Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Totally Unscientific and Probably Unorthodox Ways to Manage Insomnia

This is possibly the most anecdotal and unorthodox approach to insomnia ever, because none of that develop a nightly routine while listening to calming ocean noises and drinking milky drinks has ever done shit for me. Insomnia has plagued me for most of my life, and so here are some actual productive steps I take and tips I've developed that make insomnia more manageable, rather than curing it. 

The Night Itself

Bedtime - I rarely get to sleep before 1am and on a Sunday or the night before something I'm stressed about, much, much later. One of the most unhelpful things I've done is try to force myself to be asleep really early. It's not going to work and trying to do so is lacking in self-awareness. Instead I recognise that I will likely not be asleep before 1am, so instead of trying to settle down at 10, and then spending 5 stressful hours stressing about not being asleep, I let myself have until midnight. It makes me feel calmer having extra time to wind down, and if I tell myself all night that I'm settling down at 1am, it's less-anxiety inducing when I get there and I'm more likely to get to sleep faster.

Don't Beat Yourself Up About It - So it's 4am and you're not asleep. The world is not going to end. Yes you'll be tired tomorrow (or, today, technically) but you'll probs get through it (see later tips for how to do that). Stressing about it is only going to make the whole situation worse.

Just Do What Works For You - Lots of places say you should get up and do a task when you can't sleep, and then try and sleep again but also having a chronic condition means I'm often physically exhausted even if I'm mentally wide awake, so getting up is the LAST thing I want to do. I usually listen to an audiobook (though this could easily be a podcast, radio programme) for a little bit and then try sleeping again, but if getting up helps you, get up. If having a bath helps, have a bath. Have ten baths. Just don't do it because the internet told you to, do it because it actually helps. Even if it seems counter-intuitve (like falling asleep with the TV on).

For the morning after the night before

Organisation is Key - In my last job, before I left work every day, I would write a rough to do list for the next day. This served a dual purpose as it meant I left work feeling calmer and more in control, but mainly it meant that when I got in the next morning I didn't spend twenty minutes blinking sleepily at my screen and trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing that day.

No Really, Organisation is Key - In a similar vein, before I left work I would also highlight tasks that needed doing but were less mentally taxing, and I would do those when I first got into work, and save everything else for when I'd woken up a bit more.

Do It The Night Before - One thing I found particularly helpful was to look at my morning routine and decide what could be moved to the night before, when I was more awake, rather than in the morning when I was sleepy and irritable. So I started laying out my outfits the night before, making sure everything I needed was in my bag and my bag was where I could find it. It saves you valuable minutes that you can spend recovering some extra winks of sleep and also saves you mistakes you might make when you're not operating at your best (like leaving your keys behind).

Minimising Morning Routine - I shaved my morning routine down to the bare minimum for when my insomnia is particularly bad. It was already fairly minimal because even when I don't have insomnia issues I don't sleep well ( I have always showered at night, for example), so I try and spend as little time as possible getting ready. But one thing I could cut down on was hair straightening. I used to straighten my hair every morning which is both bad for it and time consuming. I don't wash my hair everyday, so half the time I was straightening it as more of a top-up. I realised that I could live with my hair being not *totally* straight if that meant every other day I could have an extra 20 minutes in bed.
If you're a full face of beautiful make up person, you could develop a lighter version for days after bad sleep nights and if you tend to eat a full breakfast before you leave the house, you could pick something up from Starbucks/favourite or nearest coffee shop and eat it at your desk instead. This last one is also a nice treat for when you've had a particularly frustrating lack of sleep night.

Cold Water - There are so many products out there designed to be put on your eyes to make them look more awake or less puffy or whatever, but the best thing for me is just cold water on a flannel pressed over each eye. The cold water helps the puffiness and helps fully-open my often half-closed eyes and the shock of the cold also wakes me up a bit.

Snack A Lot - This one could be just be because I am the world's biggest snacker, but if I am totally lacking in energy because I haven't slept well, I find snacking really does help. The constant influx of food energy keeps me more alert and nice foods help curb that sorry-for-yourself feeling somewhat. If you're worried about the health issues of this tip, you are absolutely right to and you can always have snacks like apples and nuts and dried fruit, just stay away from me and my Jaffa Cakes.

Nap - Should we nap? Should we not nap? How long should we nap for? I thought about looking this up and then I felt really tired. Metaphorically, obviously. If I'm not sleeping much at night, I think it's helpful to recoup some of that time if possible. It might make me not sleep that night, but I probably wasn't going to anyway. At least I grabbed an extra hour pre-dinner.

Do you have any tips for managing insomnia?

1 comment:

  1. Love your article! You nailed it - do what works.