Health and Caregiving

Insomnia Through the Years

Iphone May 2011 002

That photo above is from about seven years ago. My daughter was only three. We have since got another dog that looks a lot like that one, but isn’t nearly as well behaved. She likes to sleep on the couch in the same way as that one though. My daughter used to sleep on the couch a lot. When she came home from the hospital, she would not sleep in her crib. She had to be with someone when sleeping. So, she would fall asleep every night on the couch while I worked, watched TV, took care of things. Then, we would have to carry her up to our bed when we went to bed. That didn’t stop until she was about seven. She could sleep anywhere, as long as others were present. I was not so lucky.

Sleep…such a simple concept, but such a difficult achievement at times.  I suffer from insomnia – trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night (National Library of Medicine) pretty often.  According to WebMD, I typically suffer from “acute” insomnia, probably caused by stress, but my lighting probably contributes to it (the blinds do not really keep the light out well in our bedroom).  I would not say the insomnia is chronic, although I do have longer periods of time where I have trouble sleeping.  My insomnia usually causes me to wake up really early (4 a.m. or so) and then I can’t really get back to sleep.  Although, I do sometimes have problems falling asleep at night.  So, today’s post I’m going to focus on some solutions – allowing me to sleep, which provides for a recovery and reinvigoration.  It also is necessary for better health, which is a great side benefit!

According to this Women’s Health Mag article, the possible solutions includes Sleeping pills. I am not willing to use these.  I just don’t feel like I’m to a point where I need them. In addition, when I have used anything with those types of products in them, I wake up feeling very groggy and a little hung over. Not worth it to me. But, if someone has severe, chronic insomnia, I can see these being necessary.

So, the next advice I came across in this Prevention article was no coffee after Noon.  Interesting, as I sit here drinking my Latte at 12:45 pm.  But, I have adjusted my coffee consumption to cut it off by late afternoon.  There were a couple of times I got an espresso drink around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. and was awake until 2 a.m.  So, I started moving the line back on when I can drink coffee drinks.  But, I have not got it all the way back to Noon yet.  I do think that is doable though.  I typically will drink iced tea in the afternoon/evening instead and although that does have caffeine it is much less than coffee and I would even consider switching to a caffeine free version after 5 p.m. to help with sleep.  I’m lucky in that I don’t have a soda habit, so it is just coffee and iced tea for me.  This one is definitely much more doable than the sleeping pills.

The same Prevention article offered up exercise as a solution for insomnia.  This makes total sense to me and it is something that is often lacking in my life.  I was interested to read that studies do not show that exercise at night hurts sleep, but I also realize that waiting until evening to exercise just gives me all day to come up with an excuse for not doing it.  So, I think getting it in during the morning hours would be more likely to work for me.  I just can’t figure out an exercise regimen that works for me.  I don’t like to run, I don’t belong to a gym and joining one doesn’t sound attractive to me because I kind of hate being in public while exercising.  I used to be an athlete and it is really hard to deal with my lack of fitness now.  So, I’m thinking maybe I need to either (1) do Wii Fit with my daughter – she is loving it lately, or find some fun exercise video on Roku and do it (or a few different ones) in the morning in my living room. I have been walking much more lately partially because our dogs have been unable to use our backyard for the last three weeks and will be unable to for the next week and a half, which means more walks and longer walks.

I have been sleeping better this summer. Part of that may be the above items, but more likely it is because my summers are not stressful like the school year. My insomnia is very much stress related and my summers are much less stressful than when I am teaching and leading Girl Scouts and doing PTO stuff and coaching Speech and Debate and trying to run my house (not into the ground). My life is full of stuff and that stuff inevitably causes stress. I am starting to feel it build already. Bean starts school on Thursday. We have our regional coach’s conference on Friday and Saturday. I have my wisdom teeth out a week from tomorrow (!). Our first department meeting is a week from Wednesday. I start teaching two weeks from tomorrow and from there, everything goes off the rails. I know that. I really wish I could make it something else, but it is what it is and I have to figure out a way to manage the ride, not get off of it. One way of doing that is figuring out how to sleep better while I’m in the midst of it.

So, here is my list of things I’m going to try at the beginning of the semester to manage my stress and hopefully increase my sleep hours:

  • Journaling to help with stress. I’m using Penzu for my online journaling to help make accessible wherever I am in the world.
  • Eating more healthy. I often add to my stress levels by eating poorly, which causes headaches and exhaustion and lack of focus.
  • Routine, routine, routine. My weakness is falling into a trap where I just let things come at me and deal with them as they arrive. This is horrible for stress. I need to establish a routine of healthy and helpful items and then MAKE the things coming at me FIT into that routine instead. I have been much better at establishing and keeping routines for my daughter than myself. This school year, I’m on the routine rails instead of the crazy rails.

So, that’s it. Three relatively simple things. We’ll see how I do. Do you suffer from insomnia? What are your favorite solutions?

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