Insomnia | Trying to Overcome it Naturally

Ok, I've been promising you guys this post for weeks now, and here it is. 

A lot of us struggle with insomnia. I have struggled with insomnia since I was a little kid. I was affectionately called a 'night owl' for most of my childhood because I always had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Truth be told, I'm one of those people who doesn't need a whole lot of sleep to function, but when it's been days at a time where I have had genuinely crappy sleep, I become a true nutso.

My insomnia is trauma based. I wake up at 2:30am every morning, look at the clock, and go back to sleep. Over the years, I attempted everything to fix this. I can't take ambien because I do weird shit on it like drive 26 miles (that actually happened. I drove from my house to my parents house in the middle of the night and remember nothing.) and the only prescription medication that worked for me was Restoril. However, it scared me to take it given my family history of addiction, so I quit, and when I did the withdrawl was so bad I was awake for three solid days. 

Eventually I alternated between using wine and OTC sleep aids like antihistamines. Wine was the best at putting me to sleep, but I would actually wake up more during the night than without it. Benadryl kept me asleep, but the hangover was so bad in the morning I was in a haze all day. My last therapist attempted to give me tools to help me fall back asleep with relaxation techniques, but those didn't work, because the longer I'm awake when the panic wakes me up, the more panic I feel. 

So I made it a goal of mine to finally conquer this insomnia naturally once and for all. My father suffered terribly from insomnia and my mother always needed a lot of help sleeping, which again, terrifies me about my biology. I don't need a substance crutch for sleep, that's for sure. 

After doing all of this over a period of a month or so, I have celebrated my first week of great sleep without any help at all. I know all insomnia is different, and I'm not touting this as the be all end all that will give you success, but maybe a couple of these things will help you out, too. 

Here's what I did. 

Gave up wine. Totally. Completely. Goodbye, my love. 

Alcohol disrupts your REM sleep cycle. You fall asleep faster, but your deep sleep cycle is much shorter when you drink, making you wake up with a sleep debt AND dehydration. It also sets off an irritability-reward pattern in your brain that makes it a habit for sleep that eats its own tail so to speak. 

I became all about that herbal tea life

There are great herbal teas out there that help relax you and unwind. Not only because the herbs help you chemically unwind, but just the act of sipping hot tea is calming. Think about it...have you ever held a warm mug of tea in your hand totally stressed out? Maybe for a minute, but it soon melts away as you begin sipping. It also helps to build a ritual for yourself behaviorally. The preparation of tea at bedtime is your brain's signal to start decompressing. 

Write your feelers out

Journaling is also key. My ex-husband has a habit of upsetting me right before I go to bed with a barrage of mean texts, and just the act of sorting out my feelings in a journal about stuff helps take the wind out of anxiety's proverbial sails. Once your feelings are out of your head and on the paper, there's no way for them to spin in your brain all night keeping you awake. 

Read

Reading helps tired my brain out and makes me sleepy much better than having my face in a screen watching something. Go old school book on this one. The light from an electronic device doesn't have the same effect a real book does. There's just something about it. 

Restorative Yoga

I'm going to do a whole post on this, but about half an hour of restorative yoga, especially if you have time to do it before a bubble bath or shower is better than xanax. Nothing too strenuous, just some gentle work that feels good to you, even if it's a full 30 minutes of child's pose listening to Gregorian monks chant. 

Aroma Therapy

I spray my yoga mat with chakra sprays you can get at Whole Foods or Aveda and I spray my pillows and bedsheets down with lavender infused linen spray when I make my bed in the morning. I believe in scents making a huge difference in anxiety. 

I know these things seem so simple and you're probably thinking there's no way it;s going to work for you, but I really believe if you give it a couple of weeks you might start to see real results. I'll be honest with you, the first week was brutal. I was eating melatonin like candy. But after the first couple of weeks, it truly got easier and then I didn't need the melatonin at all. It's really a process you have to commit to and ride out. 

And remember, you have to do what is right for you. There is NO SHAME in the sleep aid game. I do not get a bigger medal because I have found a natural remedy for myself. I really have no choice given the side effects I have experienced and my family history of addiction. So don't feel like I am a Judgey Judgerson about what works for you. We all need to sleep or the murder rate is going to go up. 

Sweet dreams, friends. 

 

Jennifer Gulbrandsen