Over the course of my life, I’ve had many bouts of insomnia for various reasons: stress, depression, etc. No matter the cause, insomnia SUCKS. It takes one small part of your life and spreads it to all the other areas. So of you weren’t worried enough about one thing, now you can also worry about failing as a mom, employee, wife, friend, daughter, volunteer, sister, or what-have-you because you’re too tired to get through the day. Awesome. What the modern woman needs is more stress, right????
Well, I may not be able to lessen your workload or tell your bitchy relative to back off, but I can share a few things that have helped me cope through sleepless times in my life. Every little bit counts, right?
1) Don’t take your multi-vitamin before bedtime.
I did this for the longest time and had no idea why I wasn’t able to sleep! Some studies have shown that taking B6 before bedtime can lead to very vivid dreaming, which in turn can wake you up. And B6 helps the body convert tryptophan to serotonin,a horomone that affects sleep. Other studies have shown that Vitamin B12 can affect melatonin levels, causing wakefulness.
Still some people continue to recommend taking your multi-vitamin at night – or taking half at night, half in the morning – to promote full absorption. If you have trouble sleeping and are taking your vitamins before bed, try taking them in the morning instead.
2) Take melatonin supplements.
It’s amazing to me how many times I’ve talked to people who take OTC or prescription sleep aids that HAVEN’T tried melatonin! Melatonin is a horomone that helps control the natural sleep cycle. At times when I’ve had insomnia, I didn’t have trouble falling asleep, it was staying asleep that was the problem. I would wake up in the middle of the night and my brain would be ready to start the day, even though my body was still tired. Melatonin helped for me. I didn’t wake up as often or if I did wake up, I was able to fall back asleep easily. Like any supplement, there can be side effects (I never had any) or interactions with other drugs you might be taking, so do your research and talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
3) Try an herbal tea.
I like to drink Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Herbal Tea. One of the main ingredients is chamomile, an herbal depressant that can cause drowsiness. Whether this is just a placebo effect for me or it’s actually effective, at any rate I enjoy it. It’s relaxing to have a cup of hot tea before bedtime, even when it’s summer in Arizona!
4) Put the dang phone down!
This is another thing I was doing FOR.EVER. without realizing the damage I was doing. I would wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake. To entertain myself, I’d grab the phone off of my bedside table and start checking email, looking at Facebook, Instagram, and reading The Atlantic. Before I knew it, two hours had passed and I was still wide awake! Then I read that the brightness from an iPhone or iPad can effect melatonin levels. Now, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I resist the urge to see what’s happening on social media. I will admit, though, that I occasionally do grab my Kindle Paperwhite. I turn the screen brightness almost all the way down. This doesn’t seem to affect my sleep and I often doze off again within a few minutes.
5) Go dark.
I used to like having a bedroom that wasn’t too dark. Having street lights shining through my window or light from a hallway didn’t bother me. In fact, I liked it. Brian likes a DARK room. Blackout shades on the windows and no light from electronics. Even the red glow from the tiny power button on the TV would bother him so he’d put a t-shirt in front of the TV to block the light. I’ve grown to appreciate the dark bedroom and now I realize that keeping so much light in my bedroom was probably harming my sleep as well. I even started turning off the light from the face of my alarm clock. At first, I thought it would bother me to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to glance over and see the time. I was so used to that. Guess what, it’s doesn’t bother me, because I don’t wake up!
6) Deal with it!
When I was having a hard time adjusting to our move to Arizona, I also had a REALLY hard time getting a good night of sleep. I did some reading on the subject and found the reason. This article from The Atlantic explains a lot. Essentially, depressed people enter the REM stage of sleep sooner than healthy people, and the REM stage lasts longer for depressed people. The REM stage is a lighter level of sleep, filled with dreams. For me at that time, I knew I was dreaming a lot, but I could not remember my dreams when I woke up. Although I was technically sleeping for 8 hours at night, very little of that was non-REM sleep.
Obviously, I can’t just say “Hey! Stop being depressed! Get over it!” It’s not that easy, I know! My period of depression was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with. I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t see a way out. I wondered how my relationship with Brian would survive. Luckily for us, I discovered what I really needed to pull myself out of it was to have a home here. A project and a place to call my own. To fell like we were building a life here instead of being forver in temporary places.
If your sleep troubles are caused by depression, I encourage you to do something about it, whether that be talking to a professional or making a change personally.
How about you? Any tips on getting some ZZZZZs?