As some of you might know, I struggle with insomnia pretty regularly, and have for several years. Since I know I’m not the only one out there with this issue, I thought I’d share some of the things that help me. The combination of the below has helped me go from lying awake 2+ hours after bedtime and waking up multiple times in the night, to falling asleep within an hour of going to bed, and only sometimes waking up just once during the night. I know, still not perfect, but definitely a huge improvement for me. Here’s my method:
1. White Noise. I cannot sleep if it’s too quiet. If all I can hear is Ian breathing next to me, more often than not that just makes being awake more frustrating because he is blissfully sleeping like a log and why can’t I!? So, I need some level of noise to not have it be silent, but not so much it distracts me and keeps me awake. So, white noise. And forget the fancy machines (I tried one of those, it didn’t work). Just download the free iPhone app Relax Melodies.
It lets you custom mix your own noise tracks to find something that works for you. There are over 40 different sounds to choose from, like thunder, rain, ocean, birds, city ambience, and more. You can mix and match, and adjust relative volumes, and save your favorite mixes. It also has a timer feature to automatically fade out and shut off after the set amount of time. It’s been awesome! Definitely helps me sleep. My favorite custom mix is one I call Rain on a Tin Roof, which is a mix of thunder, night, cavern and rain on roof. They also have a paid version, but the free one has worked just fine for me. As far as I can tell, it is only available for iPhone, so sorry you lesser-phone users. 😉
2. Melatonin Tablets. I’ve tried the warm milk (ew), and breathing exercises, and all sorts of sleep aids and medicines. They all either plain didn’t work or left me feeling groggy and disoriented the next day, sometimes so much that I didn’t feel it was safe for me to drive anywhere. Enter melatonin tablets. It’s a natural hormone found in the body that helps with sleep. For me, it works wonderfully and I’m perfectly fine the next day. Find it in the vitamins & supplements section.
3. Other Things to Do: have comfortable sheets & blankets (this includes the weight of them); temperature regulate (turn the thermostat down at night, wear different pjs, etc.); have a good pillow; cover any distracting light sources (blinking light on fire alarm or modem or whatnot); get enough sunlight; exercise sometime during the day (though not immediately before sleep).
4. Things to Not Do: drink caffeine after 5pm; watch a really emotional movie right before bed (maybe this is just me, but my brain can’t get away from it to try to sleep); have a fight/confrontation that leaves you really angry or upset (this is actually to be avoided all the time, not just before sleep); have a bed that is too small.
How about you guys? Any sleeping tips from fellow insomniacs?
I LOVE that iPhone app. It’s one of my favorites.
I’d never thought of the movies thing… the same should probably go for books, because I get WAY more involved with books than I do with movies.
You’d think that about books — but you know, I always read before I go to bed and on the nights when I find myself without a book I toss and turn for hours. I think the difference is that reading is a quiet, often solitary activity whereas movies are highly visual and auditory. Caveat: this rule does not apply to a) zombie novels or b) horribly tragic novels. Those books keep me up all night!
I love the app, too! (obvs)
I’m gonna have to agree with Melissa below. For me, movies are way more sleep-interfering, probably because of the barrage of noise and imagery like she said. Books, on the other hand, are one of my zen things and tend to relax me, even if it’s an exciting/tumultuous story. I get way more involved in books than movies, too, but for some reason they don’t keep me from sleeping. *shrug*
Amen to the “no caffeine after 5 PM” thing! I try to avoid coffee in general unless I know I don’t have to be somewhere early the next day — it stays in my system forEVER.
I don’t drink coffee, but I’m huge on soda and tea, so I try to cut myself off on weekdays at a reasonable hour.
Also, I agree with your other comment about books vs. movies!
I’ve dealt with insomnia since childhood. True story. It’s a bit more manageable now. Having a bedtime routine has been hugely helpful. I have a cup of sleepy time tea (sometimes laced with liquid melatonin!) and read in bed for 30 minutes to an hour. If I’m really desperate I pop Benadryl (haven’t had to do it in a long time but it was recommended to me by a dr I saw in college).
Having a routine is helpful, for sure (I totally should have included that on my list!). My boyfriend has a work schedule like clockwork, and so I kind of got sucked into his sleep schedule, too, but that’s not a bad thing! It’s helped.
I always listen so some radio plays for children/teenager when I go to bed. It makes me fall asleep immediately and I don’t know why.
I also love Relax Melodies! My current favorite combination is camp fire and waterfall.