Randy Travis sings, “I’m gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men.”
A few days ago I was talking to my friend about our husbands. We were discussing snoring. My friend was telling me how frustrated she gets because her husband drops off to sleep within 10 minutes and begins to snore. Even if it doesn’t shake the rafters it still has a rhythm that can be jarring. She gets up and goes to another room to read until she’s sleepy enough to go back to bed. Mine used to snore and sometimes stop breathing. His fatigue and lack of energy led to the diagnosis of sleep apnea and he was fitted with a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) so the snoring has become non-existent. My deal with his snoring was it definitely kept me awake and I would shake him or push him just to make it stop. Of course those tactics don’t work for very long. This, of course, led to sleepless nights and tiredness and irritability the next day.
Insomnia’s Vicious Cycle
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep which results in side effects that perpetuate. It is the quality of sleep not the quantity (number of hours) that determines your own insomnia pattern.
- The inability to fall asleep despite being tired
- Waking frequently during the night
- Once awakened cannot get back to sleep
- Reliance on alcohol or sleeping pills
- Waking too early
- Drowsiness, fatigue and irritability during the day (or wake cycle if you’re a shift worker)
- Inability to concentrate during the day
- Keep a sleep diary. Note the time you laid down, what thoughts were running through your head, what distractions are around you. I call it a brain dump. Putting words to your thoughts and feelings and being dispassionate while you do so can be a bit cathartic.
- Look at your bedroom. The only two activities permissible in a bedroom don’t include electronics. Turn off the TV (or move it to another room.) If you use your phone as an alarm clock turn off the ringer and put the phone face down on the night stand or on the floor next to the bed. Blue light (emitted by electronic devices) is disruptive to sleep. Any other alarm clock you might use turn away from where you can see it. You don’t need the constant reminder of how much sleep you might not be getting!
- Listen to your thoughts. This is a tough one. Are they extreme or negative? Try replacing them with ones that would produce a positive outcome.
Examples might include:
- “I’m not normal. I can’t sleep like ordinary people. There must be something wrong with me.”
- Try replacing this thought with “Everybody has trouble sleeping occasionally. With practice I will be able to sleep soundly and wake refreshed.”
- “It’s the same every night. I’ll never get to sleep.”
- Try this instead – “That’s an exaggeration. Sometimes I actually DO sleep okay.”
- “I’ll never be able to sleep well. This is impossible.”
- Maybe you can tell yourself “I’m going to beat this. It’s not easy but it’s not impossible either. Others have been successful with insomnia cures so I can be successful, too.”
Some Underlying Causes of Insomnia
Part of being your own advocate means asking yourself some questions. The answers may trigger some possible different approaches for your own personal sleep pattern.
- Stress – are you feeling burdened or stressed out?
- Depression – do you have feelings of hopelessness or numbness – emotionally blank?
- Anxiety/Worry – do you worry about things beyond your control?
- Medication – what meds do you take and what are the side effects?
- Health – do you have health issues that might cause sleeplessness?
- Environment – is your room comfortable? quiet? cool?
- Comfortable – How’s your mattress?
- Quiet – Turn off the television and put down the phone (ringer off) a couple of hours before your anticipated bedtime
- Cool – Temperature is important. I hate being cold but when the air temperature is cool I turn into a hibernating bear. I snuggle under the covers and sleep better than when I’m too warm.
- Habits – do you go to bed and get up at the same time each day?
Practices for Restorative Sleep
- Make an appointment with yourself. Put your bedtime on your calendar with a reminder notice. This will be the hardest part – starting out. Make the reminder pop up two hours before. Dismiss it and turn off electronics. Pick up a book, get on the treadmill, wash the dishes. You’ll need to distract yourself before you can go to bed.
- Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Continue to use your alarm clock to wake you even on holidays or days you’re not working. This is another tough one but forming habits takes time and practice.
- Nap if you must but don’t sleep longer than 30 minutes. This is another time you’ll need to use your alarm.
- Expose yourself to light first thing. Go outside once the sun is up – the earlier, the better. Take your coffee outside or bring a newspaper onto the deck. Get the sunlight on your face. Use natural light instead of fluorescent during the day – as much as you can.
- At night, if you use an e-reader make sure it isn’t backlit. Backlighting is nice but has the same propensity for blue light emission and sleep disruption.
- Get some exercise during the day. Vigorous exercise is fine but even 10 minutes of walking can help you sleep better at night.
Better Sleep Is Withn Your Grasp
There isn’t really a “cure” for insomnia as it is not a disease, per se. “Curing” insomnia requires self care. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Write things down. Apply the practices for restorative sleep. When you forget don’t beat yourself up. You are worth the time and effort it takes to recognize, diagnose and heal your insomnia. You can sleep better but it will take practice – and patience.