The Complete Guide To Remedy Insomnia
What’s up all my overly caffeinated night owls! I’ve lived with insomnia since I was four and was professionally treated for it when I was 19. When my insomnia would become even worse than usual, it would tear up my life, grades, friendships, fit body, stable mood patterns – everything. Insomnia blows. I think we deserve the basic bodily right of being able to fall asleep, yet it seems to be more of a superpower these days than something a caveman could do easily enough. Despite chronically being unable to control my insomnia, I was able to work my way out of it with the help of a professional, not medications. So I want to share some really strong do’s and don’ts when battling insomnia.
"Really appreciated the advice on HOW to change the sleep cycle gradually. Hadnt found that anywhere else. Thanks!" 5 stars by Terry
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What’s up all my overly caffeinated night owls!
I’ve lived with insomnia since I was four and was professionally treated for it when I was 19. When my insomnia would become even worse than usual, it would tear up my life, grades, friendships, fit body, stable mood patterns – everything. Insomnia blows.
I think we deserve the basic bodily right of being able to fall asleep, yet it seems to be more of a superpower these days than something a caveman could do easily enough. Despite chronically being unable to control my insomnia, I was able to work my way out of it with the help of a professional, not medications. So I want to share some really strong do’s and don’ts when battling insomnia.
1) Familiarize yourself with sleep hygiene
The concept of sleep hygiene is to build healthy sleeping habits. This involves:
– don’t use your bed for anything except sleep and sex (hopefully you sleep more than you have sex #toomuchofagoodthing. If that is the case, you’re more likely to build the positive relationship of associating your bed with sleep as opposed to pleasure).
If you like to read before going to bed, do it in a nearby chair, and when you feel sleepy, haul your ass to bed. But seriously, the less you do in your bed the better. You do want to stimulate a variety of different brain areas as you’re trying to fall asleep. Bed = sleep. That’s all you want to be happening up there.
– don’t work out four hours before you go to sleep. It raises your core body temperature and people more often than not fall asleep when their body temperatures dip a little below average
– don’t eat sugar or more than 100 calories or so two hours before you go to sleep. A calorie is a measure of energy. The more calories you eat, the more energy you are putting into your body (although it doesn’t feel that way when you stuff your face and get sleepy). You’re about to go to sleep! Don’t’ fuel up, you’re telling your body to keep going! No bueno.
No, No, No
Turn It Down
– If you’re really trying to adjust your sleep cycle to wake up earlier/fall asleep earlier, you should dim the lights of whatever room you’re in at least two hours before sleep. Our body produces melatonin, the hormone that makes us fall asleep, once our eyes stop receiving light. If you have light hitting your eyes, you are technically sending signals to your body saying “don’t’ fall asleep yet”.
Obviously, your body has your circadian rhythm so eventually you can fall asleep even if lights are on, but for those who are in an insomniac state know very well you can’t always count on your circadian rhythm
2) Use light to your advantage
If you’re trying to wake up/fall asleep earlier, one of the best things you can do (and just feel more awake in general in the morning) is to spend at least fifteen minutes in or around sunlight. Getting the light in your eyes as soon as possible after waking up is telling your body, “stop making me feel sleepy” (aka it inhibits the production of melatonin). By doing this consistently, you are going to alter your circadian rhythm.
3) You must wake up – no sleeping in!
When adjusting your sleep cycle, it is imperative you use sleep debt to your advantage. If you don’t fall asleep until 5 and you are attempting to wakeup at 7:30am, my friend, you gotta do it. You can’t sleep in. You need to use that sleep debt later.
Which brings me to: You must wake up the same time every day. If your insomnia is under control, you can wake up an hour later on the weekends but anything more can trigger a perturbance to your circadian rhythms.
4) You’re gonna hate me but – no naps. None. No.
Use the sleep debt! You already made it out of bed for the day. That was so so hard. Don’t spoil that hardwork by cashing in your sleep debt early. Plus if you do that, you’re just further fucking with the fucked circadian rhythm you’re trying to fix.
5) Don’t get in bed until around 30 minutes before you can anticipate falling asleep
So I went through a phase where out of no where, my body just decided it wasn’t going to fall asleep until around 4 or 5am. But I would get in bed at 11 because I wanted to fall asleep by 12am the latest. Ha. No.
By sitting in bed awake for 4-5 hours wishing you were asleep, you’re building up a negative association with your bed and probably releasing a bunch of stress hormones that a) keep you awake b) make you crave fatty foods. sit on that chair or couch and wait until you think you may be able to realistically fall asleep. It’s okay if you fall asleep in the chair. But remember, don’t sleep in.
6) Change your wakeup/in-bed time by small incremental shifts
Yes you want to take your natural wakeup time from 11am and shift it to 7am, but you can't do it over night honey bunches. It takes time, like two, 15 minute interval shifts implemented over a period of seven days.
Figure It Out
7) Try to figure out how many hours you actually need
You can always try and sass your way out of this by saying, “I can sleep when I’m dead” but you’ll probably get there sooner if you don’t sleep. So figure out how many hours you need. You’re any cooler than the rest of us when you say you only need 4 hours. You’re probably just moodier.
The average human needs around 7 hours. After experimentation, I need either 7 or 8.5. In between that I get groggy. This took me around 6 months to find out.
So all together, this is what it looks like:
Stephanie is royally f***up and can’t fall asleep until 5am for unknown reasons. She wakes up around 11am because of this, and if she has to wake up earlier, she is definitely tiger snoozing later in the day. Her goal: fall asleep by midnight, wake up by 7 for my 8am class. She sets a calendar and shifts her sleep in three day intervals.
Thus, the first three days she wakes up at 10:45am with the goal that by the third day she anticipates that she is falling asleep by around 4:45am. The first 15 minutes after she drags herself out of bed she sits by the window and lets the sun and its reflection off the glass fill her eyes (don’t stare directly at it though #durr).
Soaking It In
Stephanie lives her life, doesn’t nap. She eats dinner at 8:30pm and a snack at midnight.
By now she’s in a dimly lit room and is doing low levels of activity (calmly watching a not-intense show or reading a book). By 4am, Stephanie is only listening to really chill, instrumental music on her chair. 4:15am she allows herself to move to her bed. By the grace of god and all the effort/non-napping she has put in, she falls asleep by 4:45am.
She repeats this for an entire summer and is successfully able to fall asleep by actually 11:30pm. Victory.
You’re going to feel like shit while adjusting your sleep schedule. I tell you, it will be zombie status like no other. But guess what, you’re kinda always on zombie status when you can’t fall asleep. Now you’re just putting it to use.
I hope this was helpful to all my insomnia zombies out there! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have!
I’d also like to recommend the Calm app to help you relax while you’re waiting for sleep, and the app, Sleep Cycle, to track your REM vs Non REM using the accumotoer in your camera lens.
I like this app because regardless of whether it’s accurate about when I’m in REM or not, it’s actually really good at picking up when I fall asleep, which is important to me. Plus it graphs it all out and is so nice.
I will admit both these apps were pretty expensive (sleep cycle is $6 and Calm was something horrible like $10 but that’s because I got the Premium version. But if I could pay $16 for my insomnia to go away, I would pay it 10 times over again just to be sure. aka i found the price to be worth the apps).