As a kid, I could sleep through anything day or night. Nothing bothered me. Once I had kids, I noticed a much lighter sleep pattern, but still was able to sleep.
We had always lived in the countryside, and other than the occasional coyote howling in the distance I slept like a log. But enter middle age. Suddenly I didn’t sleep quite as well. Then a move to the city and everything changed.
I am sure there are many people out there who understand the torture of feeling so tired you can barely keep your eyes open, and yet sleep eludes you. The clock keeps showing the wee hours and yet you lie there. My bout of insomnia started with menopause but got much worse when we moved to the city and the traffic noises that wafted through during the night.
We have rented this apartment as my hubby is on a temporary contract. We were excited to downsize our stuff, sell our house and enjoy the journey and a new adventure. But the first few months that so called journey and adventure felt like a nightmare. On average I was maybe getting 2 – 3 hours of sleep a night and some nights none at all. I turned into a bear, had a constant nagging headache and now was very anxious of even going to bed at night. My hubby was sleeping like a baby.
I could hear trucks going by, and that horrible beeping noise they do when they back up. I could hear cars with loud radios, I simply could hear everything. This is an old building we are in with thin walls and large single pane windows. So noises were all around us as we are on a main street. I would jump at some of these noises, and then my body simply stayed on high alert for most nights. I thought I would simply get used to it.
I did not want to resort to sleeping drugs. I took some one night out of desperation but hated the morning affects, and so decided to try and figure out ways to fall asleep on my own. I finally did come up with a good combination that has worked for me and maybe it will work for you.
Each person is different so you may need to try a few of these ideas.
How to Fall Asleep
Tip 1 - Night Time Walk – I found this very helpful. I used to think it would simply wake me up too much to get to sleep but it has the opposite effect. Even in the dead of winter, I will dress myself up warm, and take my dog for a walk. I am in a safe neighbourhood, but even so, my hubby decided to accompany me.
I walk at a good pace and enjoy the night sky and head for the neighbourhoods and walk the sidewalks and make sure I really stretch. I find the fresh air and the darkness about 30 minutes before bed time seems to help clear my brain and signal my brain it is time for bed. I do not turn the TV back on or use any electronics. I simply get ready for my night at that point.
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Tip 2 - Warm Lavender Bath and a Cup of Chamomile Tea – After my walk I have a warm bath while sipping on a chamomile tea. Not too hot a bath, but warm with a few lavender drops in the tub. If it is too hot you will feel overheated in bed (you can get lavender in an essential oil). I take in the aroma, dry off and put on my jammies and climb into bed.
Tip 3 - Do Not Go To Bed Too Early – Opposite to what I used to do, but instead of lying awake I decided to stay up an extra hour. So my old bedtime was about 11pm, I now go for a walk, then have a bath and sip my chamomile tea, then go to bed around midnight. I figured I don’t need as much sleep as I used to and this gives me a chance to get into sleep mode rather than tossing and turning.
Tip 4 - White Noise Machine – This has been a life saver for me. You can simply use a fan or other static noise to drown out the traffic, neighbours and other disturbances, but I purchased this machine and I set it to the ocean waves.
It is such a soothing background noise. I make sure the curtains are closed and the light is very dim, and then turn this on before I get into bed. I had read that a constant white noise, such as with a fan or radio static on low would allow your body to come off of “high alert mode” which is what I was advised was happening to me.
Those first few weeks of sudden beeping noises and things that had jolted me awake as I was not used to them, had my body in “alert” mode, thinking it was protecting me. It sounded like a good explanation, so by adding the white noise, in my case ocean waves, it is a constant and the other noises, although still there fade away as I concentrated on the wave action. I actually started counting the waves with my eyes closed and would fall asleep.
Tip 5 - Deep Breaths – Take a deep breath counting to 4 and then hold for 3 then let out slowly for 7, all the way out. Keep doing this and try to focus your mind on your breathing. If your brain wanders, bring it gently back. This is a form of meditation. But it does relax your body. You can vary the counts, but this combination worked for me. Letting your breath out slowly really relaxes the body.
Can't Fall Asleep?
I know this may seem like a lot of steps, but at various points in your life, your body does change, and sometimes we have to change with it. Routines that worked before may not work now. Changes in your habitat, work, health, stage in life, can all contribute to insomnia.
One last thing that might help. Don’t stress about not being able to sleep. Don’t stare at the clock all night thinking how am I going to cope tomorrow? Convince yourself it doesn’t matter. Convince yourself you can handle it that it doesn’t matter if you don't sleep, and the anxiety of not sleeping will calm down. It can be a vicious circle.
If you none of the above tips help, then maybe it is time for a checkup. I had one and was healthy enough, just my circumstances changed and I got caught in a loop of insomnia, so if your regular night routine is not working, then it is time to try a different approach that pampers you and puts you into sleep mode.