Friday, September 12, 2008

ASK SYBD: Sleepless Nights...How to combat insomnia


Lost Girl writes: “Hi Thea - I found sleep extremely difficult during the early days of my split (still not brilliant, but better). So how do I go about getting a more settled sleep?

Dear Sleepless on SYBD, I mean Lost Girl,

As someone who is rather prone to stress, I speak from experience on this particular subject. Like most people, any time I seem to be going through any sort of emotional turmoil – my sleep patterns go out of whack. Quieting the mind down can be seemingly impossible as we play mental tapes in our head over and over again.

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of different methods – which worked with varying degrees of success. I thought I’d maybe share a few personal tips with you and, as it’s such a universal topic on the site, I will share a few of those from the forum. Hope you find them useful.


One of my main tips is to have a small bottle of lavender to drop a dot or two on each pillow. As it’s a natural remedy for depression, soothing nerves, and calming us down, I usually carry a wee bottle with me any time I travel, as well, to ensure I get a good night’s rest. So visit a chemist or pharmacy to pick up a little bottle of lavender oil today!


Taking a warm bath before bed, particularly using soothing aromatherapy oils, (like the aforementioned Lavender oil) can relax you and thus help you drift off to sleep when the time comes. This is my number one night time ritual. Seldom do I attempt to sleep without one!


Another thing I do, depending on the thoughts going through my head at the time, is pull out a notebook and write out everything that is swirling through my head. Once I’ve done a “brain dump”, effectively, I usually can fall asleep with a much more peaceful mind.


Instead of watching TV before bed, find yourself a good book to read to take you mind off of things. Nothing too heavy or violent – though. Again, personal development books can be good here, light fiction, business books or biographies all seem to work for me!


Exercise is a wonderful way to combat insomnia. Different people feel that working out at different times helps them. For some people – morning or day time might be best – others claim that night time before bed works. Work out whenever suits you and give it a whirl. If you are going for the night time work out, perhaps aim for something more like Yoga or Palates rather than an out and out session at the gym!


Avoid TV before bed. Instead why not give meditation a try? I know it works for many people, (though it’s not something I’ve mastered myself). So I tend to opt for relaxation or even personal development CDs that I can play while in bed. Usually I am asleep before the CD’s over (and hoping some of it sinks in subliminally!)


Avoid alcoholic drinks if possible, because as tempting as it may be, and though it may knock you out for a night – alcohol is a depressant and will end up making you feel worse in the long run. Instead opt for warm milk or Ovaltine (Magnesium is "nature's tranquilliser") or non-caffeinated drinks before bed.


Select comfortable and clean bedding and sleepwear. There is nothing so soothing and cosy as sliding into a freshly-laundered bed. Hey and while you’re at it, why not considering using a lavender fabric softener for extra softness? Or something like Boot's "Sleep Easy" pillow mist can work a treat!


Instead of counting sheep, count your blessings. Try to adjust your thinking pattern off of your lack of sleep – and try to find reasons to be grateful. We can all find reasons to be miserable if we want to (it’s probably what’s keeping you up at night) but have a mental shift to the good things in life – family, friends, a job, a roof over your head – whatever you can come up with.

Just do your best to "accentuate the positive".


If you’re really struggling to get off to sleep then get out of the bed for a little while rather than laying there watching your clock – tick tock. Sometimes I'll get up, have a bowl of cereal, check my email, and stay awake for maybe an hour before going back to sleep. It usually works...


Whenever I have insomnia (or jetlag), my dad always reminds me that simply closing my eyes and resting them is as beneficial as sleeping. The trick is to relax your mind - because the more tense you get, the less likely you’ll get off to sleep.


Try to get on a schedule – developing a routine can work wonders at levelling your sleep patterns…which brings me nicely to some member’s tips now:

Sharon suggests “Sleep in 2-3 shifts-naps (after work nap, evening nap, night sleep, siesta). Many geniuses sleep this way!”

David “There is a couple of things that have helped me. 1) I go through in my head all of the things I have achieved that day, no matter how small, and congratulate myself on them. They can be really small things, some days mine have just been getting out of bed and feeding myself! If it is really bad, I repeat to myself, ‘all will be well’, and ‘all manner of things will be well”.

Drews says, “What I got told to try, and it worked for me, was when I woke up or just couldn’t sleep I would get some paper and a pen and write out everything I was feeling or thinking even if it was in the form of a conversation...I wouldn’t re-read it just a form of free hand, and then afterward, I would tear it up or flush it down the toilet! Clear my mind, say to myself, ‘that thought or feeling is over’ and get it out of my system.”


Finally, of course if you can't sleep, why not log on to SYBD and have a read through the forums or write out a post of your own? Given our global nature, there's always someone online to private message. I do it all the time. Works a treat.

Seriously though, if the insomnia persists for more than a few nights, please consult your GP for advice or even sleep aids - herbal or not. Over the counter options may be addictive so seek advice before popping pills.


If you have any tips for those who've trouble sleeping, please feel free to add your comments here. All useful tips greatly appreciated.

If you have a question then by all means log on and post it on the ASK SYBD thread.

My new (personal) blog can be found here now. Thanks for stopping by.

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