I recently had a long and miserable bout of insomnia. It’s got to be the worst thing ever. I was walking around like a zombie and snapping at strangers on the subway. It wasn’t pretty and it’s not how I like to live at all. During this time, I was diligent in cleaning up my sleep habits – when I do something I don’t half ass it!! Here are the steps I took, which you might find useful if you ever find yourself staring at your alarm clock at 4am.
1. Ditched [most of] the caffeine: I am down to one cup of matcha in the morning which I enjoy because it gives me the energy boost I need for my workouts in the morning. I also really enjoy the taste of it. My tea cupboard is overflowing with every flavour of herbal tea – from dandelion root to apple cinnamon.
2. Meditated before bed. I picked up a Hemi-sync CD called Dreamland which combines hemi-sync technology [where two sounds play in each ear which unites both hemispheres of your brain] with soft music. I would put this on and meditate for 10-30 minutes [depending on how quickly I’d be falling asleep].
3. Eating lighter meals in the evening without a glass of wine. My days of eating heavy meals are over. Especially at dinner. This is such a non-negotiable rule that at a recent potluck, I brought a container of salad and topped it up with the food brought to the potluck.
4. Kept to a schedule. I admit I suffer from bedtime creep. I’m colouring until well past midnight or zoned out in front of a nature documentary. These aren’t quality, value added activities in my life and not worth the agony I feel at 7am.
5. Supplementing. In order to get through the hard days when I wasn’t sleeping, I’d take a ginseng vial for energy which helped without making me jittery. I also have been taking 5-HTP. Right now I’m taking it because my return to sleep is fairly new. This is a form of tryptophan which helps promote serotonin production and relieves stress. In a pinch I will use melatonin. I wouldn’t recommend using this a lot because people can develop dependencies but holy smokes this stuff works.
6. Maintain my healthy lifestyle. Avoiding sugar and exercising regularly are things I do already. If you are under a lot of stress and that is causing insomnia, doing vigorous cardio exercise can make it worse. And cardio before bed is a big N.O. if you want to sleep. I also journal every morning for about 20 minutes while I wake up which helps me work through things or to get things out of my head.
I didn’t avoid blue light because I’m not convinced that it’s that bad for us. I think that reading work emails before bed can get your mind going, but in my experience and those I’ve spoken to in and out of the fitness industry, there isn’t an impact on people’s sleep when watching tv or on a computer. The big danger in my mind is losing track of time.