I have all kinds of sympathy for people who suffer from insomnia, regardless of how infrequently it happens. Not enough sleep hurts our bodies, and the more nights we don’t sleep well, the more damage is being done to our bodies.
When I was pregnant, I developed insomnia the entire time of each pregnancy. Then none of my children slept through the night for nearly seven months. Between my two last children I managed to sleep through the night a grand total of four times.
That means that in the space of 36 months, I slept through the night four times.
I recall that time, and I believe I thought I was going crazy. I probably was. But I was either pregnant, nursing, or thought I was pregnant, so there were no pills, no prescriptions of any kind that were available to me. I simply learned to read, a lot, at night when I couldn’t sleep. Fortunately, when my babies napped, I managed to catch a little shut-eye myself.
But that period of my life changed what had previously been relatively good sleeping habits. I recall my father walking the floors at night because he couldn’t sleep. Apparently his father did the same thing. I don’t know if insomnia is inherited or not. I just know that I feared I was developing my father’s insomniac habits far too early in my life.
That meant I had to figure out ways to sleep through the night without taking medication. My aversion to medication stems from the stories of people taking Ambien and then driving while they are sleeping. As bad as insomnia is, I found I preferred it to possibly having a fatal accident by driving while I was asleep. Very rare, I know, but as I hadn’t exhausted more natural approaches to sleeping at night just yet, I wasn’t ready to go the pharmaceutical route.
My research discovered the following suggestions that I have found to be effective for me:
Eat breakfast within an hour of waking.
Drink plenty of water to stay adequately hydrated. There is a theory of “tired but wired” sleep related to being dehydrated. I drink plenty of water now.
No caffeine after 1pm, no more caffeine than 200 – 300 mg per day.
No electronic devices after 8pm. No LED or fluorescent lights in the bedroom. Incandescents or candlelight only.
White noise. I use both a fan during the night and a rainstorm for 90 minutes as I fall asleep. It has worked for three years quite effectively. Maybe the best approach to sleep I’ve taken.
Power napping was suggested.
Nidra yoga was my choice instead. Anytime I napped, I slept for 3 hours and that ruins my next night’s sleep. A nidra session can last 20 minutes and when I “wake” from that, I’m as refreshed as if I had taken a nap.
Can’t sleep, stop fretting. I get up, make a cup of herbal tea, and read. Preferably by candlelight until I feel tired again.
None of these strategies work 100% of the time and some people still need to try the pharmaceutical route. But a healthy bedtime routine and environment does make a difference. Make sure your partner and your family understand how important it is for you to maintain your routine.