Let’s just start by saying, insomnia is a bitch.
Having suffered from this nasty little sleep thief for the last 10+ years, I know this all too well. You can be absolutely shattered when you clamber into your bed, tuck yourself up in clean sheets, switch off the light, close your eyes and wait for…..ever. Because nothing happens. Your brain stays awake. You can’t get comfy. You lay there, hopelessly, aimlessly, screaming internally with frustration and exhaustion and yet still, nothing.
Finally, after reading a book, talking to other insomniacs on twitter, doing any and everything to pass the time, you might drift off at around 5am. And then the alarm goes at 6. And despite being an absolutely useless walking zombie, you have to get on with your day, longing for the moment you get to fall into bed and pull that fluffy duvet up around your chin. Yet when you do? Nothing.
Repeat ad infinitum.
As long term readers of this blog and my lovely twitter followers will know, I’ve been fairly vocal about my insomnia in the past. Years of frustration and tiredness have been caused by this pest, which has struck for many reasons; pain, stress, chronic illness, and my favourite, no bloody good reason at all. Because insomnia doesn’t only get you when you’re low. It can creep up on you when everything is going rather well, actually….and bring you crashing down into a weeping, lethargic pile of uselessness in pretty much no time at all.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?!
So. For the last however many years, I’ve been working on getting to the bottom of this problem. And I’m pleased to say – my sleep patterns have now improved dramatically. I’m still not a head-hit-the-pillow-and-away-with-the-fairies kind of girl, and don’t think I ever will be. However, for someone who used to manage an appalling 1-2 hours sleep a night, I’m now managing around 6.5. I’ll take that any day – especially considering I’ve now got a baby, too.
How did I do it? Well. I changed just about everything. Some of the following may sound obvious, others a little ridiculous, but they’ve worked. So if you’re a fellow sufferer, I can’t recommend these tips enough:
- Cut out caffeine after 3pm.
Completely. Don’t cheat…not even a little bit. I love my tea and coffee, but now drink herbal or Rooibos tea after 3 (unless my day has been absolutely shocking and I’m on a deadline and only Fred and Ginger will save my soul, and then I have no one to blame for my sleepless nights but myself).
- Change your diet.
If you stuff your lovely little body full of sugary stuff and processed crap, it will be so wired you’ll have no chance of shutting it down. Think of all that craziness buzzing round your system. Your poor cells are having to work so hard to eliminate all the toxins and process all those additives it hasn’t got a chance to rest. Now. I’m not suggesting everyone becomes a vegan. Or boring. Life would be incredibly dull without the option of a haribo or a McDonald’s cheesburger once in a while. But be good to yourself, cook from scratch, know what you’re putting in your system (at least most of the time) and if you are going to eat rubbish – try to do so earlier in the day and give those little sleep muscles a chance. (Sleep muscles aren’t really A Thing, are they?)
- Turn off your tech.
Are you one of the millions of people who check their phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Of course you are. I bet your mobile sleeps next to you, your tablet gets a goodnight kiss and your TV is like a loving late night companion. We are all pretty much permanently logged on now, and it’s time it stopped. Research has shown that those who shut off their tech (completely, so no screens whatsoever) at least an hour before bed sleep better. And of course, don’t let the last thing you watch on TV be a scary movie. That’s just daft.
Honestly. Try a tech curfew. It’s not as hard as you think. And it will do you the world of good.
- Develop a bedtime ritual.
When you have a baby, you soon learn that one of the
best onlyessential ways to get them to actually go to sleep at night is to have a little ritual – which often consists of bath, bottle, bed. Now. I’m not suggesting you put on a babygrow and suck on a bottle of milk every night, but the grown up version of this routine can be rather enjoyable. Have a lovely relaxing bath with a sleep inducing oil and candles, moisturise in a lovely lotion, put on some comfy sleepwear and make yourself a warm (decaffeinated!) milky drink. Some relaxing music won’t hurt either. Get yourself all calm and cosy and sleep will follow soon after.
- Get a GREAT mattress.
Now. This one makes me feel a bit foolish. As someone with long-term back/neck problems, I’ve always THOUGHT I had good mattress. Of course, I’ve spent a bit of money over the years getting orthopaedic mattresses, and thought they were OK. But when Sleeping Duck contacted me a few months ago and asked if I’d like to test one of their Titan mattresses, I read up a little and thought, why not? I ordered a medium firm one and thought it would be like any other mattress I’ve ever had. I WAS WRONG. It was delivered all rolled up but when it popped into place and I had a little lay down, I didn’t want to get up. It’s heavenly. Every single night I go to bed it’s cosy, stays firm, doesn’t bounce too much or too little, is high (and consequently makes me feel like a princess (without the pea)) and doesn’t make me too hot or too cool. I bloody love it and don’t want to give it back. And I have to, so I have no reason at all to write anything other than the truth here. It’s fantastic, and I’m going to be buying one out of my own pocket as I genuinely believe it has helped me get a good night sleep. Along with all the other bits, of course….but I think you pretty much have to do them all to get the desired, sleepy effect.
So there you go. There’s some tips from a currently ex-insomniac about how I turned things around and finally seem to be getting a good night’s sleep. It’s fantastic to wake up in the morning and be able to play with my little one with a refreshed head, and then get on with some work without feeling like I have less than 32 brain cells left.
Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, and if you’re struggling to get enough please do let me know if you try these tips and if they work for you! I’d also love to hear from you if you have any other little pearls of wisdom to add to the list – and I expect my fellow insomniac community would too.