I have lived with insomnia since I was twelve years old. I’m 34 now, so, a long time, chi-ren. I have had some terrible stretches of time where time itself feels heavy and at once out of reach or grasp. I have had some good stretches, too. I have tried all manner of over the counter and natural “remedies” for sleep and I can tell you what works, what kind of does and what absolutely doesn’t.
As a teenager I didn’t mind it so much. I had the delightful distraction of a buzzing social life, boys and pot. School didn’t play that big of a role in my life at the time, believe me. My family was going through some heavy stuff, too, so sleep wasn’t a big deal for me. I would often sneak out at night or sneak boys into my room. My friend at the time lived with us so it was awesome and party times almost always.
Later when the deprivation began to affect my life more directly I started using over the counter sleeping pills like Unisom and such. These worked temporarily, but never left me feeling refreshed or rested at all. It was more of a band aid than a cure. I tried melatonin and used that for years off and on. I know it worked occasionally, but not reliably. You have to already be in the head space of wanting to sleep for it to work, I think and my brain just never worked that way then.
At 16 I asked my MD about it and they insisted using OTC sleep aids stunted my growth. WTF?! It didn’t, my mom & dad aren’t tall people. No worries. They didn’t offer me any prescriptions or solutions or even advice. Whatever. I remember at 19 I was determined to “cure” my insomnia by staying up until I just couldn’t. I ended up staying awake for something like three and a half days/nights, but conversationally I always say four. This was before I even liked coffee, too. It did seem to work at first though. I slept great for the next several weeks before some life things happened and fucked that all up again.
I continued to struggle into my twenties. My mind races and hums and buzzes at night. It’s like that old refrigerator you know you should have looked at or repaired but never manage to call the repair guy about it. Ha! As my life became more stable so did my schedule and then my husband and I bought a new mattress, one of those fancy pillow-top deals. It was nice for awhile.
That mattress wore out far too quickly and the pillow top turned into more of a pancake as you can’t flip the beast. A new career gave me new stresses but we also decided to take the plunge and buy a Tempur Pedic mattress and while I won’t sing praises of perfection about it, it has helped me immensely. Mostly with pain as I would often wake up with stiff/sore hips, no more!
I have never tried a prescription sleep aid and no matter how many times I hear great things about Ambien I hear enough nightmare scenarios to keep me away. I don’t think those things truly help you sleep anyway, but I know for some it makes all the difference in the world. And if something works for you, awesome!
For me the most effective things for me has been:
- sticking to a schedule (Truly #1 most important)
- drinking more water, but not much before bed
- not eating close to bed time
- no caffeine after 3 pm
- getting some sun, even if cloudy or rainy, outside for 20 minutes
- using my bedroom/bed for only sleep and sex
- only attempting to sleep, or get in bed, when I’m actually ready and wanting to go to sleep so as not to force it
These things, above all else, have helped reliably. When I had the cafe falling asleep was easy because I was so physically exhausted. I would wake up twenty times a night from stress and anxiety, but just crash when I got home. Eventually I woke up less and less and now I do okay sleeping through the night for the most part.
I share all of this after a fabulous night’s sleep. The previous night (when I wrote that “Think think think” post, I barely slept a wink. Writing that post brought up a lot of shit for me. I realized why I get the way I do and when I do. I’m still processing that shit, but feeling so much better. After a lovely meal last night I came home and just passed out! I woke up with bobby pins still in my hair! Even left my clothes in the washer, but luckily my sweetheart of a roommate dried them for me.
Today I feel so refreshed and rested after so much emotional turmoil. I know so many people with sleeping issues. I know many more who are in denial or simply refuse to do anything about their sleeping problems. Can I just urge you to try to do something about it soon? It improves your quality of life! You’re a happier, healthier person! I swear it’s true! Sleep is so vital and necessary. It is the most important part of self-care, I think.
So tell me your sleep stories of woe! Share with me your successes and mishaps! Let’s bond over this supposedly natural state of being and how we can’t manage to get it right…because our modern lives won’t allow for such simple things, right?! Ha-ha!