I have struggled with insomnia most of my adult life. Ever since I entered the working world, discovered caffeine, and began bringing my worries home with me I have gone through monthly cycles of waking up between 2-4 in the morning and not being able to get to sleep.
- I pay attention to my caffeine intake. My body is simply much happier if I only have two serving of caffeine a day. It also prefers that I do not drink the second serving after 2:00 in the afternoon. And so I try to pay attention, and give the body what it wants.
- I try to eat a health diet without a lot of highly processed carbs and sugar. The crazy energy cycles that lots of sugar make you go though can really mess up your sleep.
- I pay attention to my sleep cycles and try to honor them. I spent some time observing them, and realized that I have a typical sleep cycle that starts around 10 and ends at 12-1, I have another that starts around midnight and ends around 2-4, and a third sleep cycle will start around 4:00 and go through 6 or 7. I try very hard to actually go to bed around 10:00 most nights, although I may not go to sleep till around midnight.
- About an hour before bed, I start to wind down and try to do less exciting things. A little reading, some browsing, maybe a little watching TV. I try not to do anything that will get too interesting, or get me too emotionally involved. I especially can not work on anything, even something I like, because it will stimulate my brain and make it hard to shut down.
- About 30 minutes before bed, I take my multi-vitamin and mineral. Taking a Calcium and Magnesium supplement at night can help with cramps in your muscles and help relax you. Also if you don’t get enough vitamin B you will have a hard time with a normal sleep cycle.
- Then I transfer into the bedroom and do all my nightly routine. If I am not slowing down enough by this time, sometimes I will bring out my steamer with a little lavender oil and give myself a five minute facial steaming, or go make a cup of chamomile tea and bring it back to bed.
- Then I head for bed. Once I am in bed, I sit up and drink a half glass of water. Then I take a pinch of salt and let it dissolve slowly on my tongue. This helps me fall asleep better than any medication I have ever tried. I have read numerous theories as to why this works but the one that makes the most sense, is that most of us are dehydrated and that makes it harder to sleep. If you take a tiny amount of salt in with your water right before bed it make you absorb the water faster and be more hydrated. (I do however eat a very low salt diet. Some people with a very high salt diet may find that it is the salt in their diet that is causing the problem)
- Once I take the water and salt, if I am not sleepy immediately and I stay up, I cannot do anything interesting. Deep conversations with my husband, reading or blogging are out. I have found that the best thing to do is something really repetitive like some kinds of prayer or meditation, or even playing a game of solitaire on the iphone. Usually within 15 minutes I am drooping and ready to turn off the light and head for bed.
- If for some reason I can’t sleep, I take an inventory of how I feel and try to solve any problems. If you are hungry, need the restroom, are too hot, or too cold you will not be able to sleep. It is better to get back up and solve these problems and then come back and try again.