It’s no secret I’ve been very open about my struggles with insomnia and restful sleep here on the blog. There are a lot of factors behind my sleep issues: anxiety, periods, and stress from work, but sometimes, you’re just going to have a rough night of sleep for no reason. If any of these struggles resonate with you as well, or if you also deal with insomnia from time to time, I hope this article gives you some insight or inspiration! Obviously I am not a doctor or a professional, but I do feel like I have built up some helpful tricks and coping mechanisms over time.
Create associations with sleep. Have you heard of the theory of Pavlov’s dog? Basically, he trained his dogs to associate hearing a bell ring with getting food, so that eventually every time they heard the bell, they would automatically salivate with anticipation for food. You can train your own mind to do the same thing with getting sleepy! For example, every evening when I’m getting ready for bed, I warm up a heating pad and light an apple candle. Because my brain has learned to associate those things with sleep, I now naturally start to get very tired when I smell my candle and feel the heat of the pad on my chest. You can find your own little rituals and habits to associate with sleep- maybe for you that’s listening to specific music, spraying a certain room spray, or drinking herbal tea.
Find a vitamin/medicine combo that works for you. I try to look at prescription sleep medication as a last resort because taking it for too long can become habit-forming, and that won’t be good for your health in the long run. However, if you are looking for something over-the-counter to take that won’t be habit-forming, I have a couple of recommendations. First of all, melatonin is always a safe bet. It’s safe, reliable, and highly recommended from every doctor I’ve ever spoken to. That being said, you may have to give it a few nights to work. I’ve been taking melatonin every night for the past six months, and it’s been working wonders for me. If I’m having a really rough night, or if it’s imperative that I get a good night’s sleep, I will take a unisom tablet as well. You don’t need a prescription to buy unisom, and it’s also non-habit-forming.
Maintain a consistent nighttime routine. Because I usually get up at the same time every morning, it just makes sense that I should go to bed at the same time, too. Even on the weekends, when I don’t have to be up early, I still try to get up and moving around 8 o’clock or so. Doing so can help train your mind to have a more consistent sleeping schedule, and thus, make falling asleep easier. As I mentioned earlier as well, I also tend to go through the same motions every night to instill a sense of routine in my body, such as with the candle and the heating pad. Of course, make sure you blow out your candle before you fall asleep if you choose to do that!
Don’t force yourself to sleep if you’re restless. Honestly, forcing yourself to try to sleep when you’re not sleepy is one of the worst things you can do. In most scenarios, all that’s going to happen is that you’re just going to get frustrated and have even more trouble dozing off. If you’re having trouble sleeping, change your goal from falling asleep to simply relaxing so you can take some of that stress off of yourself. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or even watch some tv to take your mind off things. Eventually, you’ll just get sleepy again and you should have an easier time going back to bed.
Listen to audio. This sort of ties into the “don’t force yourself to sleep thing,” but listening to audio when you’re falling asleep can be a great way to distract your mind. My personal favorite thing to listen to before bed is Vsauce videos, because they’re interesting but not too stimulating that I can’t fall asleep. Nathaniel, on the other hand, does not like listening to Vsauce before bed because he “gets too interested in the videos.” When we’re together, we like to compromise by listening to the podcast 36 From the Vault, which is a podcast about the Grateful Dead. Regardless of what audio I have going in the background, it’s just helpful for me to hear anything to keep my mind occupied.
Anyway, those are my tips for falling *and staying* asleep. Like I said, I’m not a doctor or anything, but these are tips that have worked for me and I hope you find some solace in them as well! Sleep tight.