In light of World Sleep Day, I am sharing my story with you all in the hope that you can use some of these tools, tips and techniques to help you improve your sleeping patterns, insomnia or sleep related issues.
I first began noticing issues with my sleep when I was at university. I worked and studied full time while looking after my son, my sleep was the sacrifice and it became ingrained in me to the point it became normal to run off of 3 hours rest at most everyday.
Due to the sleep deprivation I was getting severely crippling migraines where I was unable to open my eyes, felt nauseous and was super sensitive to light. I was prescribed medication to help with inducing sleep and reducing the migraine attacks.
This was all linked to the insomnia episodes I was experiencing, so I made a conscious decision to naturally manage my sleep and stop taking medication.
Over time as my sleep hygiene improved dramatically
You can listen to my podcast about sleep hygiene here
INSOMNIA AND THE PANDEMIC
During the time of the first pandemic, I noticed some of these signs creeping back in when I was staying up later and later, filling the night time with things like work or business planning, content creation, whatever it may have been.
If I was awake I would justify being active and creative at a ridiculous time and still attempt to function for work in the morning hours.
I realised the headaches began flaring up into migraines and that sleep was harder to fall into. Catching myself before it got worse was the best thing i could have done - the beauty of learning your triggers and paying attention to the signs.
For me, the sleep issues began rising more and more when my routine changed. During the pandemic, luckily, my employer had a work from home model prior to the first lockdown so it was fairly easy to have the shift. The issue was more so that everything transitioned to indoor activities and time began to become non-existent, non important and the days and nights morphed into themselves.
HOW INSOMNIA AFFECTS ME
Insomnia affects my life, such as relationships, work etc when I am having an Insomnia episode, I become drained, distracted from conversations or appear disinterested. It can also be difficult to maintain my temper, I can get snappy very quickly. With tasks such as reading, I find myself re-reading lines repeatedly because my focus was so limited, it can feel as if I am in a looping dream.
Sometimes I feel emotional if I am unable to rest, it can feel very uncomfortable not being able to rest when the whole world is.
It can be a very lonely time, especially when you feel that nobody else is experiencing it or really understands.
Doing the housework and daily things I do to keep me active - these things still have to get done - but it takes twice the effort. Even when my body does get tired, it can feel as though my mind is lying to me.
Previously, if I am awake I would work out if I have tried to rest for a while and it became frustrating and disappointing. Working out helps to release the frustration and in my head, it was justified because "I am not sleeping anyway so I may as well be active".
DEVELOP A SUNDOWN SELF CARE SCHEDULE
Developing a sun down self care routine has helped remind myself to do certain things to aid my calm and peace in the night time, this includes: putting my phone on silent and across the room on charge.
Keeping a diary beside my bed is also a technique that i have used for over 3 years now which has served as a “daily dump” to offload those end of day thoughts. It is a handwritten summary of the day in a few sentences, nothing too long, but ends with what worked well so that the conclusion of the day has a positive silver lining. This aids with alleviating any frustrations I may have conjured up throughout the day and I can go to bed with a clearer mind, more balanced emotions, accepting of my actions of the day and look forward to the new days ahead. When I use this tool, it help with my sleep issues and decrease night time anxiety.
Lastly, another technique I use, which can be a little strange, is counting eye twitches. When I am trying to get into a sleepy state and my body is trying to resist, my eyes can twitch when trying to remain still.
I count how many times I feel my eyes twitch until I don't feel it anymore.
The twitches can sometimes speed up and become more intense as I pay more attention but I give it more focus. Eventually, my mind gets comfortable and eventually the laziness of counting sinks in - before I know it, often without a realisation, my eye stops twitching and I fall asleep.
I am a big believer in using multiple self care practices to support your wellbeing and self care overall. An additional practice I use is the 4 by 4 breathwork method, or square breathing to help slow down my thinking. I inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds and rest for 4 seconds and repeat until I feel in a more peaceful state.
From some research, I learnt a little about the connections between sleep and smell so I began using essential oils in an air diffuser or burning incense in the bedroom before going to bed.
I noticed how much this can really help with detaching, releasing and entering into a tranquil state.
Last thing I use on occasions is some light yoga stretches to help release any tensions in my body that may have been built up and harbouring throughout the day.
A short 5 minutes on the top or beside the bed is highly recommended to help loosen up your body and ignite relaxation.
PROGRESS WITH PATTERNS
Honestly, now I am more aware about myself through the process of re-learning myself in the first lockdown. Reframing lockdown as a time for solitude really helped with my emotional regulation. I decided to call it solitude season for it to be more kinder to the ears and it works for me.
I am more able to manage myself, help others manage with some of the tips and tools I have used or have been made aware of. Using positive affirmations and reminding myself to manage only what I am able to, is what has kept hope and faith inside of me.
Learning to be more compassionate with myself has really helped so I encourage anyone suffering with insomnia to be kind and gentle. When you snap or get angry and frustrated with yourself, beating yourself up mentally because you cannot sleep increases your frustration even more. It is okay to feel a range of emotions during this time, sit with them let then be felt and let them go.
I hope this helps anyone who is currently suffering with insomnia or sleep issues - don't give up hope! Try some of my advice and see how you go tonight.
Happy World Sleep Day!
With Love and Learning
(P.S. You can listen to my podcast about sleep hygiene here)