I’ve been plagued with insomnia since Labor Day weekend of 2013.
I remember the exact timeframe because we were out of town for the three-day holiday weekend and because it’s when I found out I was pregnant with my youngest daughter.
It was horrible. I would lie awake at night for hours, bargaining with God that if he would just let me fall asleep, I would never ever ever ever ________________ again. Ever.
Incessantly checking my iPhone to see what time it was would only make things worse because, as the night turned into morning, I would become increasingly anxious about how tired I would be the next day at work and about all of the papers that were overflowing from my inbox.
Taking melatonin and other natural sleep aids helped with getting me to fall asleep, but they didn’t help me stay asleep. Like clockwork, my body would routinely wake itself up at 2:30 a.m. and getting back to sleep seemed impossible.
My obstetrician prescribed hard-core sleep aids but, being aware of the side effects (nightmares!) coupled with being pregnant and not wanting to take the risk, I never took them. (Which is a good thing, given how I was assured that Zofran was safe to take, was popping them like Pez, then recently have seen all these commercials for class action lawsuits associated with birth defects purportedly from the Zofran. Yikes!)
Hoping the insomnia was strictly related to pregnancy hormones, I was hopeful I’d be back to my eight-hours-of-sleep self once I had the baby.
If you have insomnia, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 50-70 million adults in the United States alone have sleep or wakefulness disorder.
Not being able to sleep is the worst. Until recently, my sleep schedule has never really been the same.
However, I’ve found ways to manage my insomnia through trial and error that I want to share with you.
Here’s my tips.
Stay Away from Alcohol. This is Numero Uno. This past Friday night, I had two glasses of red wine and binge-watched Netflix with my husband. Despite being exhausted, I couldn’t stay asleep. Drinking alcohol exacerbates my insomnia 100% of the time, and it never ever fails. There has never been a time when I had a good night’s sleep if I drank, and this is true whether I drank one glass of wine or ten. In fact, many studies now show that drinking alcohol is directly connected to insomnia. I used to come home from work and have a glass of wine, but now I’ve stopped that habit and try to stay away from alcohol unless the occasion is truly worth it.
Fall Asleep on a Mental Good Note. If you’re like me, you have a hard time getting your brain to be quiet. There were times when I would go to bed stressed out about stuff that was on my mind, things I need to check off my “to do” list, or worries from the day. I enjoy daily devotionals and, while some recommend waking up early and doing them in the morning, I think it’s a good idea to do them in the evenings so it’s the last thing your brain thinks about before falling asleep. (Thanks for the tip, mom!) I enjoy Joyce Meyer’s “Trusting God Day By Day” (you can get it here).
Other great devotionals and meditation books I recommend include Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women by Karen Casey (get it here) and Journey to the Heart by Melanie Beattie (get it here).
Use a Diffuser with Essential Oils. Something about the natural component of lavender oil makes it easier for me to fall asleep. I bought a diffuser from my local health food store and purchased some high quality lavender oil and turn on the diffuser, which I keep near the night stand, before bed. It’s like a spa in my room. I’ve used many different brands of essential oils and, in my experience, you get what you pay for. The more expensive oils contain a higher concentration of the ingredients (e.g. are not watered down) and tend to be more effective. If you’re not spending at least $15 on the oil, you’re likely wasting your time. While the bottles are small, you only need to put 3-4 drops of the oil in the diffuser, so they last a long time.
Create a Special Nighttime Ritual. Each night before bed, I like to create a special routine to get my mind in the mood for sleeping. This involves lathering myself with Beautycounter’s Body Oil in Citrus Rosemary and putting the Lip Conditioner Calendula Balm on my lips. Makes a huge difference. (I am a Beautycounter consultant and would greatly appreciate if you would list me, Jennifer Burby, if you make the purchase!)
Keep Your Phone Out of Your Bedroom. When I would usually wake up in the middle of the night, I would start reading emails and scrolling through social media on my phone, which would only make it more difficult for me to fall back asleep. I recently purchased a cheap old-fashioned alarm clock and keep it in my room instead of the phone. Big difference in my sleep pattern, as I don’t have the accessible temptation to check my phone.
Godspeed to all of my friends out there who suffer from insomnia. It’s the very worst.
What are your tips for getting a handle on it that I missed?