Happy Monday! Like I mentioned last week, I’ve been experimenting with different solutions for my insomnia. With some positive results. Of the past 7 nights, I’ve been able to fall asleep for 5 of them. Maybe not perfect results, but for me 5 ain’t bad. And I am pretty certain that my success has come from three big changes.
1. Start Early
If you know you have trouble falling asleep, start your bed time routine well before midnight. And don’t budge on this rule. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the clock at 10pm and thought “I’m not tired so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing until I get tired.” But then at midnight when I get into bed, I’m staring at the ceiling until 3am.
My goal this past week was to be asleep before midnight. So at 9pm, I got ready for bed. I know, that seems ridiculously early. But I knew it would take me at least three hours to fall asleep. At 9pm, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got into bed with a book.
It still took me three hours to fall asleep but now I was sleeping at midnight instead of 3am.
One Word of Warning: Be careful of falling asleep too early. There is a difference between getting ready for bed at 9pm and falling asleep at 9pm. I go to bed at 9 because I know it will take me a while before I’m closing my eyes. If I went to bed at 9 and was asleep at 9:30, then most likely I would wake up at 4am fully rested, a few hours earlier than I would like.
What does this mean for you? You’re going to need to experiment. Start keeping track of how long it takes you to fall asleep and then count back from there.
2. Use Amber Glasses
One of the big contributors to me actually falling asleep before midnight has been my amber glasses. And it seems to be working for others as well. According to this study, wearing amber glasses three hours before bed resulted in “significant (p < .001) improvement in sleep quality.”
So what are amber glasses and how do they work? When the sun goes down and it gets dark, your body naturally releases melatonin, the hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls your sleep cycles. (Melatonin sound familiar? You’ve probably taken it at least once in pill form). Then when you see light, your body begins to decrease the level of melatonin in your body to wake you up. That’s why you will wake up at 5am with the sun as it starts to pour in through your bedroom window.
But what if it never gets dark? With electricity, our days have become significantly longer. So your body doesn’t realize it’s time to start producing melatonin. What’s more, according to a number of studies, short-wavelength or “blue” light is the most melatonin suppressive. That’s the light that comes from your computer screens, cell phones and TVs.
For those of you who know your color wheel, you’ll remember that orange is opposite to blue. The orange / amber color of the glasses will actually absorb higher frequency colors such as blue. Although personally I think the glasses are great at blocking light in general (from my laptop, iphone and even my bedside lamp), making it easier for my body to start releasing melatonin.
One Word of Warning: Once you put on your amber glasses, do not take them off until your eyes are closed to sleep. Remember how I said light decreases your melatonin to wake you up in the morning? If you wear your glasses for three hours, find that you’re falling asleep, take them off and then suddenly remember you needed to do something, that 2 minute light exposure will undo all of the good work you just put in.
This also applies to those who take melatonin as a supplement. If you take a melatonin pill, do it right before you close your eyes to sleep or put on your amber glasses. If you take melatonin and then stare at a screen or TV, the pill won’t work.
3. Distract yourself
One of the biggest issues I have with falling asleep is my mind will race. And not just worry about tomorrow. As in race through past memories, worries, hopes, experiences etc at a mile a minute. Originally I thought I would share a short “think aloud” so you could get the idea but honestly it wouldn’t make sense. Let’s just say it can start with thinking about what I said to Jake today about milk and will end up with me playing out in my head how we’re going to break up and I’m going to have to move to Texas. Yeah…
Anyone else have a similar problem? Maybe it’s not as extreme as leaving your partner, but it might be replaying all of the “stupid things” you’ve said in the past or thinking of all the possible scenarios of what could happen if you asked your boss for a raise.
Yes, I’ve tried mediation. I know it works for some people. And it would probably be incredibly beneficial for me. But I’m just not there yet. That’s like telling someone with insomnia to “just relax.”
PSA: Never ever tell a person with insomnia to “just relax.” Seriously.
Anyway, what I find that does help is to distract myself. When I was a kid, I always had a book and would read a few chapters before bed. Once I closed my eyes, I could concentrate on the story instead of me. When I got to college, the book was replaced with episodes of Law And Order: SVU. Now it’s a bit of a mix. Sometimes it’s a TV episode on my iphone, a youtube video or a book.
One Word of Warning: Be careful of getting hooked into what you’re reading or watching. I made the mistake of watching a few episodes from season one of “Scandal.” Every episode ended in a cliff hanger. Next thing I know it’s midnight and I still want to keep watching.
The point is to help shut your mind off not keep it turned on. Finding something that’s around 30 minutes is perfect for me. Maybe this is a youtube video (I like watching home/life organization videos and makeup reviews). Or if it’s a book, maybe a collection of short stories instead of a novel. Make a goal of reading one or two stories per evening then shut the book.
Alright I think that’s plenty for now. It’s 9pm so it’s time for me to shut my laptop and put my glasses on.
If you try any of these suggestions to help you sleep, let me know if they work for you.
*photo credit: MeditationMusic.net