DISCLAIMER: this post is not about an attack of insomniacs but rather solutions to attack of insomnia. Obviously this doesn’t sound as cool or catchy as ‘Insomniac Attack’ so I’m sure you can understand why the post is entitled thus. If not then you’re probably taking life a bit too seriously.
Right, so I wasn’t going to write, I have a lot of work but I think this is sort of important! In fact, very important. Some of my friends, one in particular, are/is suffering from great difficulty sleeping at the mo, great in the sense of big, not very good. I’ve been trying to help her out having built up a great inventory of attempted tactics to combat insomnia over the years having never been a good sleeper (I genuinely pity my parents but I’m sure I’ll make up for it one day!).
Anyway, I thought I ought to share some of these, as like Postcards, they aren’t much good if I just keep them to myself or even a few people since the internet allows me to publish them for whoever is interested! Although I’m sure there is lots of advice out there, I thought I’d put all my ideas in one place as it can’t exactly do any harm and if it does help out one or two people then that’s great!
I’ll get the irritating ‘lifestyle-y’ ones out the way that we all hate first. Do some exercise everyday. I like to think a walk or cycle ride is enough but apparently this is not quite good enough and you do actually need to get SWEATY. (I put it in caps as it’s an awkward word anyway so I thought I’d try and make it vaguely comedic, or less tabboo-ful because I was super direct about it). A good twenty minutes of proper heart-pumping. And yes, I KNOW your heart is always pumping (unless it isn’t but that’s another matter entirely) but I think you all know what I mean. Next, another difficult one for the liberated, free-spirited student in particular: regularity and routine. The alliteration makes it seem even worse and all uniform but it is disgustingly true. Try and eat regular meals and get your body into a rhythm. It’s an annoying cliched phrase, but think about it. In music when a beat is established you know what to expect. Your foot taps along, it knows what’s coming next. I reckon it’s the same with your daily routine and sleep. Just like if the beat suddenly changes tempo or becomes erratic in a piece of music and you get confused and don’t know when your foot needs to hit the ground, your body doesn’t know when it’s time to relax if you eat at 6pm one day, 10pm the next, get up at 8.30am one day, 11am the next and so on. Also, if you’re having trouble sleeping, choose a time at which to cut out caffeine. When I really slept badly this was 12pm. When I got a little better it was 3pm. After a while I could make it 5pm. I just had to be really disciplined so I knew that I was controlling as much as I could.
Now, some less irritating/uncomfortable tips! Warm shower/bath- good way to relax and get rid of any physical irritations of itches and any muck that’s built up over the day (like SWEAT). After this drink some WARM MILK. MILK that is WARM (I’m trying to put nice words in caps too now to make up for the sweat but now the three seem associated which wasn’t intended but oh well, I shall carry on!) It naturally contains melatonin which is a hormone thing or hormone triggery thing or something. I can’t be bothered to google or explain fully but would encourage you too if interested. Literally, this stuff is a genuine medical thing. You can get tablets of it as a natural supplement because it is a real thing. If that makes sense.
Next, don’t have ANYTHING work associated on or near your bed, and tempting though it is, DON’T work there! My friend who I’ve been with tonight has a bedtime routine, featuring working in bed for an hour before sleep. Apart from the fact that sleep doesn’t then come. The two are most likely related 😉 I also came into her room and found the most beautiful, colourful, hand-embroidered quilt on her bed. Of the periodic table. ALARM BELLS. Get it all out of sight! (She is a chemistry student!) Also, if you have a light up clock next to your bed, cover it up. You’ll just keep looking at it and likely get more stressed about the fact that you aren’t already asleep. Personally, I found a pocket German dictionary the ideal size and shape to cover up my digital clock at night…fond memories! Any other screens etc should be turned off too as they are, obviously, light. Light is a sign to your body of awakeness, not sleepiness. Although it is particularly tempting after being unable to sleep for ages just to see who’s online on facebook because it can get quite lonely, you know it will actually get you going.
For all of those thoughts whirring around your head that stop you dropping off. This has always been an issue for me and my busy brain/messy mind. So much to the extent that when I get quite stressed and worked up it physically hurts. The best response I’ve found for this is to keep a notebook by your bed and physically get all those thoughts out of your head onto paper. At times when my head is really full up I can actually feel the thoughts leaving and my mind lightening up. It means that you don’t have to worry about forgetting them or needing to hold onto those thoughts because they are on the page so you can come back to them in the morning, or any time after that. You can let them go, and empty your mind. This may all sound a bit extreme and even weird but I’d liken in to the pensieve in Harry Potter (which I’ve just realised is a hilarious pun on pensive and sieve… good work JK) and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Another thing which I’ve started doing lately as recommended my friend is guided meditation. It can really help you relax if you approach it with a non-piss-takey attitude and give it a go. Try the free ‘take ten’ on headspace (http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/). I find it can help get me really sleepy.
Finally, or at least finally out of the things I’ve remembered, it can be easy to get despondent about ever sleeping again ever and also worked up about will I sleep tonight/won’t I, what happens if I don’t sleep again etc. As much as it feels like a bloody irritating thing to hear, I’m wincing as I type it, please forgive me, try and approach it with a positive attitude and it IS more likely to happen. Remember, even if it takes days, weeks whatever, your body just can’t not sleep forever and you will sleep again.
Hope this is helpful and not too patronising/whatever. I just know how stressful it can get and it’s exam time, and sleep matters! As always, if you have any queries, please do get in touch. If you want to complain about what you’ve read, go ahead, but ideally do it somewhere else, I do try my best!
Lots of love, from
An Experienced Insomniac