By Savitre “Rapture” Schaefferkoetter, Contributing Writer
I have suffered from insomnia for most of my life. Thankfully, those days have come to an end for me. If you share my pain, here are some tips that may help you reach dreamland much sooner.
- Make sleep your ultimate goal. If you are like me and work the typical day shift, make it your priority to prepare for sleep when you get home. Take off your makeup, take out the contacts, and change into those jammies. Then, eat your dinner. If you are concerned about how much you’re eating before bed or how soon before bed, Jillian Michaels has a few words about that here: http://www.jillianmichaels.com/fit/lose-weight/myth-too-late-to-eat. Friends asking you to go out? Politely decline until you have this sleep thing under control. Aim for the optimum number of hours of sleep (7-9 hours).
- Environment. While I have spent many an evening vegging out on the living room couch in front of a TV. My rule is: if I am dead tired, I go straight to bed after dinner. No TV there, minimal lighting, and I may read a book or write in my journal to dump any thoughts lingering in my mind before bed. I don’t have an opinion about reading the news or reading your tablet. But sometimes, the outside world can be overstimulating. This is your time to live in your safe little bubble, and slip into a nice, peaceful rest.
- Sound. Podcasts are great because you can set a timer for when you want them to shut off. You hear just enough before you enter sleep but won’t miss anything while you’re asleep. If you have noisy neighbors/roomies that are keeping you up, try earplugs. If you want ambient noise, try listening to nature sounds from an mp3 download, CD or machine you can purchase.
- What if you can’t fall asleep right away, or after a few hours, you wake up? I used to get so frustrated that I would pop out of bed and force myself to do things to tire myself out. It often meant that I would lose countless hours of potential sleep and maybe never go back to bed for that night. I have instead chosen to continue laying in bed, meditating and telling myself positive words that sleep will come. And it does. It did take some practice for me to restrain myself from jumping out of bed at the first sign of insomnia, but once I managed meditating myself back to sleep, I learned to rely on it quite often.
- Diet and exercise. Disregarding how soon or how much one chooses to eat before bed? What is it that you’re eating? If you find that some foods tend to upset your stomach or give you odd dreams, it’s only logical to stop eating those! Make sure you do eat a well-balanced diet. Exercise? The catch-22 is that you may be too tired or busy to exercise. Life gets busy. Try easing in one night a week at least, then slowly increase more nights. According to the Mayo Clinic, 30 minutes a day is the minimum, if you can work up to that!
- Bring in the professional. All my advice here is not professional, it’s from my personal experience. But sometimes, there are events in life that we cannot shut off from our minds, and that’s when you need to seek professional help. I have been on a few medications to help me sleep. I also have an underlying issue that is highly linked to insomnia, which your doctor may consider when prescribing you the right medication. I don’t advocate self-medication at all. I also don’t advocate long term sleeping medication. I am currently free of any sleep medication. But sometimes, you need it to get on that road to better sleep. Once you’ve started, discuss with your doctor regularly about your progress and any side effects. Together, you must decide dosage, and when the day comes, you can begin to taper off.
- Lastly, family. My whole immediate family suffers from insomnia and even a few of my relatives. I think, due to stigma, no one else in my family has voluntarily sought professional help the way I did and have learned to cope with their bad sleeping habits. Me? I chose to gamble for more, and I got it. Please do not excuse or ignore your condition because of norms set by your family, society or culture. If you strive enough to want to change, that is your solution. And maybe by your example, your family may choose to follow you.
This Clearwater insomniac considers herself a recovering one, and I’ve never felt happier or more alert in my life. Life is beautiful. Let’s be awake for it!
Featured Image: Special to The Jade Times