I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac. I find it hard to shut down, wind down and relax at the end of each day. It is as though my mind suddenly wakes in the early evening and everything and anything can be whirling around in my head.
After having my son, it got worse. Working full time, and then with the sometimes-multiple night wake ups I found myself getting even less shut eye, as each time my son woke it would take me longer to re-settle and get back to sleep again.
It is sometimes worse than others. When I say worse, I mean I get literally no sleep or maybe an hour. The challenge is that I have a four-year-old and a full-time job, so napping in the day is not the solution.
At times I have considered getting medical help (ie. Sleeping tablets), but that would be a short-term fix, and I’m always fearful that it would too easily become a crutch for me.
At one stage I did see a sleep therapist, and some of the techniques worked. Though what I found was that it was my mindset I needed to change.
- Sleep is overrated. This was a little bit of an eye-opener for me, but the fact is that adults really do not need a full seven to eight hours sleep each night. My issue is once I got into that ‘no sleep’ mode, I’d start to get anxious as time ticked by. This would almost further exacerbate my insomnia as I would count how many hours were left for me to get some sleep.
- Technology no-no. I moved my phone away from my bed, turned it into sleep mode, and tried my best to stop my screen time just before I closed my eyes. Even more important, I left my work phone downstairs in the study. It was too tempting at times to check the emails coming through overnight, and suddenly with one ask my mind started whirring.
- Focus on health food habits. Especially now that I’m working from home every day, it is too easy to keep topping up my coffee throughout the day. That biscuit tin seems to call to me in the late afternoon every day. A glass of wine to shut off the day. Sugar, chocolate or crisps as an after-dinner snack. No wonder my body can’t shut down with the sugar, caffeine and salt intake. Now more than ever, with COVID-19 threatening a second wave, I’m conscious of staying healthy. I’m more conscious of my food habits, snacking and ensuring that my evening intake is less intensive for my body to digest and wind down to.
- Enjoy a warm bath before bedtime. Sometimes the thought of running a bath, infusing lavender oils and other such relaxing scents and just enjoying the peace and relaxing seems a little too much to organise. Nonetheless, the effort is worth it as the tensions disappear and my mind eases into a more relaxed state just before bedtime.
It’s not perfect. I still have waves of insomnia of course, and sometimes I throw my own advice to the wind (and regret it), and the cycle starts again.
But sleep is important, no matter which way you look at it. We need our bodies to recharge, we need it to strengthen our immune system. Right now more than ever we need to stay healthy and focused. So perhaps for now I’ll make it my priority.