I have suffered from insomnia on and off for about 15 years. It seemed to kick off at the start of my nursing career when I was working varying shifts. It seems to be more linked with an overthinking mind. It really started when I began taking on responsibility- life and death responsibility-. My brain just seemed to have stayed in that state despite not having that type pressure anymore (although my job now can involve quite a lot of stress too). It’s not just work that keeps me up at night. It can be an array of things that seems to keep me lying awake at night with my mind racing. It’s not all the time, but often there will be chunks of time where I have significant sleep deprivation. I didn’t sleep for an entire week once, in my first year of nursing. I took a week off work and had to reset my body with a regular sleep pattern. I have never taken sleeping tablets before and I hope I never do. I would much prefer to manage it with lifestyle and natural remedies than take medications. I don’t do all of these things all of the time, some are reserved for desperate times. I’m not saying these things will cure insomnia, but it does improve it dramatically:
1. Routine- I have to have a routine. I try to get in bed by 10pm every night. Weekends I will vary this somewhat, but I do try to stay pretty regular. I also don’t nap or sleep in drastically. I tend to naturally wake around 6-7am each morning so on a weekend or holidays I might let myself sleep until 8 or 9 but never more than this and this is very rare as I naturally will wake still at the normal time.
2. Essential Oils- I use a sleep blend of Vetiver, Lavender, Marjoram and Valerian. I have it made up in a roller ball with a carrier oil. I roll some onto my wrists every night before bed. I also have Doterra’s Lavender Peace blend in my diffuser in my bedroom, which I have on before I go to sleep and as I’m falling asleep. This blend is made up of Lavender, Cedarwood, Ho Wood Leaf, Ylang Ylang, Marjoram, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Vanilla Bean and Hawaiian Sandalwood.
3. Melatonin- Melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone in our bodies. It is controlled by light. Because in our modern society we are much more exposed to artificial lights and screens we may not be producing this as we should. I take a supplement shortly before heading to bed.
4. Breathing- I often use a 4 by 4 by 4 method to help me stay calm. Although any deep breathing can help. The 4 by 4 method is where you breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, some people either continue to breathe out another 4 counts or hold their lungs empty for 4 counts. I usually do this around 4 times.
5. Blocking- Sometimes I will use white noise or soft music to try and distract my mind from over thinking. I often don’t have trouble falling asleep but will wake in the middle of the night for several hours. If I’ve been awake for some time I will often go and sit in the shower. I wear a shower cap and the noise combined with the sensation of the water falling seems to help clear my mind somewhat and I can often drift off to sleep more easily. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work if I try it right away, I have to have been awake for a little while.
6. Dream Journal- this is only sometimes I tried recently. I was having really horrible dreams and often I would wake uneasy, sometimes 3 or 4 times a night. I was anxious to go back to sleep, I didn’t think about the dream at all and this left me unable to recall the dream which meant I couldn’t process it properly and they kept occurring. I started writing down the dream immediately, sometimes this was difficult, but I found that I could usually remember one detail and if I used this as a thread, I could usually recall the dream. I found that after a week or so of writing the dream I stopped waking from them. Dreams are a weird way of our brain filing away what’s been going on in our lives. So, by acknowledging the dream and even by trying to assign some meaning to them, my brain was able to file it away instead of continuing to have the dreams in an attempt work out what it meant.
7. Night screen- I have my phone set that from sunset it will change the lighting of the screen. This helps my body to produce melatonin naturally.
8. Sleep Cycle Ap- I use an ap to track my sleeping habits. I can use this ap to play white noise to fall asleep to. The ap listens to my breathing every night. It can tell by my breathing if I’m in a deep sleep or if I’m awake and anything in between. For good sleep you should cycle through deep and lighter sleep. It will then tell me in the morning how well I have slept and for how long. This is helpful to see trends and determine if I need to ad something in or try something different. It also has a feature where because it registers my light and deep sleep, I set my alarm for a half hour window instead on an exact time. Then the ap can tell when I’m in my lightest sleep in that window and wakes me then so it’s a gentler awakening.
9. No clocks- I don’t have a clock in my bedroom. Sometimes I will pick up my phone and look at the time if I’ve been awake for a while. But there isn’t an automatic- eyes open, ‘omg, that’s the time?’ followed by anxiety that I’ll never get enough sleep only causing me to never get enough sleep.
10. Dark room- I try to avoid any lights in my room. At the moment, it’s hot and so sometimes I have the air conditioner on, I will cover the lights on it so that it doesn’t impact on my sleep.
11. Journal- sometimes when I’m really overthinking, I will just grab out a note pad and write down everything that’s in my head. It can be rough, and you can throw it away after- this isn’t a pretty journal experience. It’s simply to get the thoughts out of your head.