Insomnia is a big battle in my life. It has been for over a year and a half. I can’t remember exactly when it started being an issue, but it’s certainly been a significant problem since last summer – after I got back from the States. What I put down to jetlag at first soon proved to be more; I was having night after night of not getting to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, feeling absolutely shattered and miserable and a little bit like I was going mad.
I love and need my sleep. My bed is a special place of rest and comfort, and constant nights of tossing and turning were making me hate it, and feel anxious about bedtime for fear that I wouldn’t sleep at all…. so I started making a concerted effort to monitor my sleep around the autumn.
I have struggled with PMS since the beginning of my degree, and it has gotten worse over time, and for the last few years I’ve used an App to track my cycle and my emotional ups and downs. It has been extremely helpful to be able to check the App and note where I am in the cycle, and suddenly have it all make sense why I feel sad for no reason, irrational and snappy, or anxious with none of my triggers happening.
I was already using the App to note my moods, and I started using it to keep a note of whether I’d slept well or had disrupted sleep, if i’d struggled to get to sleep or gone off easily.
I matched my sleep patterns up with my App and recognised that my insomnia was waaaayyyyy worse at certain times of the month. I went to see my GP who said that yes, insomnia is another delightful symptom of PMS and suggested I start taking the pill… so I did.
It helped massively with the emotional rollercoaster, but not so much with the sleeping. Having said that; feeling emotionally well definitely helps with managing sleep deprivation!
Then came a bad period at work which really triggered my PTSD, and along with that a run of nights where I would barely get a few hours’ sleep in the early hours of the morning, having struggled the whole night and driven myself crazy with anxiety and all the yuck that comes with PTSD. I spoke to the pharmacist who suggested Nytol as a short term solution to getting back into a good sleep rhythm.
Woah are those things effective… one tablet and I was out like a light within 20 minutes and slept the whole night through! Proper, restful, But, I didn’t like the concept of having to take a tablet to sleep – so I made sure I only took them a couple of times a week, and only if it got to midnight and I was still not asleep (I go to bed around 10pm on weeknights) That way, I got a few good nights’ sleep each week but was still tired on other days and had a good level of actual tiredness that let me get to sleep!
I managed to get into a relatively normal sleep pattern again, and only taking the tablets on a Sunday night (to make sure I could get a good nights’ sleep for work the next day)
I also did some self-analysis into things that helped me sleep or hindered it. I discovered that I can’t sleep if I’m cold, but I also can’t sleep if I’m too hot! (I have three different bed covers right now and use different combinations of each of them depending on how I’m feeling.) I sometimes like a thinner cover but it also needs to have a bit of weight to it! (I am such a contradiction terms) My hot water bottle is my friend!
I can’t sleep if I’m even the slightest bit hungry or thirsty, but I also can’t sleep too soon after eating or drinking. (About an hour before is the best time)
I can’t sleep if I’ve had too much screen time (so no phone or tablet in the hour before bed if I can help it) I’ve been reading my way through the Narnia books instead of watching Netflix or other shows.
I can’t sleep straight after a shower, or if my hair is wet (so I got a shower cap for the times I don’t want to get my hair wet at all, and a hairdryer for the times when it really needs washing – after the gym or whatever)
Other things that work…
Weirdly, I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot, so I have sometimes had to get up and stick my feet under the shower to cool them off and then I’ve managed to get to sleep almost straight away
Another very strange (but effective) tactic is to switch ends of the bed – move my pillows to the bottom of the bed and switch my quilt round and somehow that helps!
I’ve made a blend of essential oils known to help facilitate sleep/good sleep/restfulness/calm which I apply to my neck, pulse points, and feet. I also have a spray version that I can apply to my pillows/bedding.
A lady from church noticed my Facebook statuses about not being able to sleep and offered to pray for me. She’d been through sleeplessness and insomnia herself so knows the awful effects it can have; she sent me a song that she used to play to help her recognise God’s power over insomnia and to remember that He is in control over everything (putting aside anxiety etc) She really encouraged me to pray over my sleeping and I think it has really helped!!
Over the winter, all through to March, I gradually got to the stage where I stopped thinking about whether I’d sleep and just went off to bed with no anxiety or worry at all. Still the very occasional night of little sleep but it’s completely manageable when the majority of nights are good sleep.
Then the flippin’ clocks changed!!! I don’t know if there is any real connection but since then I have had far many more insomnia nights. Thanks to knowing what helps and doesn’t, I feel like I’m managing this ok – but I am also taking the herbal version of Nytol maybe twice a week to help. Not a long term solution but sometimes you have to do the thing that helps you right now.
Do you have any ideas or solutions for insomnia?