For years I have struggled with chronic insomnia, likely contributed to by my clinical anxiety. It hasn’t been fun. I have never really been one of those people who shuts their eyes and immediately is fast asleep. Instead, it can take anywhere from a half an hour to several hours. This is not helped by the fact that I am already naturally a “night owl”, and find my most awake and productive hours between 9pm and 2 am. Over the years it has gotten worse, and I now take medication to help me fall asleep. But even with my medication, I still need to implement sleep strategies. Here are some ideas to get you started when you just can’t seem to snooze.
1. Meditate. Personally, this doesn’t really help me sleep. But it might work for you.
Several studies have linked meditation to improved sleep patterns and faster time to fall asleep.
2. Turn on the “Deep Sleep” playlist on Spotify. I know, I know, music? That never works for me! And it didn’t for me either until I found this playlist. I put it at a low, but audible level and listen away. Mere “relaxing music” never worked for me so I am not sure what it is about this particular playlist.
3. Practice sleep hygiene. In particular, most advice blogs on the internet recommend turning off electronics at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. This method simply does not work for certain people. For example, as a law student, if I am working at a firm in the summer I must be checking my email at least every hour that I am awake. If you need to pack in a punch with work before bed, consider my strategies. I use an e-reader with the brightness off and a regular lamp, or decrease the screen brightness on my laptop. You can also change the settings on a Mac computer to make your screen a bit more yellow. I do try to reserve the last hour of my day on work that I find particularly boring; it helps me fall asleep. During the last hour of my day I aim to not check social media (Instagram scrolling is the hardest for me to give up), stop chatting with friends on iMessage, and avoid conversations with family members. For me, talking to other people excites me and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
4. Turn down your room’s temperature. While everyone can appreciate a warm cozy bed, you can feign the effects of strategy number 3 by having your environment a bit cooler at night. Turn down the heat or open a window. Windows have the additional benefit of providing you with fresh air.
5. Exercise. Studies have shown that exercise, particularly earlier in the day, decrease your body’s core temperature by at least one degree Celsius at night, accelerating snoozing.
6. Write down everything that bothers you. Consider using the WorryTime app (not
sponsored, it’s just that great). I believe that a lot of the accumulated worries that we
tend to ruminate over just before bed is caused by the fact that we do not set aside time during the day to simply reflect and plan. It is only when we have a quiet moment, i.e. before bed, when we are doing nothing else but thinking, where these troubles resurface. The WorryTime app is ideal because you set a daily “worry time”. During the day as worries surface you input them into the app. The app does not allow you to review your worries until the appointed worry time. When your worry time arrives, the app prompts you to review your worries. You only have the allotted time you set it to, 5- 20 minutes to review. You can choose to swipe left to keep the worry, use your thumb and index finger to crumple your worry into a ball and then swipe up to have the ball thrown away. You can also add comments to your worry. I use this feature when I am practicing my CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) skills. You can use the comments to reframe erroneous thoughts. Using the app has also allowed me to be less distracted while working on tasks during the day. I believe that much of our mental energy is devoted to trying to remember seemingly important thoughts or issues. When I write these thoughts down, my mind quiets because I know that the thought is saved somewhere and I can let go of it without risking forgetting something important.
Let us know if you also have trouble sleeping and whether you have any of your own tips and strategies for combatting sleep issues.