August is beginning to have a bit of a theme, I’m becoming a bit of a health nut. It started with drinking more water and it’s turning into going to sleep earlier. I have and always will be an insomniac, it’s one of those things that surfaces its ugly head every now and again. My current situation is that I can sleep unless I’ve had a full day at work, I think I have to be completely knackered in order to sleep. Therefore Saturday and Sunday nights are the bad ones.
I would class that as pretty positive, there have been periods in my life when I haven’t been able to sleep at all. I’ve got maybe 2 or 3 hours a night (around 5-7am) for periods of up to six months. Insomnia is truly the worst thing I’ve faced in my life, tiredness makes me grouchy, angry and sad. I never have a good day when the night before I haven’t slept. If you’re suffering at the moment, I truly empathise and think the best advice I can give is to promise you it won’t last forever. When you’re in the depths of insomnia, it can feel like you’ll never be the same again. Go and see your doctor, see if they can help you find the root of the problem. Even if that doesn’t work, know there will be an end to this.
In my life, I’ve tried just about everything they tell you to try. Meditation, not watching TV an hour before bed, reading, avoiding electronics, getting up and giving up, eliminating caffeine (giving up my beloved tea was tough!), counting sheep, relaxation techniques, focussing on something else, focussing on nothing, only going to sleep when tired, setting a routine, I could really go on forever. At the moment, I’ve stuck on a routine which works and it probably goes against the rules. Every night before bed, I watch 20 minutes of TV on my iPad, turn it off, roll over to the other side of the bed and sleep. It works (touch wood!) However this can make for late nights, I get up at 6.30am so I know I should be aiming to be asleep by 10.30pm. This never happens. I usually get into bed at half 10 and turn off the iPad by 11, it then takes me around 30 minutes to an hour to nod off. Until now, I’ve been terrified to adjust this routine. Part of the reason I know I sleep at the moment is because I am exhausted, in the past moving my bedtime by just 10 minutes has affected whether I can sleep or not. Even if I am completely knackered and falling asleep on the sofa I wont go to bed before 10pm because I just know I then won’t sleep.
The problem with having to be exhausted to sleep is that I am never truly refreshed or at my peak. I get by on my 6-7 hours because that is such a long bonus for me when I’ve been used to just two before. I know, though, that if I could just hit that magic 8 I’d be so much better off. This week I had quite a free week so I gave it a go. Every night (apart from Saturday) I aimed to be in bed by 10pm, ready to watch something for 15 minutes and then go to sleep.
It started off well, I was asleep by 10.30pm on day one and the next day I definitely felt better for it. I felt more awake in the morning and wasn’t falling asleep on the sofa in the evening. A positive start. Day two and three went worse, it was the weekend so I wasn’t exhausted and on Saturday night I just didn’t sleep. This always happens if I concentrate on sleeping, I’m thinking about it and therefore I overthink it and that signals the end. Sunday was better but still my night drifted in and out of sleep.
I decided I needed to give it less thought, all I was doing was adjusting my routine by 30 minutes and watching slightly less TV, the change was very small. So I stopped focussing on the time in the evening for the rest of the week. Usually I settle down to watch a TV programme at 9pm, it’s my hour of relaxing and then I know exactly when it hits 10pm. I spend half hour getting ready for bed and know it’s half 10. For the rest of the days this week I watched Netflix or Youtube at 9pm, it might have only lasted 20 minutes, I didn’t look at the time and then started getting ready for bed. Without me consciously trying, this small change got me ready for bed earlier and meant I went to sleep earlier, without properly thinking about it.
It sounds an odd way to approach things, and it will probably work for nobody but me! But the ‘not thinking’ adjust of the routine was the one I needed in order to change things. I can honestly say, much more than my increase in drinking water, I have noticed a difference in myself because of this. Sleeping more is the one thing that gives you instant results and I’ve felt more awake and generally happier. This is also a good point for insomniacs to focus on, it only takes one night of sleep to break the pattern and feel better. It won’t take months of recovery to get back to yourself, just one, so remember that when you get into bed every night and be excited that you could be back to normal any night this week.
Let me know if you have any tips for insomniacs or any ways of getting to bed earlier?