One of The main thing that throws my life out of balance are my troubled sleep patterns. I’ve suffered from bouts of insomnia here and there for almost three years. It’s nothing major and usually works itself out in a couple of weeks, but it’s still an annoying problem.
I still remember the exact night that triggered my insomnia: It was April 2009 and I had just started studying for the first section of the CPA Exam and was about to move into a new apartment in a month. For some reason, as I laid in bed that night, I became totally paralyzed with stress over the exam and my move (mostly worrying if I’d be able to get both accomplished in the next month). My heart started pounding and I could feel myself getting more and more stressed out. I couldn’t fall asleep for hours that night. The next day I was exhausted.
Throughout the next day, I thought to myself over and over, “I am so tired. I HAVE to sleep better tonight so I can study and pack tomorrow. I HAVE to sleep better tonight. I HAVE to.”
And, so, I put so much pressure on the act of getting quality sleep that my insomnia problem was born. My problem is not uncommon either: supposedly, the #1 cause of insomnia is from the anxiety and fear of not getting any sleep. (Trust me: if you try to force your body to go to sleep, it will do the exact opposite. )
Anyways, I’ve tried many methods to cure insomnia and most provide short-term success, but some stressful event will trigger it and I’ll toss and turn for a couple weeks until the episode passes.
The biggest help for insomnia that I’ve found is the distraction of the mind. I can fall asleep very easily on the couch while watching TV. Sometimes I’ll even ask my husband to stay up later than me watching TV so I can fall asleep (because he is so lucky and falls asleep the moment his head hits the pillow … so, then, I’m tortured by his peaceful deep breathing while I’m staring at the ceiling. )
But sometimes even distraction doesn’t work and I’m stuck. So, I’m planning to implement a new method that promises permanent results: waking and going to sleep at the same time each day.
Remember how I told you I have flex time at work and it was more of a curse than a blessing? Especially for us troubled sleepers. I hardly EVER wake up and go to sleep at the same times each day. Well, I generally always go to bed (whether I fall asleep or not) between 10 and 10:30pm every day, but I hardly ever rise at the same time. Weekends are especially bad when I catch up on sleep and am in bed until 9:ooam most Saturdays and Sundays.
I still like to work out in the mornings (when I get decent sleep) and I like to at least get up by 6:15am if I’m going to work out. So, I’m planning to start getting up every day between 6:15 and 6:30am. (6:30 will be “sleeping in” on the weekends. )
I don’t think this time is too unreasonable. Some of my friends wake up at 4am to work out (crazy). Leo Babauta wakes up at 4:30am. Besides, I’m sad to say that I’m now used to getting by on anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of sleep, so getting up early really should not be a problem.
(Sidebar: When I’m not in a bad sleep cycle, I’m an excellent sleeper. I sleep through the night (my husband and I sometimes even talk about how we “died” for 8 hours when we sleep really well). I can sleep in (I know some people can’t). I can sleep long hours. It’s just when I’m in a bad sleep cycle that I can’t sleep.)
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned over my years of troubled sleep that always make me feel a little better on those sluggish days:
- Your body WILL get just enough sleep to get by. This took me a year or so to figure out, but it is refreshing. Even on my worst nights, my body still clocks at least 3 hours or so.
- Sometimes you’re sleeping even if you think you’re not. I’ve had dreams where I think I’m lying awake staring at the ceiling. I know this because, in my dream, I’ll turn to talk to my husband (thinking I’m awake), and then we’ll both wake up. Really weird.
- Your body is still getting rest while you’re lying there. Lying there isn’t totally pointless as it’s still physical rest.
- You will survive. Hard to believe, but true.
- Sleep deprivation won’t kill you.
- Exercise makes it better. Exercise is pretty much the last thing you want to do when you’re going on 3 hours of sleep, but it’s pretty much the only thing that makes you feel normal and awake.
- Replaying your day over in your head really does work. Actually just getting your mind deep into any memory will distract it into sleep. (Easier said than done.)
Starting tomorrow, I’m getting up at 6:15am every day no matter what.
I’m hoping that by resetting my clock and training my body to know that 10-6 are sleep times, I’ll become a better sleeper naturally.
Are you a troubled sleeper? What are your best tips for getting to sleep?