How to get more sleep (confessions of an insomniac)

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My cat is yawning, because he needs some SLEEP

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.

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My kitty thinks The Idiot by Dostoyevsky is boring (I don’t, it’s amazing!!!), so he fell asleep

 

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.

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I hope one day I’ll sleep as tight as him, every night

 

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.

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How to have better hair, while buying less stuff

Is your hear dry, frizzy and fragile, while your shelves are filled with useless hair products? Then you might relate.

I went through phases of despair concerning my hair. It is incredibly fragile, so I applied all the advice I could find on the Internet: I didn’t dye it, I didn’t use heat to style it, I avoided hair ties that cause a lot of breakage, I bought a soft brush, I bought silicone-free and sulfate-free hair products. I used moisturizing products, such as hair oils and creams, every day. I did deep conditioning once a week.

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Despite my good care, my hair still looked like a horse’s tail, with a little oil in it

All these efforts made me buy a lot of products, most of which I tried a few times and then just abandoned on a shelf, because they did my hair no good. So I was buying a lot of stuff, I was wasting most of it, and my hair still didn’t look healthy. It was frizzy, it was dry, it was growing in every direction, it got tangled really easily.

 

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My hair at its worst: crazy frizz

 

So I had the feeling that I had tried everything, and my hair still looked weird.

Then I was completely lost, and tired of all these efforts which only kept my hair looking bad. So I cut it short. But it was still coarse, frizzy, and growing in every direction. I suppose I could have been happy in the 1980s, but in 2015 (at the time) it did not look right and I still felt bad about how it looked.

One day I washed my hair with shampoo (an organic one, sulfate-free and all), and I just faced a simple fact: shampoo does my hair no good. It strips it from the natural oils that my scalp produces. And my hair texture is such (I don’t know what the problem is, maybe it’s naturally porous or I don’t know), that if I just put some nourishing product on my lengths after washing it, it never looks right. If I put a little product, my hair still looks dry. Then I add a tiny bit, a tiny bit, a tiny bit, it still looks dry, and then boom, it looks oddly oily. It’s like the oils sit on top of the hair, it doesn’t look like healthy hair, just as dry hair with oil on it.

So weirdly, I cannot just compensate for shampooing by using conditioner, masks, oils, aloe vera or other moisturizing/nourishing products. I mean it works a little, still better than when I don’t put product in my hair, but it’s not good enough.

The last five years or so, I have been washing my hair every 3 to 5 days, which sounds like a reasonable frequency, but apparently it was still too harsh for my fragile locks.

I had tried the no-poo thing (completely stopping to use shampoo), first by using only water, then using only conditioner, including on the scalp. I also tried replacing shampoo by baking soda and vinegar, but my hair is just too dry and fragile for these products.

 

 

My compromise for better hair, with less consumption and efforts: one shampoo a week

So two months ago I found a new solution: I decided to go back to what I was doing when I was a little girl with smooth hair: not overthink it, and shampoo only once a week. The summer is actually a good time to do the transition: my hair got wet all the time (from bathing at the beach, in swimming pools, in rivers), everybody was coming around with wet hair, and everybody was sweating, so if my hair was a bit greasy nobody noticed. I washed it with water every time I felt like I needed it, but I stuck to one shampoo a week.

After two months, my scalp does not look very greasy after one week, I mean, it looks like I should wash my hair, but just as it did on the last day when I washed it every 4 days. Weirdly, there is only one spot where it looks very greasy: at the center of the back of my head. I suspect it’s the spot where I attach my ponytail; maybe the hair tie prevents the oils from circulating from scalp to ends or something like that. But luckily, as some strands of hair grow on the top of my head and cover that spot, nobody can see it (I can just feel a little discomfort, like I sense that spot being greasy). Maybe I should always put my hair up in different ways, so that the grease does not all stay in one spot.

If I work out (or just sweat after a hot day), if I go to the beach or the swimming pool, I just wash my hair with water. At the moment my hair just starts to reach my shoulders, so it’s too short to use conditioner.

So this is it: I use only shampoo (I have a sulfate-free and silicone-free one, but frankly, when I was at someone’s place and used a chemical one, I saw no notable difference). I use it once a week so I don’t use a lot of it. When my lengths are very dry, I put just a little bit of product in it (a silicone-free dry oil, the main active ingredient in it being macadamia oil).

And after two months my hair looks healthier. It looks more shiny, and less frizzy. It still has cowlicks and natural waves so it grows in an anarchic fashion, but at least it looks much smoother than it used to.

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Hair just after weekly shampoo, no product in it

The one more thing that I need to do now is to wash my brush regularly, every one or two weeks. But it’s made of plastic so it’s quick and easy, I can just wash it with soap.

You might want to use dry shampoo during your transition to make your scalp look less greasy. I bought one in the supermarket, and it was expensive, lasted for not long at all, and made my scalp itch. So I just went back to plain cornstarch made for cooking. I tapped a tiny bit on my scalp, left it for a few minutes, and brushed it out. And boom, non greasy-looking scalp. Cornstarch is less filled with chemicals, cheaper, and one pack lasts much longer than actual things marketed as “dry shampoo”. (granted, if you can afford the high-end ones that don’t look white but transparent, it may be better than the cornstarch, which can left some residual white or ashy color in your hair if you don’t completely brush it out. But most “dry shampoos” on the market fall into this category anyway).
After two months, I am not using dry shampoo anymore because I don’t feel like I need it.

 

Sometimes, for better hair, less is more

I’m not recommending my method as a universal solution (though, if you have a scalp that gets greasy after a few days, AND dry and fragile lengths, you might want to give it a try).

What I learned from this experience is that sometimes, buying stuff makes our hair worse, not better. The more often you shampoo, the more you strip your scalp from its oils, and the more often you need to shampoo. The more you shampoo, the more moisturizing products (conditioner, oil etc) you need to buy to keep your lengths alive. The more you put styling products into your hair, the more you need to wash it. The more heat you use to make your hair look smooth, the less smooth your hair ACTUALLY is, so the more you need to use heat… etc.

Sometimes, it is more effective to just go back to what we did as kids if we had nice hair back then, or what our grandmothers did when they were young (at it seems that our ancestors did not shampoo as often as we do).

This post is not offering a universal solution, it is just the story of how my hair got better at the same time as I stopped spending too much money and energy to take care of it.

I think that we should stop this symptom that a lot of us have (and me maybe more than anyone else) to think that to solve a problem we always need to buy something. We don’t. And maybe our skin, hair, and all, can get better, while our shelves stopping to get full of useless stuff, and our bank accounts stopping to get empty from compulsive purchases. It is less alienating for us, and better for the environment. That’s one of the main things that I want to explore with this blog.