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Looking for Peaceful Sleep…

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You know how I talked about my comatose stress reaction to my husband’s unemployment? Well, it didn’t last. Now I’m awake at all hours of the night.

I get drowsy at work and drink energy drinks to stay coherent – though I use the word ‘coherent’ loosely. It’s normal to randomly start singing ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’ at work right?

I counteract this sleep loss with sleeping pills. Makes sense right? OR, I could ‘theoretically’ stay awake after taking the twice the recommended dose of sleeping pills and then find myself suffering from the world’s worst sleep hangover known to man.

This is usually the start to a vicious cycle where I don’t sleep due to stress and then stress about not sleeping which causes me to not sleep at all. My doctor finds this cycle amusing – but maybe it’s because last time I sang ‘Oops I did it again’ in the waiting room and played hopscotch in the parking lot with tongue depressors – and tells me I need to reduce my stress levels.

Thanks Captain Obvious.

And then, unfortunately for you, I write posts that make sense to me… but uh… probably not to you.

Today I exercised, avoided caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, and tried to think of butterflies and rainbows but alas… it’s 2 AM and I’m here… awake.

So here’s the question of the day what are your secrets to sleep?


38 Comments

  • Reply traineeinvestor |

    When the stress levels at my previous job got too much, I changed jobs. The new job is much better in terms of stress (but considerably less secure).

    Exercise helps. I also eat a light snack about an hour before I go to bed (but no sugar etc).

    Melatonin also works for me, but I prefer to only use it once or twice a week.

    Trying to keep regular hours to get up and to go the bed is something a lot of experts recommend. I try this but it doesn’t really seem to help.

  • Reply Sam Reynolds |

    Here’s what you do:
    * Skip all the drugs (energy drinks included)
    * Don’t look at the computer/tv/cell phone around an hour before you want to go to bed. This step is likely the hardest and also the most important. The forced stimulation these devices give tell your brain you need to be awake to process the information. Whereas with reading a book, you have to work to channel your brain to get the stimulation, which helps with the “can’t shut off my brain” problem.
    * Go to a room (not your bedroom) where you can be alone, with medium to medium/low lighting
    * Read a book for about 30 minutes (or until you feel really drowsy)
    * Go to bed, it’ll work 🙂

    Best of luck

    -Sam

  • Reply John DeFlumeri Jr |

    Plan a routine that would be good for you, put it on paper, like a budget.

    John DeFlumeri Jr.

  • Reply Dragon |

    – Drinking water in stead of energy drinks.

    – flylady.net – taking baby steps.

    – Turn off tv and pc at regular hours – set an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.

    – Get up early, even in weekends.

    – Spend more time outdoors.

    I wish you all the best. From a reader in NoWhere (Norway)

  • Reply Neil |

    Hi

    I would agree with the comment above that getting some exercise helps with stress.

    If I am having trouble sleeping I normally try to read a book (fiction). This has the effect of stopping me thinking about my troubles and will eventually lad to me falling asleep.

  • Reply jaye |

    When I can’t sleep, I turn on the light (or flashlight) and read. I fall asleep much faster when I am thinking about something other than my concerns.

  • Reply Nicole |

    My grandma always told me to pray. Funny, but sometimes it works…saying the same repetitive prayer over and over occupies your mind and eventually gets boring.

  • Reply Johanna |

    Right before I go to bed, I do a mini destresser where for 3-5 minutes, I concentrate on nothing but my breathing (turn off all lights, TV, etc). Clear your mind, and take deep breaths in and out just focusing on only breathing. Try to relax your toes and feet and first and go up your entire body until every part of you feels heavy and cleansed. I remember when I was little, my dad used to give me a warm cup of milk before bedtime too. Or maybe try nighttime organic tea.

    Also, try to remember, that if you aren’t in your best shape/mindset, you cannot give 100% of yourself to your husband. If you don’t help yourself, you won’t be able to help other people.

    Keep in mind diet, excercise and a regular schedule (NO NAPPING!) Do your best not to worry about what you can’t get done, but make a to-do-list and get to it the next day after giving your body much needed rest. Take control of your worries! It may help to write down your thoughts/worries and get them our of your head onto paper before bed. Hope this helps!

  • Reply brooklynchick |

    I’ve had terrible sleep problems and have gotten the following great advice:

    1. No TV 30 mins before bed
    2. No computer 30 mins before bed
    3. White noise machine ( i bet you could get one on freecycle or craigslist)
    4. Don’t sleep in on weekends.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Debra |

    Have you tried Bendaryl? That stuff knocks my socks off! 🙂

    Try not to drink anything with Caffeine after 2 or 3 in the afternoon..it used to not bother me but the older I get the more it keeps me up.

    Don’t do any workouts late in the day.. it could be keeping you up – try in the morning.

    You may need to see your doctor to see if he/she can give you anything that will help until things get better. I don’t like taking a lot of medications but if it helps you until you can get past this… it’s a good idea. You can’t go on without sleep.. it will cause you to get sick and then THAT will add another bill.. not what you want right now.

    Prayer helps – ask the Lord to help you thought this rough time. He loves you and wants the best for you but you have to ask. Ask him to calm your nerves, supply your needs and give you the faith that he will.

    Hope you feel better soon,

    Debra

  • Reply Angie |

    I use valerian root to sleep when I am stressed or sleeping in a different environment (think random hotel room on a trip). They are more of a relaxant vs sleeping pills that just knock you out and don’t provide good sleep. They aren’t addicting either and they are more natural. I highly recommend you try them.

    My problem with regular pills is you will be drowsy and useless in the morning if you can’t fit in 9 hours. But more then that nyquil and sleeping pills have me randomly wake up at 3AM wide awake which makes it worse.

  • Reply Angie |

    Also, make sure you eat dinner before 7 or so. I heard that trick recently and suprisingly it works!

  • Reply Kaela |

    I agree with comments above – exercising regularly, reading a good book. If the book doesn’t work, at least you’re doing something you enjoy. And if all else fails Advil PM and a cup of something warm and decaffeinated does the trick for me. Good luck sleeping!

  • Reply Jin6655321 |

    If I can’t sleep due to stress, doing something, anything, to take control of the stressful situation helps.

    A big part of why I have freak out sessions at night is that, well, it’s night, and there’s not much I can do to better the situation at 2am in the morning. I just have to lie in bed with my mind racing, feeling antsy, anxious, and powerless.

    So, if I’m having one of those nights, I feel my mind is more at ease after I do something, even if it’s symbolic, to better whatever situation is stressing me out. Sometimes I’ll leave a “Note to self” post it notes reminding me to do something first thing in the morning- maybe write down a “game plan”.

    Of course sometimes I wake up the next morning and my more rational self reads those notes and go, “Eh… That’s a bit extreme…”

  • Reply Pat |

    Quiet time up to two hours before bed. A warm shower or bath and perhaps a cup of warmed milk with a little Hershey’s syrup mixed in or decaf tea with some honey. Go to bed around the same time every night and regular exercise before 6pm helps me. Oh, and in the winter warm socks. When my feet are cold I wake up!

  • Reply Family Man |

    Wow Beks, Sorry to hear about your sleep troubles. I was, and am on occasion still in the same boat. One thing is to start to realize that as bad as the stress is, you have to learn to accept what you can change and what you cant. For example my job get really stressful, but if I have done what I need to do, and worked on everyhting I can, then I have to let it go. Financial and job stress are killers, but each night I try to remind myself that it won;t chnage overnight. Try watching TV right before bed, preferably a movie or show that you know, or are accustomed to. I will put on a movie I can almost repeat the words to, and I usually am off to sleep after the frist 30 minutes. I focus on the details of the movie, so my mind wont wander to everything else.

    Take Care,

    Family man

  • Reply kenyantykoon |

    i work myself like a dog all day long and sleep way past midnight. And set the clock to wake me up after 5 hrs. works perfectly since i fully utilise the few hours of dreamland that i have

  • Reply Laura |

    I say the alphabet over and over with my breathing (in my head of course) I used to try the whole counting sheep, but I spent way to much mental energy focusing on the sheep and the counting. 😛

  • Reply Erica |

    Hey Beks,

    I’ve read that writing down whatever is on your mind before going to bed actually helps you relax (your worries are on paper and not in your head). Tell yourself you’ll deal with whatever is written down in the morning and call it a night. I also agree that not watching T.V./ going on the computer 30 min. before bed, exercising early in the day, and reading before bed are all helpful. I’ve had trouble with sleep before, so I know how you’re feeling. Best of luck!

  • Reply Chris |

    It sounds silly but I gave sound therapy a try to help me fall asleep, and I must say nothing else has helped to clear my mind so I can relax enough to fall asleep. I suggest giving it a try, personally I went to Prescription Audio’s website but I am sure there are other places out there to find sound therapeutics as well. Good Luck!

  • Reply Jenn |

    Beks:
    I have a huge problem with worrying at night. I can’t seem to turn my brain off. Lately, instead of worrying, I’ve been occupying my brain by counting my blessings. I make a mental list of all the things I’m thankful for as I drift off to sleep.

    No more tossing and turning in worries, I dream peacefully in blankets of blessings.

  • Reply Gina |

    For me – I think black box. I imagine myself in a room with no windows, doors or light. It is black, nothing to see here people – move along. Focus on the present – there nothing to see, it is black as night and the only thing to look at or see is nothingness (boring!)

    Silly, I know, but it works for me. When my brain gets going and that doesn’t work, I re-focus on it and sometimes I will slowly move my foot back and forth. In combo with the above, it works every time. I am often out in less than 10 minutes.

    You need to force yourself to realize there is nothing you can do about it. Write it on a piece of paper, set it down, and you can pick it up and fret again the next day. Treat sleep like a task – something on your list that has to get done.

    Good luck. (also try hot shower/bath maybe some caffiene free tea)

  • Reply Carrie...On The Cheap |

    Ah yes, the vicious stress-induced sleep cycle. The first part of the CPA Exam cost $250 and about 6 weeks of sleep for me.

    I find the only things that works are time (i.e. waiting for the stressor to disappear) and Melatonin. Melatonin is natural and works just as well as those horrible sleeping pills.

  • Reply Abigail |

    I sometimes have this problem. I can’t shut my brain off, which keeps me awake and ruins my sleep schedule.

    Most of the advice on here is good stuff. I would recommend most of it — especially realizing that you can’t control these things and, no matter how many contingency plans you make, life will likely go with the one option you didn’t think of.

    The thing that has REALLY been working for me, though, has been powdered magnesium. You dissolve a couple of teaspoons in some water and drink it. About ten minutes later I start to feel… calm. I’m a high-stress individual. I have trouble relaxing my muscles unless I’m really concentrating. But after this stuff, I feel looser over all. This helps me go to bed.

    I recommend the powder if you can find it because that will be fast acting, compared to taking a tablet. I got my stuff at a vitamin store.

  • Reply Dogfood Provider |

    You know, when you are really stressed out and things are out of control, sometimes you just don’t get to sleep that much. When my late father was in the process of dying, and we all knew it, we were kind of resigned to sleepless nights. We saved the sleeping pills for after he was gone, but that’s just our choice. Maybe you can wait this sleep deprivation out a bit, and when you and your husband feel like you are in better control of things (he picks up a contract gig or something) your brain will let you sleep normally again.

    Not very helpful, but my two cents.

  • Reply Canadian Kate |

    There is a voice in my head at all times. It means I’m never lonely but at night it is a PIA.

    I listen to my mp3 player, specifically, spoken word (NPR, CBC podcasts or the Economist magazine.) Focusing on the words shuts up the voice in my head which tends to focus on the negative after bedtime.

    My mp3 has an auto off function so on good nights I can let set it to 15 minutes and I’m asleep when it goes off. Some nights (and on planes) it is on all night long. I use rechargeable batteries and travel with a set of them.

    I also use melatonin when I travel. It doesn’t really help me get to sleep (that isn’t my problem) but when I wake in the night(because it is 7 a.m. body time) I simply roll over and go back to sleep (or at worst, turn on the mp3 player and immediately go back to sleep.)

    Good luck!

  • Reply emmi |

    I’ll second the melatonin. The dose on the bottle is one tablet, I sometimes take two if I think sleep will be a real struggle. Do not take it before you are actually going to lie down. It has a peak sleepiness effect of about 30 minutes from taking it, then it slacks off.

    Other odd things keep me awake. Being really thirsty, so no salty foods at dinner time.

    I find the shut everything off a half hour before even attempting sleep is key. Let the mind wander where it will. DO not think of your plans for the next day. Push them aside for tomorrow. Tell yourself (lie to yourself, really) that tomorrow will take care of itself. Just insist that with yourself. You can’t do anything more and even plotting out the next day will be bad for you. Trust your subconscious to do the work. Tell your conscious mind it’s time to take a break.

    Lastly, when you get into bed, there is a great relaxation technique where you lay on your back, palms up. You start with relaxing your little fingers. Concentrate on them, make relax, then add the ring finger, make it relax too. Then the middle finger. … then your whole hand, then your wrists, keep relaxing until you can feel the back of your hand pressing into the bed. . . just keep working your way up, conscious of how you are pressing slackly onto the bed. I’ve never made it to my shoulders, but I’m assuming you could start with a pinky toe if you manage to get the arms done. Key is to take your time and focus on each little part.

  • Reply Quindora |

    I usually pretend when going to sleep. I act out scenes in my head that include only a few aspects of real life. I always play the good guy.

    I believe that the reason I do this is because I NEED to keep my brain occupied in order to fall asleep. If I start thinking of things that may or may not happen in real life, I get stressed and can’t sleep.

    You wouldn’t have to pretend, if you can think of something else to occupy your mind, but that is what works for me.

    I’ll post other tips in the next comment. This one is too long already!

  • Reply Quindora |

    More Tips:
    1) If you take medication, make sure you take it at the same time every day. Talk with your doctor to figure out when the best time to take them so you can sleep. This does not apply to ALL meds, but it does for some (like mine).

    2) Don’t go on the computer or watch TV for AT LEAST 1/2 an hour before bed. Don’t exercise for 2 hours before bed. One obvious thing is not to have caffeine before bed.

    3) Try writing down your thoughts in a journal. I like to write down any ideas, no matter how small, so that I’m not stressed about remembering them in the morning.

    4) Some tried and true methods of getting to sleep are drinking warm milk and putting lavender on your pillow.

    5) Are you getting too much light? Perhaps you should invest in some quality blinds that block the light. Also, try to make sure that you turn off ALL the lights in your bedroom and close the door.

    6) How’s the sound? Is there too much noise for you to sleep? Get some good ear plugs. Is it too quiet? Try putting on the radio or a CD.

    7) Are you as comfortable as you can be? Try out a few different blankets to find what’s right for you. Or maybe your sheets are to scratchy. Get some softer sheets. Do you usually sleep in a certain position? I always sleep on my stomach.

    8) Do you change into PJs? Sometimes that helps too. Either that or (if possible) you might want to sleep without clothing. If you do this, however, make sure you change your sheets once a week (you should anyway) as they get dirty and that can become itchy and uncomfortable.

    9) Is your pillow good for you? I sometimes have to fluff up my pillow so that it is a little bit more comfortable.

    10) Did I miss anything? I can’t think of anything else. I hope something (or a combination of somethings) helps. I can sometimes be a picky sleeper, so I use most of these things myself!

    Let me know if something works!

    ~Quindora

    P.S. I’m sorry this is so long (and the other one too).

  • Reply jennifer |

    Go to the library and get a book called The Well Rested Woman. She has a ton of researched suggestions in this book.

  • Reply Nicole |

    Avoid all stimulants, eat lots of fruit and veggies, get fresh air and exercise everyday, have kids : ) You’ll pray for sleep! ; )

  • Reply My Frugal Miser |

    It’s 4:53 AM and I’ve been up since about 2:30 AM, so I know what you mean. I just learned not to fight it. I’ll lay in bed for 20 minutes or so trying to go back to sleep, but if that doesn’t work I get up and do something. I’ll probably pay the price later today for not getting enough rest, but I’d rather do some online research than just toss and turn!

  • Reply Beks |

    Thanks for the help! I’m combining the different methods and it’s working – well, mostly. Sometimes stress is just stress and you lose sleep. ; )

  • Reply odanu |

    melantonin helps, and it’s over the counter, very inexpensive, and doesn’t cause a sleeping pill “hangover”. It does, however, lead to very weird and vivid dreams. It’s essentially the substance your body produces naturally to sleep.

  • Reply Kris |

    I used to have a lot of trouble not only going to sleep, but staying asleep until I tried these things:

    1. Don’t use the bed for anything but sleep (and the other thing). Don’t read in bed, don’t watch TV in bed, and certainly avoid doing paperwork or paying bills in bed.

    2. Keep a notepad on your nightstand with a booklight attached – if you wake up concerned, write down your concerns or troubles and tell yourself you will deal with them in the morning.

    3. If you have laid awake for hours, get up and do something else. Sometimes, I think to myself- If I’m still awake in 15 minutes, I’ll get up and go to my 24 hour gym. I’m usually asleep within minutes of thinking this.

So, what do you think ?