The reason for this particular Dealing with... is the fact that I have not been sleeping well lately. Either I have trouble falling asleep – or I wake up after a few hours and feel weary all day long. Probably because the submission of my master thesis is just around the corner. So today's topic is insomnia. Or sleeplessness, to call it something that doesn't sound like a disease.
The most important step to deal with insomnia is to find out the cause of your sleeping problem, then find the solution.
Causes for sleeplessness can be:
Solution: Reduce your coffee / green tea / black tea / coke intake. If you must, drink it early in the day. Caffeine takes around 4 hours to leave the bloodstream, so avoid it at night. (Keep in mind: like caffeine, nicotine is also a stimulant, and may lead to sleep disturbances during the night.)
Instead, drink warm milk sweetened with honey (rather than hot chocolate, since cocoa contains caffeine as well!), cherry juice or soporific and calming herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian, lavender, lemon balm, passion flower and hop tea.
Solution: Before going to bed, try to bring both body and mind into a relaxed mode. Take a hot bubble bath. Switch off your computer and other electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime. Light scented candles. Read a (not too thrilling) book. Meditate. Count backwards from 100, and repeat if necessary (this is also a great tip if you feel nauseous or are about to have a panic attack!). Count sheep.
Noise / Snoring Partner
Solution: Earplugs. Or, if possible, change your bedroom to the other side of your flat. In case of the snoring partner: Sleep in separate rooms. Or hit your partner real hard. (just kidding)
Anxiousness (upcoming exams...)
Solution: similar to point 2. Instead of beating yourself up and turning things over in your mind pamper yourself, drink calming tea (see above), and if you're really nervous do some light exercise or go for a quick jog around the block.
Solution: Before going to bed, air out your room. Maybe leave your window tilted open overnight (don't do that if you live in a very noisy street – in that case, leave your door ajar).
Solution: Take a walk. While some might find that strenuous exercise too close to bedtime only makes sleep more elusive, taking a leisurely walk a couple of hours before turning in can actually help to get the ants out of your pants!
Solution: Sleep with an open window if possible, switch your blanket to a lighter one, and sleep with your toes sticking out of the blanket :) Apart from that, especially in summer I love taking a cold foot bath every night before going to bed!
Fatty, Heavy Food
Solution: Have your supper earlier at night. Ideally, don't eat past 6 p.m. Also, try to eat light like a big salad or steamed vegetables. Something that won't sit heavily on your stomach.
Solution: Thicker curtains. I am very sensitive to light, so my room needs to be super dark for me to not wake up as soon as the sun sets. Personally I find it helpful to also put on an eye mask, like the ones you get on an airplane!
This is similar to the anxiety situation. Countess nights I have been kept awake by my chattering mind. Especially when I was working on a novel or a homework or something that required my attention and creativity shortly before going to bed.
Count down from 100.
Babble. Erm, what? Alright, let me explain this to you.
Practice this every night before you go to sleep, it will only take 15 minutes! Turn off the light, sit on your bed in your pyjamas, teeth brushed and ready for bed.
Close your eyes and then start with any monotonous, meaningless sounds, for example: la, la, la. Just trust your mind, it will come up with new sounds by itself. The only thing you should keep in mind is that these sounds or words belong to some unknown language. If you are English, German or Spanish, they should not be English, German or Spanish. Instead, use a "language" you do not know, like Russian, Chinese, Italian, Tibetan, or whatever else comes to mind. At the beginning this might feel very odd. How do you speak a language that you don't know? Just allow yourself to express any sounds or nonsense words, and speak unconsciously. Let the unconscious speak.
This is a very, very old method. It derives from the Old Testament. Back then it was called "Glossalia" and in a few churches in America they still use this method today. They call it 'talking in tongues'. And it is a wonderful method to dip deep into the unconscious.
You start with something like la la la, and then you leave the rest to your body and your mind. After the first time trying this, you know the trick and it will no longer feel so strange. Do this for 15 minutes – then lie down to sleep. Your sleep will be deeper. Within a few weeks, your sleep can develop a tremendous depth, and in the morning you'll be completely replenished.
Last but not least – don't toss and turn all night long!
This might sound strange, but lying in your bed for hours and hours, trying badly to catch some sleep can actually have a counter-productive effect on you because the mattress will start to feel uncomfortable and your already-awake mind will not associate your bed with sleep any longer.
So in case you find yourself tossing and turning, it might actually help to get up and get done whatever keeps you from falling asleep. For example: write a to-do list (so your mind can rest after organizing the upcoming day), tidy up your room, prepare your bag for school or work, iron your clothes or prepare an overnight breakfast.
Doing those activities (no creative activities because those will only stimulate your mind even more!) will act unwinding and make you become tired again.
Sleep tight! ~