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It's 3:16 AM here, and despite the levels of savagery in my not-sarcastic sarcasm and my ability to function solely relying on my dependency of strong coffee, my body refuses to allow me the basic human necessity of sleep. I'm going strong into my fourth/fifth year of being a committed insomniac, but hey, by this stage, I'm basically a pro at dealing with it so I thought I should impart some wisdom onto my fellow sleep depraved humans.
Sorry because the wisdom is more likely to be me entering a delusional state due to my brain actually consisting of minute intelligence.
So firstly, the coping strategies. Because after all, suffering from insomnia is something you definitely want to avoid if you can, so I recommend that no matter what, you persistently continue to find what works in gaining you even just a little shut eye. When nothing is working, then you can have a lil' fun—I will get on to that later though.
1. (My Most Self-Despised but True Piece of Advice) Routine
Drill it into you.
In bed at ten, snap the lids closed at 11. Get your lazy a** out of bed before nine AM.
You are training your body when it is time to sleep, which helps it to know when to release hormones that actually make you feel tired. Lie-ins to make up for your lost sleep are a no-go, sorry folks. Drag yourself up if you have to (my best advice is to set the alarm clock on the other side of the room so you are forced to get up.) You may be tired all day, but the chances of you sleeping that night are boosted.
2. Bye-bye nap time and caffeine.
Minimise your napping to an hour a day or less if you suffer very frequent insomnia. It will force you into a better sleep routine if you are tired going to bed. If you suffer insomnia maybe once or twice per week, then a nap up to two hours just to catch up and help you through the day is probably okay. However, the exception: don't nap after four in the afternoon, or drink caffeinated drinks or food after that time—chocolate is actually high in caffeine, it's actually what actually can kill dogs in it. So, be aware of foods that may not benefit you. The same applies to anything high in sugar.
Have an hour or two before bed where you just wind down, with little nightly rituals that you find helpful. Don't use any phones/screens in this time—scientists rant about it for a reason, and shallow sleep is the last thing you want when you already don't get enough of it. Take a bath, do yoga, play music or read. Whatever tickles your fancy.
I actually find this one to be very effective, and the one I least expected to find useful. Find things which comfort you or just make you feel calmer to put in your room. (Your TIDY room.) I'm huddled up in layers of fluffy and incredibly soft throws, and even my pillow is made of the same soft material. Paint your room more aesthetic colours or give it a makeover if it helps, and have some kick-ass lighting. Fairy lights, candles, lamps, etc etc. Creating an environment that makes you feel content and peaceful can be so beneficial.
5. Eliminate stress.
Your day-to-day life may have a good part to play in the reason you can't seem to get those 40 winks like everybody else. Are you struggling, or is something stressing you? Think about it, and talk to people. If you continue to find yourself in difficulty, don't be afraid to reach out for professional help because I promise you, it is so worth it if given a chance.
6. Get busy.
Not too busy that it overrides the previous point of stress, but in general up your activity levels through the day. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and whatever the fifth category is which I have forgotten. Getting a good hour of exercise (but not too close to bed time) can help get rid of any excess energy that may prevent us from sleeping.
If issues persist and are becoming something that disrupts your day to day life, it is probably time to pop into the GP or your local Doc. Lots of people are very skeptical about medication. Believe me, I was but the thing is— there are options that are effective and natural in helping you gain sleep. For instance, herbal remedies that are all plant based tablets which you can take, or medications which are just synthetic hormones that make up for the ones your body lacks. It isn't as bad as you may think, so I recommend giving it a try because it could really make a positive impact on your lifestyle to get the extra help.
At night, we are alone and negative thoughts can creep in. We begin reliving our most cringe-worthy moments which occurred just nine years and 74 days before, and hate ourselves for the time we accidentally farted in front of the entire school class. Between that, and going to bed telling yourself "no way on earth will I manage to fall asleep tonight," we don't give ourselves the greatest of odds. Think positively.
Now, if you have a stubborn case of insomnia, which refuses to succumb to bubble baths and being deprived of hot chocolate, don't worry. You have just got to learn, like I did, to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Eventually, you can actually face it as something which brings great opportunity and a little adventure rather than a miserable night staring at the ceiling until the sun comes up. So, here are the steps for those who have tried the eight steps above for at least a month, or those that are desperate to get out of the misery they find in insomnia.
Find yourself a fellow insomniac.
Feeling alone sucks, especially on a difficult night. But having a friend who is most likely also awake that you can just text about rubbish at three in the morning is actually more awesome that you would think.
This tactic is awesome if you have school or work the next day and need to salvage every drop of sleep you can. Throw up Netflix on a series you like, I recommend something light-hearted like Friends, and curl up on the sofa/bed in your duvet. This works miracles because your mind is distracted but you also can doze in and out of sleep more frequently than you even realise.
Some of the greatest writers had the strangest sleep routines and a lot of science backs up how our creativity is enhanced at night. For some people, this applies to work too. So write an article (like I am), paint a picture or conquer that essay you were assigned for the week coming (or the week past, if you are anything like me.)
Insomniacs, more than others, can see that night time is really just day time but dark. It doesn't have to restrict what you do or where you go. Of course, stay safe and don't go venturing off alone with everyone oblivious to where you are but give some of your idiotic up-for-anything mates a call and ask them if they fancy it. Some of my greatest memories involve jumping into the ocean in pajamas in winter at four AM and sleighing in the snow around town all night.
Enjoy the time to yourself.
Getting up and going downstairs for a cup of tea in the middle of the night is strangely calming. Everyone is asleep, the house is silent and you can just sit and be you. Read a book, just enjoy some time to yourself doing whatever you want.
Use your brain.
In order to stay on the positive side, if you choose to remain in bed and try to sleep, then give yourself some puzzling questions to think about for example:
- Is there life on other planets?
- How was the world created?
- What do dogs dream about?
- If fish sleep with their eyes open, can they still see us?
- If you put a drop of dilute juice into a bath of water, is the bath now juice?
- What would you do with unlimited power?
Create a bomb of a playlist.
Music cures all—particularly music that gives good vibes, so listen to the chill and happy melodies. If you don't feel stimulated enough, create up a new playlist for when you go to the gym, are on a road trip or whenever. Discover new bands and artists too, discovering a new jam always rocks.
Plan positive plans.
Set up an action plan for the day, weeks, month or year ahead. Think short-term and long-term. What are your dreams? Goals and aspirations? How will you reach them? Do your research and set some small targets in place. Even little positive lifestyle habits like a new exercise routine or healthy eating that you can focus on may be just what you need. There is no reason for you to not achieve your dreams. The only thing that can ever really hold you back is yourself (or God if it ain't in the plan, but that's just my belief.)
I know that this article sounds naively positive, but trust me, I understand how the fight with insomnia can absolutely suck—it took me a long time to get to where I am now, but it is possible for you as well and hopefully in shorter time because the points are laid out for you here.
So you guys, that is all I have for now. I'm done my little nightly distraction so it is time (at 4:54 AM) to give sleep another shot—that's another thing: do a task like the ones listed and you might just be tired enough after to sleep too. I really hope that if this is something you struggle with, it clears up soon. Good luck!