most productive time

    Have you seen this. A kindred soul. Hilarious. "Happy to be sad"

    http://happy2bsad.tumblr.com/post/14693021204

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    1. Oh that is key, going with the flow. I have so much anxiety when I can't sleep, and I feel like I am suposed to be asleep that I can't just say "to hell with it" and go to my studio to paint. So awesome that you can do that.

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  2. Made me relax just reading this! I personally have never tried this but I know friends who like to put soothing essential oil creations on the soles of their feet before bed...supposedly it relaxes you :)

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  3. my husband and i have a before-bed tea ritual, something relaxing like chamomile or catnip (not just for cats!). i think the herbs work, but i also think it's, like you said, the habit of doing it every night, and that habit telling our bodies and minds it's time to wind down.

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    1. Meghan, and Brittany. Both very wise ideas. I had no idea you could drink catnip tea. Very interesting!

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  4. Oh, blasted insomnia! I have bouts of it. They come and go and have been known to make my life a living hell. Thankfully, I haven't had trouble with insomnia in a while. (Praise the Lord and pray for it to stay that way!)
    Reading does seem to help sometimes. And, even if you don't want to, getting up is really a good one, like you said. OTC sleep aids, when all else fails. OR...eat a banana. It has the same stuff in it as turkey that makes you drowsy. Never hurts to eat a banana!

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  5. read the effortless sleep method michelle. do it. my sleep is perfect now. PERFECT!!! i too was a chronic insomniac. chronic, yo. not occasional.

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    1. You know all the best books! I am so glad that you are finally getting good sleep, what a relief.

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  6. Poor Michelle! I hope these help you immensely! Love the tips, and your perspective and humor as usual :)

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  7. The candlelit or low-lit shower is my favorite go-to method to relax after a hard day. Something about the water washing over you in the dark just works, and I've been a fan for a while now!

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  8. you are so wise. I can't agree more with no.6. how long it took me to learn this. and waking up to a clean house...yes. I'm constantly trying to make my (messy-let's-worry-about-it-in-the-morning) husband understand this concept. but not to husband bash, he does something really lovely for me. he usually wakes up before me and lights sandalwood incense. the scent makes it way through the house and that is what wakes me up, rather than an annoying ringing alarm clock. waking up in a good mood is key to my whole day. alarm clocks make me angry before I can open my eyes.

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  9. You'll make a great mama because you understand what makes for great sleep...your babies will be sleeping machines with great bedtime routines!!

    I don't often have insomnia, but I used to get slight panic attacks that can keep me up. Ear plugs helped. All the extra noise (a/c, house creaks, John sleeping loudly) would keep re-engaging my mind. If I block out the noise, my mind can relax.

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  10. You'll make a great mama because you understand what makes for great sleep...your babies will be sleeping machines with great bedtime routines!!

    I don't often have insomnia, but I used to get slight panic attacks that can keep me up. Ear plugs helped. All the extra noise (a/c, house creaks, John sleeping loudly) would keep re-engaging my mind. If I block out the noise, my mind can relax.

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  11. As Thomas Jefferson said, No matter what time I go to bed, I always wake before the sun.
    I rather love waking early and love the quiet. I think my tips for getting good sleep are, and mind you not in any order.
    1. Have twins.
    2. Walk daily
    3. Always go to bed with a clean kitchen sink.
    4. Make a list of to do's for tomorrow.
    5. small cup of water, tea or bourbon. I think on a really cold night, the bourbon helps. Oh, that goes against your list. oops.
    6. Count sheep.
    ZZZZZZ
    pve

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  12. Michelle, you don't know me from Adam, but I'm not going to let that stop me from giving you some unsolicited advice. I am new to your work and blog, but am totally inspired by what you are doing. I myself am finding my way to an art-driven life.

    I too deal with adrenal fatigue, and with all that I have been through in the last 10 years, I'm a bit of a patient advocate. So forgive me if you know this already, but your insomnia is likely from high night time cortisol. Happy to provide links to more info if you like. I too have suffered from a brain that won't turn off, and have almost immediate relief from taking L-Tryptophan before bed (a precursor to Melatonin). Best of luck with your sleep.

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    1. Jen! So helpful, thank you for the info. Adrenal Fatigue sucks!

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