For most of my adult life I have been plagued with insomnia. In my high school and college days, combined with my dual enemy, procrastination, insomnia caused me a great deal of anguish, as I struggled to meet deadlines for studying and turning in papers. Always exhausted, I constantly found myself putting things off until the last minute, feeling too wiped out to keep up.
After graduation, I invariably tossed and turned until the wee hours, night after night, year after year. Each day found me fighting with my alarm clock, hitting the blessed “Snooze” button, in desperate, and sometimes futile, attempts to make it to my various jobs on time.
From school teaching, to working in a plastic polymer plant, I’ve done everything from slipping into my empty classroom just before the bell, unnoticed, to squealing into a plant parking lot, leaving my car running and the door wide open, to push my way through an exodus of exiting workers from the previous shift, in a mad dash for my time card.
Well, I’m 62 and retired now. And, instead of work & family issues keeping me up at night, I now suffer from back problems, as a result of a rollover car accident and three consequent surgeries, restless legs, and an aging bladder. The difficulty with procrastination comes and goes, but I am still constantly plagued by the more miserable of the two companions, insomnia. And it never fails that, when I am forced to admit that I suffer with it, I am instantly, and unfailingly, barraged with suggestions from well-meaning family and friends alike.
I have to admit that many, if not most of them, are good, solid ideas. It’s just that I fail to make consistent use of any of them, for various reasons. (Maybe, I’m really just full of self-delusional excuses.) Nevertheless, I’ve decided to share the list I’ve accumulated over the years, in hopes that someone might actually benefit from the rather sizeable list that I’ve acquired.
However, while assembling my list, I suddenly noticed an underlying theme: nearly all of the suggestions or techniques involved the assuaging, or comforting, of one of our senses of sight, taste, touch, hearing, or smell. In other words, when our bodies are comfortable, we can, apparently, relax and find rest, in order to be rejuvenated. After all, the purpose of a good night’s sleep is to refresh us for the next day. So, hopefully, one or more of these suggestions will prove to be helpful to you.
1. Stop drinking caffeine after 3 pm.
2. Stop drinking liquids after 6 pm, and void immediately before bed.
3. Eat the last meal at least two hours before retiring. (This may also reduce the risk of acid reflux, also known as GERD.)
4. Drink one of the following, 30 minutes to an hour before bed:
* small glass of white (not flavored) milk
* an 8 ounce cup of 1 slightly heaping tsp. of magnesium citrate (like Magnesium Calm) dissolved in juice or warm water
* a warm cup of chamomile tea (or Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea)
5. Remove all electronic devices from the bedroom.
6. If you’ve had someone tell you that you snore, or find that you are frequently tired, even after a full night’s sleep, you should request a referral from your doctor, to be screened for sleep apnea.
7. Lower the temperature of your bedroom. Cooler air holds more oxygen, enabling you to breathe more easily.
8. Try raising the headboard of your bed 4″ to 6.” This can be helpful for allergy suffers, and others, who might have sinus or heart problems, which interfere with sound sleep.
9. Hide your alarm clock, or at least, resist the urge to look at it during the night. Resting quietly, without stressing over the minutes ticking away, is better than repeatedly flogging yourself with the sight of those stark, impersonal numbers staring back at you.
9. Do a little experimenting, to determine whether you sleep more soundly in a quiet room, or with a little soft music, or noise of some kind.
10. Cease watching TV and operating your iPhone, iPad, or laptop 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. This gives your brain time to relax.
11. Take a warm bath before bedtime.
12. Try placing a drop of lavender essential oil on your pillow.
13. If you prefer to sleep on your side (turning to the right is, perhaps, best for your heart), try placing a small, soft pillow between your knees, or cradling one or both of your arms around it.
14. If you find yourself being bombarded with worries or ideas, get up and write them down. You’d be surprised at how freeing this simple little technique can be.
15. Say your prayers. This oft-forgotten practice can bring an inner calm, relaxing your entire being.
So, although I have not yet conquered my lifelong foe of insomnia for myself, hopefully, someone reading through this collection of pre-bedtime, sense-soothing tips, will be able to capture a few “z’s” from our mutual enemy!