Hello. My name is Heather…and I’m an insomniac. I have been since I was a baby. My mother told me stories of how she would check on me in the middle of the night and I’d just be sitting there not crying, or upset, but just ready to wake up at 2 am and start playing. She thought I would grow out of this, but that just never happened. I can recount numerous times as a child laying in my bed and watching the moon through my window blinds slowly move across the sky. My days were full of exhaustion but then at night, I was wide awake.
I started to see this as a serious problem in college. I couldn’t afford to see a professional doctor about it, so I started searching online on what I could do. Now, I’m about to be 35 and I’ve learned how to work with it. Sleepless nights still happen, but they are much rarer and when they come up I have ways of managing it. Hopefully, if you’re going through the same problems these tips will help you. As a disclaimer, I’m not a doctor and if you think this is medically related you should see a doctor. I’m just telling you what worked for me.
1.) Cut the caffeine!: In college, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I had panic attacks, lots of sleepless nights, and just felt jittery throughout the day. I didn’t drink a lot of soda or coffee at night, so I had no idea what was wrong. Turns out, I’m caffeine sensitive! I can have a coffee at lunch or even at breakfast if it’s big enough and it takes SEVERAL HOURS for my body to process it, and during that time I experience jitters and heart racing and anxiety. It’s bad. You can read more about it HERE, but for the most part, I have to avoid caffeinated teas and even desserts that contain high levels of caffeine.
2.) Try Some Light Exercise: Exercising too close to bedtime can make it difficult to sleep. I use to attend a Jiu-Jitsu class but eventually had to leave because it was just too late at night for me and it took time for me to wind down. Likewise having no exercise can also throw off your sleep. Your body needs a way to burn off energy even if that’s doing something gentle like a nice evening walk or yoga.
3.) Try Some Aromatherapy: In college, I remember seeing that Bath and Body Works had just come out with an aromatherapy set (shower get, body mist, and lotion) in Lavender Vanilla and it had the label “Sleep” on it. I remember asking one of the employees there if it actually worked and she said that a lot of people said it had. So I decided to give it a try and that was the day I started to think there might be something to this aromatherapy thing. I slept like a rock and to this day I put lavender essential oils on my pillow and I continue to use the Bath and Body “sleep” set. I should also say they’re not paying me to say this either. I just love it that much.
4.) Try Some Old Fashioned Remedies: Warm milk at night, Chamomile or Sleepytime tea can all help. The truth is there is no scientific backing that any of these will help you sleep better. Psychologically speaking there might be some comfort. If you establish a routine where every night before bed you make yourself an herbal tea your brain might start associating that to slowing down and getting comfortable for sleep. The same thing with warm milk; studies haven’t shown anything in milk that would cause us to fall asleep, but it might link back to our memories of being a baby and feeling safe and comforted while having milk before sleep. Either way, if you find it soothes you, then do it.
5.) Take the Pressure Off!: I can’t tell you how many times, usually in the middle of the night, I would freak out thinking “I NEED TO GET TO SLEEP!!! I have a big day tomorrow!” the longer I was awake, the more I’d freak out. So decided to start making a deal with myself. I would close my eyes and try to rest for 15 minutes. If I couldn’t get to sleep I was going to get up and journal or meditate or start my morning off slowly. In truth, I have rarely gotten to that state. Telling myself that I wasn’t going to fight my sleeplessness relaxed me and usually during those fifteen minutes of relaxing, I was able to fall asleep. In the case where I genuinely couldn’t sleep, I got up and decided to enjoy the extra hours of awake time I had. I would journal (because half the time if I’m awake I’m worried about something), I would meditate, or I would read. Sometimes I’d relax so much that I would realize that I was ready to sleep again, and would go back to bed having only lost an hour.
6.) Limit TV and Electronics, or at Least Monitor Yourself Closely: Scientifically speaking, it’s best to sleep in a completely dark room. I personally have never been able to do that. I’ve always had a night light or in the very least the shades to a window open so I could watch the Stars or have the glow of a streetlamp. What you don’t want to do is have something that is flicking. I have fallen asleep with the TV on and the volume off and to be honest, every time a scene changes it does interrupt my sleep. because while your eyes are closed you can still see some light through your eyelids. Also if you wake up in the middle of the night and grab your phone as I do, please try to pay special attention to when you’re starting to feel sleepy again. It’s so easy to just push slight drowsiness aside for one more article or game.
7.) Ask Yourself to Replay Your Favorite Movie from Start to Finish in Your Head: I know this probably sounds funny but the truth is it works for me. I started doing this as a child when I couldn’t sleep. So I’d lay there and try to remember a movie all the way through. I usually wouldn’t get very far. All you have to do is close your eyes and try to picture everything. NO SKIPPING SCENES! Remember the songs, visualize the characters, and try to keep the storyline accurate. I think because you’re laying there with your eyes closed and visualizing with your mind’s eye your brain will start to dream.
8.) Ask Yourself an Unanswerable Question: I grew up in a really religious home so as a child I use to find myself thinking really deep thoughts. Like what does heaven look like, or if there was life in the universe an if so would they still have to adhere to our ideas of morality, or my favorite: Is the devil really bad? Because without darkness in our lives (bad times) we might not recognize the good times. I found that this often made me use my imagination to figure things out and that often leads to me dreaming and sleeping. It might also keep you awake, so use with caution.
9.) A Nightcap Before Bed May Not Help You Sleep: I like a glass of wine before bed. HOWEVER, studies have shown that while it might help you get to sleep, the chances of you getting restful sleep are low. I can honestly say on the nights I’ve been out with friends, I might be exhausted and really wanting to sleep and even fall asleep right away, but I often have strange dreams, wake up a lot and usually feel pretty sleepy the next morning.
10.) Meditation can Help: Meditation has a TON of healthy physical and mental benefits. When I’m feeling upset I try to do a 15-minute meditation. There are several ways to do this. You can focus on your breath, and if your mind wanders, as soon as you notice this you just bring it back to your breath. Personally I like to do a mantra in my head, breathing in something positive that I want to take it like “I am a good person” or “I love myself” and then breathing out either something negative like “I release anger” or breathing out something I want to give the world like “I forgive”. Again if you just promise yourself to try it for fifteen minutes you’ll either fall asleep or in the very least you’re ready to start your (very early) day on a good foot.
If you’re looking to add something new to your sleep routine here are some other things I recommend looking into. These are affiliate links so if you find something you like and decide to buy it I’ll earn a small commission (thank you!).
1.) Weighted Blanket: This has helped a lot of people especially if you struggle with anxiety.
2.) Aromatherapy Diffuser: As I said above, aromatherapy has helped me and it has helped a lot of people. This diffuser also has a soothing color change feature!
3.) Noise Machine: Having something soothing to listen to can help you fall asleep as well. I like this one because it has a beach feature and ocean wavese are always soothing.
I hope these help! If you have any further questions or perhaps you do something that helps you sleep that I haven’t listed then please message me in the comments section! If any of these worked for you let me know, and if you’re just one of those types who scroll through Instagram to fall asleep, don’t forget to add me! Thank you and have a good day…or night! – Heather Astaneh