I recently experienced a return of my past insomnia symptoms. It’s been a few years since I’ve struggled with sleep-related issues, and about a month ago, I suddenly started having a hard time falling asleep and I would lie in bed for over an hour, my mind racing with whatever was in my thoughts that day.
It was strange to me because I always have a lot on the go when it comes to my brain and projects I’m trying to start or complete, and I thought I had this whole racing thoughts thing taken care of years ago! Why now?
Today I thought I’d talk to you about the steps I took to get my sleep back on track, in hopes that if and when your sleep takes a temporary dive, you’ll be ready.
I’ve broken them down into 4 steps that worked for me:
Go back to what you know works for you
Crank that evening ritual up a notch!
Stop Keeping Track
It’s going to be disappointing to feel yourself reverting back to an old way of life, but stay positive and know that it’s only temporary. Part of what makes insomnia so difficult is that you start to blame yourself, you wonder what’s wrong with you, and you let your emotions make your sleeplessness so much worse than it has to be.
If you’ve been sleeping well for a while, and your insomnia symptoms come back, don’t go all doomsday on yourself. Don’t start asking, WHY ME!? What’s wrong with me? This is so terrible!
Understand that it’s a short-term symptom of something else going on in your life, and switch from WAHWAHHH into problem-solving mode. Think of it as a cold that hits at a time when you’re not taking care of yourself as you should be.
It’s a temporary glitch. A reminder that you need some extra TLC right now.
When my insomnia symptoms returned, my first thought was, I have NO IDEA why this is happening! But when I took a closer look, I saw myself worrying more than usual. I have a surgery coming up in November, and it’s consuming a lot of my thoughts and energy. It’s possible that my worries about surgery, this new event in my life, was hijacking my sleep because that’s what my body and brain know to do.
In the past, that’s how I dealt with stressful life events - I stayed awake to worry about them. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a reminder that I have to make my sleep and stress management a top priority again. I’ve done this before, and I can do it again.
GO BACK TO WHAT YOU KNOW WORKS FOR YOU
What peaceful activities have helped relax in the past? What are your go-to sleep secrets?
I’m normally a fan of trying new things, but in this case, stick with what you know works, at least for now.
Learning new things and starting new long-term habits is exciting, but it can also aggravate your insomnia. We don’t always lie awake thinking of terrible things, the excitement of new fun things can also hurt our sleep. Think of the night before your last vacation, for example. Did you get a full night’s sleep, or did the anticipation keep you awake a little longer than usual?
There will be time to develop a new nightly routine once you get your sleep back on track, but for now, if reading for 20 minutes before bed does it for you, do that! Trust the old standby.
CRANK THAT EVENING RITUAL UP A NOTCH!
Continuing from the previous tip, it’s time to get your evening ritual up to award-winning status. Take care of yourself during this time, because your body is asking for some extra love.
Insomnia symptoms don’t just come back because everything is going great, there’s something else going on, and insomnia is your brain’s default. Be kind to yourself, and take some extra care while you get your sleep back on track.
Have the relaxing bath an hour before bed, dim the lights, get in your favorite pyjamas, diffuse some clary sage oil, and read your favorite book for the 5th time while snuggled in your bed.
Keep technology out of the bedroom while you’re going through this short-term bout of insomnia. Don’t watch disturbing movies or Netflix series that make you think for days. Keep it light and happy before bed. Unapologetically take some extra time to pamper yourself in the evening.
STOP KEEPING TRACK
If you track your sleep with an app or a device, just stop for a bit. It’s not helping you right now. You have a history of worrying about how much time you lie awake, and counting all the times you wake up in the night is making it worse.
I wear a Fitbit watch, and most mornings I check the app to see how I slept. It’s fun for me. During my few weeks of returning insomnia, checking the app was torture. Seeing how my stellar sleep had reverted back to an hour or more awake, restless awakenings every few hours, and getting under 6 hours was upsetting me.
You know the difference between a good sleep and an awful sleep by now. You don’t need an app to tell you how you slept. Stop tracking until you can enjoy looking at your stats again.
Turn your clock around so you can’t see it, and stop counting how many times you wake up in the night. Stop focusing on the time awake, and be thankful for the time asleep.
So, if and when insomnia strikes, remember, it’s temporary, and you’ve got this.
Download my free 15-minute in-bed meditations HERE.