Hi friends! This is the most personal post I’ve written on my blog I think, hahahaha. With #BellLetsTalk going on last week, and having been inspired by my friends and some fellow bloggers, I thought I would write about something some of you might find helpful. For me, insomnia is closely related to my mental health and really kicks in when I’m in a period of anxiety. Those of you who also have social or generalised anxiety, and/or panic disorder probably know that a panic attack doesn’t end there. Whenever I have a panic attack it lasts for awhile. Just one small smidgen of me dealing with my anxiety is dealing with my insomnia. In fact, my insomnia became so much a part of my anxiety that I started getting anxiety about not being able to fall asleep… which of course made it harder. But I’m not here to talk about my anxiety today.
For a lot of people insomnia can strike for no reason, or because you’re particularly stressed out, going through a big change, or anything that makes it hard for your body to slow down. It’s really horrible because it affects so many other parts of your life when you can’t get proper sleep. If your insomnia gets out of hand, you become sleep deprived and suffer symptoms such as chronic fatigue, irritability, loss of energy, migraines, and more. This isn’t helpful when you have a life to be living, not to mention suffer from other mental illnesses. It can make living every day life really difficult, so what can we do about it? I always thought it was something I had to figure out on my own, even when I was seeing a counsellor I didn’t mention it to her until the very end of our session.
After a few years of suffering on and off from insomnia, here are my tips for you:
1. Establish a bed time routine. This was one that my counsellor recommended to me, having suffered from insomnia herself. When you have a set routine you go through every night before going to sleep, your body slowly starts to learn that when you do these things this means your body is getting ready for bed. This is very helpful because it means your body prepares to go to sleep before you actually get into bed, so by the time you get there you don’t have to lay there overthinking, wondering when you’ll fall asleep. Try to include things into your routine that help you fall asleep, only have dim lights on, turn your phone on silent (keep its brightness down), read a book, make some tea, use some lavender essential oils. The one drawback to this is that it takes awhile to establish a bedtime routine and teach it to your body, so if you’re looking for a quick fix this isn’t it. But! If you suffer from insomnia it’s worth your while to start this while you try other techniques as well. For me, this has been the most helpful of all the things I’ve tried because it’s the most consistent.
2. Mind games. This sounds intimidating and kind of matrix/inception-y but I mostly mean more complicated ways of “counting sheep”. I do a variation on counting in my head like so, 1-1,1-2, 1-3 … all the way until 1-10, then begin with 2-1, all the way until you get to 10-10. This was another thing my counsellor taught me because the classic counting sheep is too easy and your mind can wander. This just complicates it slightly to consume your thoughts and focus a bit better. I also find its great for regulating my breathing so much so that I use this whenever I’m having a panic attack to try and calm down.
If you’re not keen on counting there’s another one you can try, I’ve never done it myself but my friend told me about it. First, close your eyes, then slowly picture a spot in your room and slowly imagine looking around your room to some “comfort items”. Basically, just turning your focus onto something that’s familiar and comforting, while still distracting your mind. It doesn’t have to be your bedroom either, though the general association with your bedroom tends to be bedtime so that helps a bit- just pick a room you know well and find comforting! Let me know if you try this, I haven’t yet!
3. Distractions. Confession time, when I went through a bit of a big change last year, I had really bad anxiety and as such really bad insomnia. Since I knew I wouldn’t be falling asleep anytime soon I decided to put on something to watch and picked Friends just because it was something I knew well and something I knew was on Netflix. Fast forward 9 months, I have listened to Friends every single night since (except when I went camping one weekend and didn’t have service). It has now become an essential part of my bedtime routine and a bit of a clutch to be honest. Even the last time I was having panic attacks I was sitting on the bathroom floor listening to Friends- it’s just a really easy way to distract me and because I’ve already seen everything it’s not too distracting. The biggest drawback is that it’s a clutch, and if I don’t have service I’m shit out of luck (though I’m pretty good as long as I have music).
Another one of my friends does something similar and listens to podcasts when she has anxiety or insomnia. This is a better clutch I think because you can download them and listen to them when you don’t have service. This is what I did when I had to get on a plane (last time I was having panic attacks was before a flight- that was an airport bathroom I was listening to Friends on). It was still pretty good at distracting me, and I was so tired that once I was relatively calm I would pass out until the next panic attack hit. So I think it would be alright just for trying to sleep, but I think I might get too interested in what they’re talking about and not be able to fall asleep before it finished which is my goal… Not too sure, but again, if you try it, let me know!
4. Do a body relaxation exercise. If you’re having trouble settling down, and that’s what’s causing your insomnia this could really help! I’m sure you could find some videos on YouTube for this- the yoga term is Shavasana. I know a lot of people in yoga classes fall asleep in this part of the class, and it’s something I do when I’m trying to get my body to relax.
Alright pals, that’s all I’ve got! I hope this could help you in some way, shape or form if you suffer from insomnia. If you do, and have any tips of your own please leave them in the comments section! I think that it would be really nice to start up a little conversation about insomnia in the comments if you feel comfortable discussing it! It’s something so many people mentally ill or not suffer from and something rarely discussed despite how common it isn’t! That being said I’m off to bed! 😴💤💤
Goodnight, xx Sabrina