Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Sunday Natter: dealing with insomnia

(No, not the Faithless song, unfortunately.)

Heading up to bed because you're tired then getting into your beloved cosy space and all energy revitalizing, staring at the ceiling until 3am, tossing and turning until your body runs out of movements, your blood boiling as you start to get angry and irritated at yourself for feeling wide awake, almost getting to the point where you have to force yourself to sleep, anxiety creeping up on you, worrying about the small amount of hours you'll be obtaining, waking up in the middle of night once you finally fall asleep, waking up the next morning grouchy, sleep deprived, with a banging headache and lack of focus, desperate to rest your eyes. Sound familiar? If not, you're lucky to have a regular sleeping pattern with no disturbances and a refreshed mind the next day. I certainly don't and I haven't for a good few years now. I suffer with terrible insomnia which affects me on a daily basis and no matter how many times I mention it to my doctor, or how hard I try to get my routine back on track, nothing changes. It's as though my brain refuses to switch off (even with medication aimed to calm the brain!) and only when I'm completely exhausted do I manage to have a healthy, long nap. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in this, or at least I hope not. I'm constantly confused as to how I can feel so lethargic and drained all day every day, yet am never able to go to bed like a normal person and get a good nights sleep. There are certain triggers I must admit, and there's also factors that help me overcome it in the short term. I've dealt with it for a long time now and have learnt the consequence and balance between the positives and negatives. I often use my watchful time as a valuable blog-thinking moment (which in this case, probably does make it worse); so, laying awake a few nights back I was contemplating what I could discuss in this week's post and decided to use my annoyance as a base and share my tips on what allows me to ease my cause for concern around some well needed, beneficial sleep.

Make notes | often enough the root cause of being wide awake with the inability to settle down is having that burden on my back, the stress that is upon me is probably keeping me pondering. I find that writing any problems you're facing down on paper, no matter how simple or dramatic, alleviates your pressure levels and allows you to get anything eating away at you off your chest. At least then you can put the issues behind you overnight, and keeping a regular diary of anything that needs structure will also reward your consciousness. 

Read a book | there's nothing better than a gripping, enthralling book you can lose yourself in to allow you to unwind for the night. Sparing myself an hour or two to begin/continue a story and let my mind run free of reality is the one thing that keeps me sane. There's even speciality books to help treat insomnia which you could get hold of and take important, practical advice from!

Music | listening to music with both headphones plugged in and drowning out the world is another activity I love to participate in when I'm struggling to compose myself. As my tastes are widely ranged, what I choose depends on my mood but I find going for the low key slow songs, or even the purposely hypnotising themes acts as an echo of peace.

Lay off the technology | the internet, your television, your phone, and any other technical product aimed to send you into a daze are quite obviously a huge distraction; you're occupying yourself with all the strenuous features and it makes it almost impossible to repose. Putting my phone down for the night and turning off any hugely bright screens is the first thing I do to ensure I'm in a state to concentrate only on falling asleep. It's hard to ignore that notification you just got but it's only going to make you more alert if you keep staring at the source, keeping your brain ticking.  

Mindfulness | this tactic is something I learnt in neuropsychology a good few years ago but it's something I've taken with me and practised ever since; and by is it powerful. It's great in rectifying your mental state, to make you aware of your surroundings, and to acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and emotions. If you get into the right mindset, you're sent to a place of tranquillity and it's pretty much guaranteed you will start to drift off slowly but surely. The whole counting sheep thing doesn't work for me, but taking my mind elsewhere does. Closing my eyes and imagining a place I'd like to be, on a beach, by the sea, in a safe location, brings that sense of inner solitude and before I know it, I'm ready to snuggle under and call it a night.

Deep breathing | another strategy I developed through the help of professionals. Getting agitated is common when you're fed up of not being able to sleep, and with me my low key panicking begins. Taking control of your breathing is important in relaxing back to normality, so starting from the pit of my stomach I take a deep gasp and breathe out through my mouth, and repeat it until I'm beginning to feel chilled. It's surprisingly helpful and keeps my steady pattern on track. 

Look after yourself | how you treat your body defines and decides your lifestyle. When I pushed myself to exercise, it meant I was completely zonked and ready for bed early and actually slept well and woke up refreshed. I was fitter, my muscles were stretched and I had a spring in my step opposed to being a zombie. The same goes for what you put into your body, eating healthily maintains a positive response, thus benefiting the way you cool off at night. Drinking your recommended dose of water, including fruits and veggies into your diet, lowering sugar, ditching the caffeine, reducing your alcohol intake, and giving up the cigarettes means you're stepping up in fighting the battle of poor sleep.

Prepare your environment | attempting to sleep in somewhere you don't feel comfortable unfortunately isn't going to work. I'm sure everyone loves their bed and their own personal space as much as I do, but sometimes it's easy to make silly mistakes which prevent you from getting a good kip. Being in a temperature suitable for you is ideal, not too cold but not too stuffy either; layering your shelter with a super cosy duvet and fresh sheets is the best option as it means you won't be overheated (as someone with sinus problems, I take kindly to this sort of advice). A nice, long, hot bath before bed is another solution, as is updating your pillows, duvet and mattress regularly so you're not giving yourself any aches and pains. Creating a restful territory with a lack of lighting and noise is also vital. 

Try and form a routine | I can't even remember the last time I implemented this into my schedule but it goes without saying that a secure, fixed and balanced daily regime is proven to reduce instability. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day means your body will be familiarised and automatically recognise your sequences. 

Be practical | I spend so much time dwelling on the fact I can't sleep and I can't see that making the situation any better. I find if I get up and make myself a (healthy) drink, grab a bite to eat or even do some gentle household tasks, it gives me a second chance to feel tired again. I've probably mentioned this a gazillion times in my last few posts, but my Enchanted Forest colouring book has become a frequent pursuit and helps in releasing all tension until I'm ready to try again and rest my head.

Are you a sufferer of insomnia? Do you have any tips of your own?

Bridie x

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