By Tawny Scarlet Sverdlin, Buzzworthy Blogs
If you’re like me, you’re often awake at night. After many years of dreading the resurfacing of insomnia, I have accepted and relinquished the grip that sleeplessness has had on my life.
I am proud to say that at this point in my life, most nights I get from six to eight hours of shut-eye. It has become clear that the best way to manage an overactive mind, which is associated with insomnia, is to incorporate simple mindfulness techniques into my daily routine.
Almost everyone has pulled an all-nighter while trying to finish a term paper, but it takes a special breed, like me, who prefers night to day.
Ever since I was very young, I have used nighttime to think, write and create. Of course, just because my mind is sharpest around midnight, doesn’t mean the rest of the world functions like I do. The majority of the world operates on a rise-with-the-sun and sleep-with-the-moon cycle.
So what is the solution to overcome insomnia? I say make friends with it. Look it square in the eye and accept it.
Sleeplessness and its accompanying anxiety began at an early age for me. I have memories of aggravating my parents with endless games of make-believe and noisy slumber parties. Even when alone, I was an odd kid, lying awake all night scaring myself with fantasies of ghosts and monsters. While I don’t worry about monsters anymore, I still have psychological demons to contend with.
My analytical and inquisitive mind can be relentless at bringing up stressful thoughts. I like to call these circular thought patterns “The Committee.”
The Committee likes to bring up stressful topics, like the amount of debt I owe.
While it is fairly easy to push aside these thoughts during the day with whatever is in front of me or in my inbox, it is more difficult at night when my defenses are down. A lack of restful sleep can throw a serious cog in my emotional well-being. The brain is like a hard drive: It needs a reboot occasionally to free up space.
When I have no time to reboot, everything in my life overwhelms me. I feel like my head is stuffed with cotton, which makes it difficult to focus. My energy level fluctuates between lethargy and hyper-activity. On my worst days, depression steals the joy out of anything I normally enjoy.
If you find sleep elusive, try changing your perspective. Is one night of bad sleep going to radically effect your life? You may need to take it easy the following day, but it may not be as dire as it seems in the moment.
I try to focus on the positive things in my life. For example, I have all four limbs, I live in a nice apartment and I am in good health. Every day I see people who don’t have any of these things, and it reminds me that I am actually blessed. Escaping self-pity works wonders for me, including my fight for solid rest.
Speaking of good health, what I put into my body has a huge impact on how well I do or don’t sleep. Drinking alcohol before bed, for example, interferes with obtaining deep sleep. Sleeping pills have dozens of terrifying side effects including addiction, depression and cancer. Chugging coffee well into the evening? Yeah, that’s a bad idea, too. The stimulating effects of coffee last up to eight hours, so if you’re aiming for a 10 o’clock bedtime, a hot cup of coffee in the afternoon will not help.
So what does help? Water! Good old fashioned hydration helps me maintain a more tempered energy level throughout the day. Staying hydrated increases energy and focus. And unlike caffeine, there is no associated energy crash.
These days, I carry a reusable glass bottle of water around with me everywhere. Buying plastic bottles wastes money and fills landfills. Keeping my conscience clean is also an integral part of helping my mind and body to relax.
Being sedentary doesn’t help insomnia either as it can lead to tight muscles. Too much stress can store itself in the muscles. For me, stress builds up in my upper back and neck due to working at a computer. Yoga addresses both mind and body.
Learning to take care of myself has not been an overnight success; I am still working on it. However, I am a firm believer that engaging in routine basic acts of kindness to my body and mind normalizes them both.
I do know that when insomnia rears its head, I am no longer afraid of it because the discomfort is not permanent. Instead of fighting it, I welcome my “up” time to catch up on Netflix, cook and clean. Simple hobbies can relax your mind.
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