Saturday, 22 August 2015

When you really, really can't sleep

When you're a kid, lack of sleep is not the end of the world. You'll get ratty and throw a tantrum, maybe fall asleep in the car, probably manage to squeeze an afternoon nap into your schedule. Then you're a student and anything goes. Twenty-four hour libraries, red bull, skipping breakfast and probably lunch for some valuable Zs. Nobody ever tells you just how real things get when you're a working adult with one of those full-time job things everyone's so crazy about and struggling to get your 8 hours in. Nobody ever tells you that the more stressed you get, the harder it is to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Lately I've been having a lot of trouble with my sleep. I tend go go through phases with it and every few months there will be a week or two when it just. ain't. happening. Currently I'm at the ten-day mark of tossing and turning until two, three and sometimes even 4 o'clock in the morning and it's wearing mighty thin. I have however realised that in my tired, stressed haze I've neglected most of my usual failsafe ways to ease these bouts of insomnia and get into a better pattern.

Distract yourself - If you're in bed and can't sleep, or feel too wired to even get into your PJs in the first place, find something to do that will take your mind of the anxiety of trying to get to sleep. It's vital that whatever you do doesn't involve screens as the bright lights will wake you up even more, so try something like colouring, reading a book, a puzzle. Before you know if you'll be feeling sleepier.

Don't nap unless you absolutely have to - I'm a bad napper anyway and usually struggle to fall asleep during the day, but taking long afternoon naps when you aren't sleeping well at night can mess up your schedule. Sure if you're heading out on the town and really feeling it an old-school disco nap is vital, but ploughing through and just trying for an earlier bedtime instead is probably better for you on any other night.

Make your bed a haven - Recently I've been chillier at night so I picked up some new bedding and PJs, but you can also do things like add more pillows, light candles (blow them out before light's out!!) and invest in a pillow spray. Boots do a nice one for about £6 so it doesn't have to be expensive!! When your sleep is suffering your bed can be a massive source of stress, so make it a place you want to be.

Talk about it - With a doctor, your partner, a colleague, friend, anyone. Not getting enough sleep can make me really grouchy and unfocused, but I find that letting people know I'm having trouble with it lifts that weight of feeling like you have to be running at 150% like everyone else. The last episode I had ended after I had a very tearful talk with my mum on the phone about the stress I was under at work. I got it all out in the open, she reassured me and I slept so well when I got home that night.

Remember it will end - Episodes of insomnia are tough, and if you have prolonged difficulty with sleep it's definitely something you should get professional help with, but for most of us it's important to remember that while you can't sleep now, things will rectify themselves eventually and you'll start to feel human again after a good night or two. It can feel like you'll never sleep again but I promise that you will!

What are your top solutions for when you can't sleep?

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