How do you break the cycle of insomnia?
That feeling of dropping off to sleep, tired and ready for bed, only to wake a short while later, with the mind in overdrive and the body feeling like it is about to run away from a huge monster!
The feeling of utter desperation, when yet again you realise it is only 2.00am and you know you won't get back to sleep until 5.30am...if you're lucky!
The sense of impending doom that being so utterly tired seems to inflict upon what was once a positive and outgoing personality!
Then add to that the frustration of family members because you don't know whether to stay in bed and toss and turn, or get up and make a cup of tea - all of which disturbs the equilibrium in the household.
Then there's your job, more often than not you feel like you are not even there at all!
You may not know what has caused it and you certainly feel you have no idea how to break this vicious cycle.
A few years ago, the above described me perfectly!
I would wake at some unearthly hour and not be able to get back to sleep, I was working full time and teaching yoga and I was truly at my whits end!
Below are the steps I took to overcome the curse of insomnia.
1. Visit your GP for some blood tests to rule out a medical cause.
Whether you have an underlying condition or not, you will be armed with a next step strategy of either treating the condition and in the mean time managing your symptoms or understanding that stress is more than likely the major factor.
2. Go to bed at a reasonable time.
We all do it, just 10 minutes more in front of the TV, with our eyelids dropping. I found my heart would start pounding once I got to the point of exhaustion and then that would be it...no more sleep for me! It is so important to catch the sleep train before your adrenaline and other stress hormones kick in to 'help you to stay awake' while you watch the last few minutes of TV! Couple that with the blue light of the TV influencing your body's response to night time patterns of light and you are harbouring the recipe for a really bad night awake!
3. Make sure your room is cool and your bed is comfortable.
There is nothing worse than waking up in a sweat because your bedroom is too hot. If having a window ajar brings in too much noise, invest in some ear plugs.
4. Make sure your room is dark enough.
Light does disrupt sleep. As mentioned above, the blue light of phones and TV's stimulate your Pineal Gland, the gland that on fading light produces a hormone called melatonin, which helps you to feel drowsy. The blue light of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and TV's reduce the production of this hormone and fools your body into thinking it is morning - and therefore disrupts your natural sleep patterns.
5. Let your bedroom become an oasis of calm.
Keeping your bedroom clear of clutter, with clean sheets and nice pictures that remind you of something that brings a sense of peace to you, will help you to feel peaceful as you fall asleep.
6. Incorporate one routine before bed and go with the flow should you wake in the night.
Some people take a bath before bed. A nice Tumeric Tea made with Almond Milk is also soothing on the psyche. If you have trouble getting to sleep or should you wake in the night, listen to your body, does it need to get up? If it does then tiptoe into another room and practice some conscious breathing or gentle yoga for 15 minutes to see if you can soothe your body again. Should you need a drink, have a fruit tea or turmeric tea. If you can stay in bed, focus on the sensations in your body and the quiet around you and allow yourself to enjoy having that time in the peace and quiet, without any interruptions - try not to look at the clock or your phone. I would place any device that displays the time out of sight, just in case.
7. Take time out in your day to relax
I used to sit in my car at lunch time and practice Yoga Nidra, Yogic Sleep. It would top me up and help me to get through the afternoon. It also worked at reducing the stress hormones that were running around my system because I was so desperately tired. You can buy Yoga Nidra on a CD or via iTunes.
8. Take regular but gentle exercise.
Although the last thing you will feel like doing is exercising, a gentle walk for half an hour in the daylight or a gentle yoga sequence either on waking or before you go to bed, will do wonders for you. It will help you to move back into a state of presence rather than feeling so distant you don't feel you have a handle on anything. It does this by slowing down the time perspective for you and also by reducing thought patterns and bringing you into the body and away from the head space.
9. Make sure you are eating and drinking in a way to help you to relax.
Alcohol, despite appearances, does not help you to sleep so it is best reduced or avoided completely if the insomnia is severe. Replace caffeine drinks like coffee, tea and cola with fruit teas or warm water and honey.
10. Recognise that, for how ever long this period in your life lasts, it will change!
Everything in life is in a constant state of flux and things that are a problem today will become a memory at some point down the line. Try to move into a space of temporary acceptance where you can begin to manage the symptoms, by being kind to yourself and taking care of your needs at that time. You may find that the insomnia is the body's way of telling you that you need to make changes in your life. Allow yourself to listen to your body's reaction and help it along by understanding it's intelligence and making the changes you probably know deep down, may need to be made.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need more advice on this topic.