If you've ever suffered from it, you'll know that insomnia can be terrifying. You're stuck, and you can't see the end of it. One of the strangest things for me to get my head around was the terrible insomnia that I suffered during the early days of my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It's ironic that an illness which makes you so tired can also cause you to stay awake. This has a lot to do with your body clock being out-of sync with your body's natural rhythms and hormone levels, due to our natural need at this time for recovery and, therefore, more sleep than necessary.
Often though, there are other things at play: stress, worry, digestive issues, stimulants, high emotions, artificial lights in the bedroom, or a distracting noise, for example. Our body and mind have trouble processing this, and therefore switching off can be tricky.
I'm pleased to say that for the last few years I've slept really well and I'm so grateful. I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, whereas during my illness, I felt worse than when I went to bed. When my insomnia was really bad, I used to sleep until 11pm, wake up, fall asleep again until 1am, then spend until 5am trying to get my body back into a normal sleep rhythm. I used to switch my computer on and go on the internet. (Fiddling with your computer is obviously once of the worst things you can do for insomnia, but at the time, it was all I felt I could do.)
Here are 15 things to try if you're suffering from insomnia (from an expert in insomnia, trust me on this one!) :
1. Have a relaxing bath just before you want to go to bed.
2. Change your bed linens, so you fall into fresh sheets. (This is especially effective after a bath!)
4. If you don't fall asleep instantly, don't be hard on yourself. (This makes it much worse!) Simply acknowledge that you're feeling a little restless and relax.
5. Walk around a little bit if you're feeling restless. I used to grab a blanket, go downstairs, and curl up with a book. I usually found I was ready for sleep in about 20 minutes if I really relaxed (ie. completely forgot about having sleep problems).
6. Establish a regular "going to bed" routine: mine includes no computer or screens after 8pm (excluding the occasional movie outing!), using gorgeous herbal products to wash my face, meditation, reading, breath work, and writing a gratitude list.
7. Read a short passage from something inspiring and uplifting to relax you every night. One of my favorites is Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life.
8. Rub lavender oil on wrists and neck before bed. If I'm feeling particularly restless, I'll put a few dots on my pillow, too.
9. Try not to eat too close to going to bed. You'll feel that you have to stay up later just to let your food digest.
10. Drinking too much just before bed can also unsettle you. I used to drink a big cup of camomile tea just before bed only to find that, (you guessed it), I had to wake up to run to the bathroom. Talk about insomnia self-sabotage!
11. Try not to have any big or potentially stressful conversations before going to bed. I'm still learning with this one!
12. Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is just right, not too hot or too cold. Adjust duvets or sheets as necessary.
13. Make sure any red lights from TVs or phones are covered up. Better still, switch them off altogether!
14. Cut down on caffeine, or cut it out completely. Have it before noon if you can't resist. Chamomile tea is a great alternative.
15. Most importantly, do not think about having insomnia. Don't let your brain stay awake because you've subconsciously told it you're expecting it to!
I hope these tips help you in some way. What about you? How do you cope with insomnia?