I don’t know about you but this divorced mom can sometimes have an impossible time falling asleep. It’s usually because I’ve had a stressful day and my mind is working overtime. When that happens, relaxing enough to get real shut-eye is an exercise in futility. And as the clock ticks and I realize that my timeframe for sleeping is shrinking fast, I become more stressed out, which means that the chances of falling asleep become smaller and smaller. Inevitably, the next day, feeling sluggish and unable to focus, all I can do is drink one enormous cup of coffee after the next. Yuck.
Sleep deprivation is serious business. The consequences of not getting adequate rest include a whole host of health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. When we’re not sleeping at bedtime, we tend to get the munchies and have less energy to exercise the next day. It’s one reason we can gain weight. Plus our brains don’t function so well when we’re tired so we make poorer decisions, are crankier, and suffer from depression more often.
Sometimes I have bouts of insomnia and it sucks. I’ve been prescribed sleeping pills but I try not to ingest anything that I can avoid (trust me– after all the chemo I’ve taken, the thought of dumping extra poisons into my body is really awful). So I’ve found 11 ways to combat insomnia that work.
1. Stop Eating (and Drinking) Before Bed!
Several months ago, I was visiting my best friend for a week. One night, we went out to dinner and, despite being very full, we stopped at an ice cream shop and got milkshakes on our way home. I felt awful– like I had seriously swollowed a watermelon. That night I had a really hard time falling asleep. Once I did, I slept horribly and dreamt of food. I vowed I would never do that again. Making sure my tummy is happy before I get into bed is part of my routine. That means I’m not super hungry or too full. I usually try to stop eating at least three hours before bedtime. Likewise, I don’t drink a lot of water either. I hate that “water-logged” feeling plus I don’t enjoy getting up throughout the night to pee.
2. Wind Down the Physical Activity
Working out before bed is not a great idea. It simply increases heart rate and mental alertness, all opposite of promoting sleepiness. I stop doing strenuous activities a few hours before calling it a night, and that includes cleaning.
3. Give Your Brain a Respite
I try not to do anything that requires too much brain activity close to bedtime. That means I don’t pay bills, write emails to my attorney, or get into big debates or arguments with my children. As much as possible, the closer it gets to bedtime, the more we try to do things that are relaxing, like taking a bath or shower, reading books, packing lunches for the next day, or folding laundry. I allow my children to watch a little TV if they have time. This isn’t to say I’m perfect—we definitely have our rough evenings, but at least we try to have good routines that typically work for all of us.
4. Take a Bath
Warm water is incredible relaxing. One of my favorite things to do is sit in hot water with Epsom salts and essential oils (lavender is my favorite and is a proven sleep inducer), and a good book or magazine and unwind. Sometimes I almost fall asleep in the tub and at that point, I know it’s time to crawl into bed.
5. Diffuse a Scent
I purchased an amazing diffuser and use my favorite essential oils for relaxation. Sandalwood, chamomile, lavender, ylang ylang and several citrus scents are terrific ways to make you sleepy. Plus, you’ll have a bedroom that always smells delicious!
6. Turn Off the Computer & Phone
Not only does surfing the web via a computer or smartphone give us a mental charge (not a good sleep inducer), but the light that electronic devices emit keeps us awake. Try de-plugging a few hours before bedtime. Charge your phone overnight far away from your bed so you’re not even tempted to take a peak. It helps, trust me.
7. Be Comfy
Our bedrooms should be a peaceful and comfortable place. Make sure you have a good mattress, a great comforter and pillow, jammies that you love, and the temperature is “just right.” In the summer, I need a fan to keep me cool all night so I purchased one that doesn’t make much noise. I’m so much more comfortable even when it’s really hot outside. The bottomline is that I love my bedroom. My colors are soft greys, white and purple, which I find fresh and soft. I love my bed, comforter, pillows and lighting. It’s my peaceful space of relaxation. Try making your bedroom a place you love. It’s important.
8. Don’t Stress It Too Much
There have been times when I would lie in bed and cry because I was so frustrated in my ability to fall asleep. I finally had to change my attitude before I lost my mind. I just had to let that anger go. On those terrible nights, I would realize that I wasn’t going to sleep and, instead, I would watch a movie, or get back into the bathtub and read, and just try to “enjoy” the time the best I could. Hey, crying about it didn’t make it better anyway.
9. Stop Drinking Caffeine
I don’t understood those of you who can order a cappuccino after dinner and then go to bed a few hours later. Please tell me how you do it because I really want to know! I rarely drink anything with caffeine after about three o’clock. If you’re craving something warm and soothing, try chamomile tea.
10. Careful with the Naps
One great way to mess with your ability to fall asleep? A nice long afternoon nap. As much as I love napping, it can leave you unable to sleep at night. Catnaps are better. Long naps, while they may feel luxurious when you’re taking them, are a killer.
11. Change Rooms
Oftentimes, if I can’t sleep at all, I simply get out of bed and try another bedroom or even the couch. For whatever reason, this is incredibly effective. Try it.
It’s amazing how much better life is with adequate rest. I feel far more able to take charge of my day. I’m nicer and make better decisions. In fact, I just like “me” a lot better—and so does pretty much everyone around me.