I used to suffer from insomnia which lasted for almost a year and in my quest for good sleep, I’ve read countless articles, taken a bowl full of anti-histamines (not at once), experimented on different breathing techniques, meditation, stretching, teas, supplements and I think I’ve finally found the secrets to a good night’s sleep.
But first, let me elaborate on what sparked off my desperation to get sleep… If you are experiencing any of these below, you would know exactly how I felt.
Before I go into how I got back my sleep, first let me say it is firstly not something that happens overnight. It takes COMMITMENT, LIFESTYLE CHANGE & BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE. Secondly, sleep it something very personal, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Take for example, the national swimmers that train till 9pm at night, yet go to bed merely just 2 hours later only to wake up at 6am to start training again. They don’t seem to have trouble sleeping or have any signs of sleep deprivation but “experts” recommend not exercising 4 hours before bedtime to have good sleep.
Back to Sleep:
1. Be Happy & Contented – Easier said than done. Ask those around you who sleeps well at night about life and they will probably tell you “it’s great” or “so far so good”, while aske those who can’t sleep and they will probably reply with “could be better” or “stress… as always” or even worst “my girlfriend left me for another guy”. The honest truth is that if you love your life and at peace with yourself, you’d be sleeping like a baby, unless you have some physiological problem, which I will elaborate further later.
2. Peace of mind – I will admit that being happy and contented was difficult for me, but while one cannot always be happy, one can have peace of mind. Easier than being happy, peace is an acceptance, not resign, but rather true acceptance of one’s current state while having the ability to rationalize and react accordingly.
3. Have your fill, but not full – This goes for food and water. A stomach full of food can make you feel uncomfortable in bed, and if you find yourself stuffed at the time of going to bed, I suggest going for a nice slow stroll with your dog, girlfriend, spouse (not in that order of priority), this may also help calm you down and relax just before hitting the sheets. On the contrary, if you are trying to fall asleep hungry, most likely your mind would be bugging you all night about your neglect (not your fault… its caused by a hormone called ghrelin). In this situation, get up and have something light. I suggest:
- A glass of warm low-fat milk or Milo. If you are lactose intolerant, have a warm glass of Soy milk
- Cooked Rolled Oats (Warm)
- Soft boiled eggs and a biscuit or a slice of wholemeal bread
- Warm cuppa soups
You should always stay away from:
- Cold food like cereals in cold milk – reason being you tend to eat cold food a lot faster, increasing the likelihood that you small meal would double or even triple.
- Snacks like chips, nuts and crackers – Firstly most are highly seasoned. The salt causes water retention and can get you dehydrated as you sleep. The small little bite sized portions are created by the devil. You never stop when you are supposed to, and somehow they never fill you.
- Oily food
- Spicy food
- Finishing your meal in under 2 minutes – you would probably still be starving after.
The same goes for water. I used to have the idea that people dehydrate most at night and so I would down a whole glass of water just to sustain myself in the next 8 hours. Turns out for a couple of weeks I was getting up twice a night to pee and not realising it! If you are thirsty, sip a little bit of that big glass of water and save the rest for the next morning. On waking up, down the rest of the glass! Try it and you’d be amazed how much fresher you will feel each morning… and how much faster you get out of bed.
4. Stay away from all Algarettes (alcohol+cigarettes) – If you think it helps you relax, you are deadly wrong. Drunken people get the worst sleep ever while smokers crave nicotine even while sleeping. There is a whole science to sleep, alcohol and nicotine, and if you are interested you should Google it. Personally I used to have a nightcap or 2, sometimes 3 before I go to bed, and it did help me to sleep, however I woke up most mornings not feeling fresh, worst still there are moments I could doze off at the wheel while driving to work. After I experimented on 5 days of sobriety, it was painfully obvious how silly I was before.
5. Get Comfortable – Whatever it takes, change your pillow, fix your air conditioning, buy a new bed, ask your partner to sleep in another room, put on some scented candles… whatever it takes. For me, I bought a king sized bed so that my fiancé could go swimming in bed and I wouldn’t be affected. Aroma therapy works miracles too. I found that one of the most comfortable places in the world are spas… it always smell so good, so I took their lead and got myself a burner, dimmable lights and adjusted the temperature to 22 degrees on low fan
6. Do not watch TV – As tempting as it may be having a flat screen on your wall and a thousand cable channels, refrain from turning it on. On night as I was about to sleep, I turned on the TV and Family Guy was showing, followed by the Simpsons and on another channel was Geordie Shore. I watched them all, but worst still, I could get to sleep after all that. Turns out experts believe that TV and bright screens stimulate your mind and prevent you from falling asleep. Which brings me to my next point:
7. Have a routine of winding down – It helps to create a habit which ends with blissful sleep. Mine goes like this: I watch some TV before showering, usually waiting for the toilet to free up, never on a single channel, but whatever seems interesting at that point. At the same time I do some stretching and back strengthening exercises like the bridge, some planks etc. Once the toilet is free, I floss, followed by brushing my teeth, mouth rinse then shower. After my shower I moisturize my face and body, get to bed armed with my a daily devotion (My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald chambers). I kiss my fiancé goodnight, turn off the lights, close my eyes and say a short prayer, hopefully getting to the Amen. Works 90% of the time.
8. Keep the lights dim always – buy yourself a table lamp or some form of mood lighting. Trust me it helps.
9. Keep out the noise – Try avoid disruptive sleep. You might not remember waking up, but you actually do wake up more often than you know it. Dogs parking, cars horning, doors slamming, the male Koel bird (those who live in South Asia would know what i mean).
10. Have a productive day – Increasing your productivity in the day helps you to have comfort that you have done enough, giving you the peace of mind and contentment that you need to fall deep into blissful sleep. Don’t be too quick to just fulfil work productivity (you might find yourself working till 9 pm). Make sure you find time for yourself (exercise, shopping, chilling) and time for your loved ones. This productive balance keeps you going, not just to bed, but to work each morning as well!
Enough said! Here’s a summary: