I think I have had issues with insomnia since my early days of medical training. Teaching my mind and body to be functional at a moment’s notice is certainly beneficial in medicine and child-rearing, but it interferes with getting into deep, restful states of sleep. I have spent many years trying to find successful combinations of battling insomnia. Many nights, I have watched the clock pass from one hour to the next, until the dawn arrives accompanied by sleepiness. All just in time to embark on another full day. I have tried many homemade remedies, drugs (prescription and non-prescription), as well as many techniques in between.
I have found two things that help me more than anything else, and will hopefully be of service to you.
Most of us have televisions, radios, smartphones and many other contraptions in our bedrooms. For some, the white noise of the TV helps them drift off to sleep. But, for most, a small amount of interest is piqued by an infomercial or something said during a dialog. And, before you realize it, you are wide awake again.
Reading can be helpful, if you can keep it confined to light, relaxing, and perhaps even refreshing. If it is something lively, it will often either keep you awake, or become part of your dreams.
Smartphones are the worst. People check their statuses all day and all night. They check the notifications non-stop. They share cute things, make game requests, and do work when they should be resting and restoring their minds. When it should be lights-out, you will find many people staring into the tiny screen.
Sleep hygiene means getting everything not related to sleep out of your bedroom. It means retraining your mind and body to know that the only thing you come into this room for is to go to bed and to go to sleep. Not to veg all night catching up on Game of Thrones. Not to spend money needlessly on things you do not need. Not to begin reading the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Not to begin writing your great memoirs. To sleep…
Bedside Writing Materials
One of my issues with sleep is turning off the turmoils, questions and problems of the day. My conscious mind, drifting into unconsciousness seems quite adept at trying to resolve all the issues of the day, or reminding me of something I wanted to write, a particular way to phrase things, something I meant to follow up on, any number of things.
I have learned that if I keep writing materials at the bedside I can unload many of these ideas. The alternative is to stay half-awake trying to remember it, or losing it completely by morning.
I keep a stack of index cards at the bedside. I wake up just enough to grab one, get a pen or pencil, and jot a quick note in the dark. I then stuff the card under my phone and go back to sleep. Some nights have have written things more than once. A few nights I have written 20 or more cards. But, I rest. I can filter them in the morning, picking out what is usable where. I don’t sort as I’m writing. Get the idea on paper, then release it, and yourself.
Chronic insomnia is not always an easily vanquished foe. But, as with all other worthwhile ventures in our lives it takes planning, action, reevaluation, and modification. Sufficient rest is vital to being at our best, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Keep pressing until you find the right combination for you. Your very sanity may depend on it.