Tips for dealing with insomnia
Insomnia ain’t about to ruin my life or business!
I’ve dealt with insomnia for most of my adult life and even though I do my best to overcome it, there are still periods when it rears its ugly head.
I consider myself lucky that insomnia isn’t a 365 day/year issue but when I do experience periods of prolonged insomnia, it can feel like it will never end. I recently experienced another bout of sleepless nights and now that I’ve come out the other end, I thought I’d share some of the tricks I use to deal with insomnia. Some of these pointers are tried and true, whereas others are habits I’ve picked up over the past year or so.
I’m sharing my bedtime routine and sleep practice here on the blog in hopes that it helps out any fellow overstrung, anxious techies or entrepreneurs out there. Homies, where you at?! Insomnia is a problem that many of us face, to different extents, and something that I believe we should talk about more freely. Because the truth is the quality of our sleep has a direct impact on our lives, and therefore our businesses. Sleep is so important yet undervalued that Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book about it!
I’ve learned a lot over the years of dealing with insomnia and hope this helps out even one person! If anyone out there struggles to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll know how annoying those generic “tips for a better night’s sleep” articles can be. If one more person tells me to sniff some lavender or drink mint tea before bed… it takes more than that to sleep like a baby, folks!
These tips are things that I’ve found extremely helpful and have had a real impact on my sleep or rest during periods of insomnia. There’s been a lot of trial and error and restful sleep is still something I have to work on, but I know that my insomnia would be way worse without these practices!
If you're tired of walking around like the living dead and would give up your beloved pet for a solid 8 hours of shut-eye, read on.
Insomnia and me: a brief history
I was always a good sleeper as a baby and child. I never really dealt with nightmares and wasn’t scared of the dark. Sleep was super easy.
Things started to change during my teenage years and my sleeping habits became totally whack. Insomnia began around this time but so too did sleep talking and walking. No bueno! I would lay in bed at night but my thoughts would run wild with stress and anxiety, and I didn’t yet have the tools to calm my mind. Between teenage angst and university prep & applications, sleep became elusive. It wasn’t something I dealt with every night, TG, but my insomnia definitely started during high school.
Things got better during university, probably because I did really well in school and had a very happy & healthy life outside of the classroom. I felt in control and that translated to quality sleeps. Sleepless nights seemed like a thing of the past.
But after I graduated and started working in the real world, my ol’ pal insomnia came back into the picture and has been a regular companion ever since.
Insomnia is something I’ve worked on a lot, both on my own and with the help of therapists, so I feel like I’m experienced enough to share my thoughts on the subject :)
Related : Here are 5 things I do to stay inspired
Best ways I’ve found to deal with insomnia
1 Acknowledge and address daytime stressors
Whenever I’m feeling stressed out or anxious in my personal/business life, I know that my insomnia will be worse. I try my hardest to remain calm and in control of my mind and mood throughout the day so that my thoughts don’t spiral at night.
I do this is by going out for a walk to clear my head, writing out my to-do list or daily schedule in advance, brain dump journal entries, stick to a healthy diet and get some exercise. Personally I prefer either an intense and exhausting workout, or else a totally chilled out yin yoga class - rarely something in between.
Planning out the next day in advance is huge for me, because it allows me to go to bed feeling prepared and in control of what’s coming tomorrow.
Also, regular therapy or even a quality chat with a friend also helps!
2. Bedtime snacks and night caps
Avoid 3 things like the plague : sugar, caffein and alcohol
I try my hardest not to sneak a candy bar or slice of cake before bed because I know that sugar winds me up like woah. Ugh it’s so hard though, I have a full blown Snickers addiction! I also do my best to stick to a clean, healthy plant-based diet and avoid super heavy or acidic dinners that might leave me with an upset tummy.
I also avoid caffein after like 12 noon because any later and it will definitely keep me awake.
But the biggest thing that I have to work on is alcohol. I used to drink casually almost every day (and drink fairly heavily on the regular) but I’ve done a 180 in recent years. I realized that even a few beers or a single glass of wine can serious F up my sleep - tragic, I know! As such, I’ve seriously reduced the amount of alcohol I consume, especially during periods of insomnia when I essentially cut it out completely.
Booze makes it easier for me to fall asleep, but I’m also way more likely to wake up super early or in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep.
Since drinking alcohol has such a big impact on my sleep (or lack thereof), I do my best to cut it out during the week when I’m focused on work, and have seriously reduced how much I drink on weekends too. This can be hard because alcohol is such a social thing, but when insomnia and sleep is top of mind, I dgaf if anyone things I’m lame for not drinking at a dinner party.
Nowadays, you can almost always find me with a big mug of peppermint (non-caffeinated) tea before bed - rager!!!
3. Nighttime routine
Easy to plan, hard to follow - but always worth it.
Busy brains find comfort in routine because they trigger positive feelings and a calm mental state. Whenever possible, try not to rush your bedtime routine or skip steps. Use this as a time to disconnect from the world, quiet the brain and indulge in your forced rest.
I find it super helpful to turn off/put away my phone at least an hour before bed. I like to charge it overnight in another room so that I’m not tempted to mindlessly scroll Instagram in bed, and often set an actual alarm clock instead. Again, I don’t follow this “best practice” all the time but it 100% helps my quality of sleep when I do.
I also have a “get ready for bed” routine that I follow: wash my face, take off my makeup, moisturize, put my hair in a bun, brush my teeth, and when it’s cold out, I also fill up a hot water bottle to take into bed with me and put on socks. Yes, I’m a granny.
Another part of my bedtime routine that does wonders is taking time to read a book. I read totally for pleasure before bed (meaning no business books or anything that requires too much mental energy) and lately I’ve been really into thrillers or travel story books.
Finally, I often play a guided meditation when it’s time to fall asleep. This guided meditation by Jason Stephenson and this guided meditation by Lauren Ostrowski Fenton act almost like a sedative for me and are particularly helpful. Maybe it’s a Pavlov’s dog situation, I don’t know, but it almost always works and their voices and the ambient sounds are incredibly soothing.
4. Bedroom comforts
This one is a little hard because I’ve been travelling so much over the past year and a half, but I do what I can to keep certain “bedroom comforts” near me no matter where I am. Even when I find myself in a new bedroom, there are things I can do to get settled, feel comfortable and have consistent home touches.
First off is a soothing scent. Like the basic bittie that I am, I apply a lavender oil to my wrists, temple and neck/chest. I also often light a stick of incense or candle for extra scent.
I also keep my room at a comfortable temperature. Most “experts” recommend sleeping in a cool bedroom but I prefer a warm room. I turn down/off the AC and instead opt for a fan or open window to stay cozy.
Another thing that helps me sleep better is keeping bedroom clutter to a minimum. Before bed I always put stuff away and make sure that nothing is piled up on the bed, bedside table, desk or on the floor beside me. Keeping clean surfaces also helps clear the mind because you aren’t focused on all the stuff lying around. Feng shui is popular for a reason, my friends!
Finally I always keep a bottle of water next to my bed, even if I don’t drink it until morning.
5. Edibles and sleep aids
OK this might not be for everyone but I want to honestly share what helps me with my insomnia. While I definitely favour natural sleep remedies, sometimes over the counter aids are what really does the trick. Sorry not sorry.
Melatonin has been super helpful to me. Straight up CBD oil has also worked well for me in the past.
On occasion, I have used an edible as a sleep aid and it’s been insanely effective. If you happen to be in Vancouver, Weeds has these chocolate covered almonds that have a small amount of THC/CBD per serving. I only have one at a time but it seriously chills me out and helps me fall asleep so much faster and its a gloriously deep sleep too! Obviously this might not be available to everyone depending on where you live, but it’s something that has been a total game changer for me.
Remember that what works for me might work for you too, but insomnia is super personal so try out different strategies to find what works best for you.
Insomnia can have extremely big impact on your life and work if you don’t find a way to manage it. I believe that insomnia is so closely linked to stress and work-related anxiety that it’s important to talk about it, don’t hide the fact that it’s happening. It’s not something many business owners talk about so I wanted to share my own experiences with insomnia, who knows, maybe someone will find it helpful or relatable.
I hope that you’re able to take some of these tips and find a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams, my friend!
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