I know the feeling. I can’t sleep, either! It’s a horrible “disease” I’ve been plagued with since I was…oh…6 months old. I come by it honestly – no one in my family can sleep worth a damn, either! Over the years, I’ve embraced a few strategies that have really helped. I’m not saying this is the cure-all…it all depends on how much conversation you’re having with your own head. Yes…I get that, too.
- Wind down before bedtime. Give yourself at least an hour if you’re a gross-offender (like me). If I need to be asleep at 9, I’m going to quit doing anything that involves a thought process at 8.
- Stretching exercises. You can interpret this for whatever works for you, but I go from the floor to standing, and everything in-between. I try to stretch…very slowly and gently…every muscle I have to let it know it’s done for the day. Do NOT do anything vigorous or you’ll never get to sleep! Do everything in slo-mo and make sure you breathe into the stretches. I pay close attention to my neck and shoulders, since I know that’s where I hold my tension. I also try to do a little extra stretching with my hips and lower back since I’m a side sleeper. Getting those more limber has really helped with morning stiffness.
- Insight Timer. This is my best friend. I can put in the time I’ve got (30+ minutes) and find the meditation that makes me relax. Usually, the voice is the key – someone who sounds so lovely and soothing…makes me droop faster. This is a good thing!
- Audiobooks. I love books that I’ve heard over and over hundreds of times – especially if they’re being narrated by someone with an amazing voice! I grab my phone and put my comfy headphones in…and wake up in the middle of the night (as usual) and not have to worry. The voice lulls me back to sleep and I know exactly what’s going on in the book! The trick here is that this “distraction” keeps my own head from talking to me…which would mean I’ll be awake for the long haul, as I’m thinking about what I should have done, need to do, or could have said. My go-to list includes:
- Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert – the escape so many of us wish we could make! Elizabeth reads it herself, and her voice is soooooooo soothing!
- The Help, by Kathryn Stockett – a wonderful, feel-good book that’s got enough going on to prevent monkey-mind interference.
- A Cup of Friendship, by Deborah Rodriguez – an enlightening story about how diverse people come together in an even more diverse land.
- Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser – a series of stories about overcoming difficulty. Narrator Susan Denaker’s voice is also very soothing.
- On Folly Beach, by Karen White – you’ll want to escape to South Carolina after this great past/present story.
- Aromatherapy. This has really helped my husband and me – not to mention my stepdaughter! There is something to be said about relaxing scents that train your brain into knowing it’s time to shut down. I have a few I like to combine to create the perfect potion. They’re nice, big bottles, too, so they last a long time and come with little droppers. I have 3 essential oil diffusers – which I absolutely love and double as a night light if I wish! I have one by my bedside, one in my office, and one in the bathroom.
- Heat Therapy. I have this heat therapy wrap for my neck, shoulders, and back. I heat it up in the microwave, then go to bed and move it from my neck all the way down to my lower back. By the time I get there, I’m usually drifting off. I LOVE my wrap…and I didn’t pay a dime. You know how the dryer magically makes your socks disappear? Well, I had several pairs of mis-matched trouser socks that didn’t have mates. I filled one up with cream of wheat, then used multiple socks for reinforcement – tying the tops in knots. It holds the heat SO well, but it definitely smells like wheat. I’m sure rice would work, too. Experiment! Go for it. What do you have to lose, besides your potential breakfast or lunch?
“People say, ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ as if it were nothing. But it’s really a bizarre activity. ‘For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I’m going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life.” ―
There is also something to be said about supplements, such as melatonin, gaba calm, 5HTP and others. Please do your research to find which one(s) may work best for you and give those a try. If they’re natural…that’s good. Stay away from chemicals and pharmaceuticals if you can.
Just remember one thing…the more you struggle and lay there thinking, “I gotta get up in a couple hours!”…the worse it’s going to get. But you’ve got this. Get your arsenal ready and tackle this sleep thing head-on!
Your Tired Partner,