I have been insomniac since I was 12 years old, so it’s been half of my life. I tried sleeping pills, but I didn’t like them: it kind of knocks you down to sleep, but this type of sleep never felt really regenerating to me, plus, I woke up feeling dizzy…
So I tried a lot of different ways to make myself fall asleep, here are some of the solutions that I found.
Don’t just hang around with your phone or computer
If I start reading “stuff” on the Internet, I can spend hours doing it. Indeed, apps and websites are designed for us to spend a maximum amount of time browsing them. It is just addictive.
So if it’s time to go to bed, I try to just avoid to get lost on the web. I try to check my emails and messages on my phone one last time when I set my alarm clock, and then leave it not too close to the bed, and not touch it until morning. My boyfriend even puts his phone into plane mode for the night; I should take this habit too.
As to my computer, when I don’t need to use it at night I tend to leave it in my desk at the office. If I have to work a bit late, when possible I tend to stay in the office, and then go home when I am done, so that at night I’d rather read a book than just navigate from post to post in the Internet. It also helps to separate work from leisure, and makes me feel more relaxed when I’m home.
Download an app to make your screen less blue and more yellow at night
Phones and computers don’t only vampirize our attention. Their blue light also sends a signal to our brain to stay awake, kind of like daylight. There is a solution to that: you can set your phone and computer to make their screen more yellow, for instance from 10pm to 7am, so that if you have to consult them, at least the light will not tend to wake you up that much. For instance on recent iPhones there is NightShift.
Watch or read something moderately boring
I tend to be a nervous person, therefore, much too often, when I go to bed, I just can’t help but freak out about something. My thoughts just keep spinning in my head, and I can’t stop this process that keeps me awake.
I found a solution that works quite well for me: I just read or watch something a bit boring. It focuses my attention just enough so I don’t freak out, but not enough to prevent me from falling asleep. I must confess that sometimes it does take LONG to fall asleep (when my insomnia is bad, it is not uncommon that it lasts four or five hours), but at least, I am calm, rather than mad at myself for not sleeping. It kind of alleviates the feeling of guilt for not being able to fall asleep even if you are crazy tired.
A book about something that you are not really interested in (for instance, in my case, heraldry), or a TV show without suspense that you like but have already seen ten times, should do.
Learn to say “no”
Another of the reasons why I don’t sleep enough, is that I tend to be a “yes” person as far as social relationships are concerned. As the amazing Amelia Diamond from The Man Repeller puts it: saying “yes” to three activities on the same night feels like “running around like a neon-paisley patterned chicken with my head cut off trying fit in too many cross, up, and downtown things”. And I used to do that: on the same night, go to a ballet class, an activist meeting, and then a dinner with friends. Or a dinner with a friend, and then a party at another’s place. I felt stressed and exhausted, and as I said “yes” to too many activities involving booze, it tended to end late AND give me some bad drunk sleep.
Then I started to try to learn to prioritize: I need my ballet lessons to feel happy, so they have to be a priority. I love my friends, but I feel really good meeting them if I meet ONE friend or group of friends at ONE event per night. I like to drink, but more than once or twice a week it is JUST TOO EXHAUSTING. Then it takes a bit of work to figure out what my priorities are, and to learn to resist peer pressure. For instance, I abandoned some of my activist activities that felt just too stressful and demanding. They were important to me but I learned to admit that I can’t sleep and work well while doing too much activist activities on my free time.
So, even if I still have a lot to learn and a lot of efforts to make, I hope I’m on a good track for this.
Getting enough sleep is important, our mental health is important. I decided to reconsider my life to get enough sleep and fight the stress. And I understood that saying “no” to a friend or to a non-for-profit activity, or putting the computer away, takes efforts. I hope I will take good habits that I’ll keep for the rest of my life.