It’s funny when I try to remember how easily I can sleep anywhere, be it in a van, in an office chair, in my desk, inside the MRT, anywhere. But early this year I started struggling with sleeping. I thought it was just a simple case of insomnia or maybe I just messed up my body clock due to the holidays. But it wasn’t. There were instances that I go 2 days without sleep. My productivity at work was affected, I lost my appetite and simple activities tire me. It was that worst that I had to seek help from a psychiatrist. I learned then that it was not just insomnia, but I am having hard time sleeping because of anxiety. So I got medication for anti-anxiety and I need to take it for 3 months straight.
Apparently, after my 3-month medication, I still had a hard time sleeping especially on the first week off meds. But I do not want to rely entirely on my meds, I have to help myself too. Here are some of my tactics that help me sleep at night.
1. Do not think of sleeping
What keeps me awake at night is when I lay there and worry when will I fall asleep. When you lay in your bed at night, try to relax your mind and let your mind drift to somewhere else. The harder you try to fall asleep, the harder you will achieve it.
2. Drink milk or tea, whatever you prefer.
Hot milk relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep faster. I made this my routine before going to bed, and it was effective for me to fall asleep easily. I also read that you must make a routine before you go to bed, and this is the one that works for me. As for the tea, chamomile tea is specifically made to calm and relax yourself. I think I have 3 boxes of different chamomile tea at home. And every time I drink it, it never fails to calm me. It’s amazing!
3. Deep Breathing
Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning and try to remember the last thing I did the night before it was consciously deep breathing. There is the famous 4-7-8 breathing, wherein you inhale in 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale in 8 counts. Unfortunately, that did not work for me (but you can try it, it might work for you!). What I usually do is I close my eyes and consciously breathe (deep) – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, ex –
Next thing I know, I have to get up for work. 😉
4. Try to do something boring.
Like reading a book. Remember when you try to study in college and you always end up falling asleep. That is because those topics doesn’t interest you. Try also doing that when you can’t sleep. Maybe pick your college book or a novel that isn’t your taste. Say, classic novels or novels about wars, or philosophical books. That one worked for me.
5. Avoid looking at the clock.
I know when you have to wake up at 6 in the morning and you’re in bed for what feels like more than an hour, you start to check every now and then the clock and worry how little sleep you’ll get. Don’t! Avoid that habit of checking the clock, or even counting how many hours of sleep you’ll get. That will just cause you to be anxious and will not definitely help you to get the sleep that you want.
6. Put your smartphone away.
It helps me fall asleep when I say goodbye to my phone. I literally have to say to my phone “that’s it, goodbye”. And discipline myself not to check it again. I will put it in silent mode so I will not hear any notification coming in.
7. Maintain one position.
This works for me when I try to get myself to fall asleep. I avoid changing position. I find a comfortable position and stick to it. The more I move, the more I realize that I cannot sleep. So, just discipline your self and keep that position until you fall asleep.
8. Listen to guided meditation videos.
When I am so desperate that I cannot sleep, I resolve to listening to guided meditation and I would say 4 out of 5 times I tried this and it worked for me. The video is usually more than an hour and in 30 minutes I am already asleep. Here’s my favorite guided meditation video.
9. Seek help of a specialist
When I noticed that my productivity at work and my daily activities were affected by my lack of sleep, I started to get bothered and the more I worried, the more I cannot sleep. Then that’s the time I decided to go to a psychiatrist. He let me talk about what bothers me and he identified that it is not just insomnia. Because insomnia, is when you just cannot sleep for no apparent reason. But mine is because of anxiety. I reached that point when I am anxious of my bed, or even of the night because that means I will have to sleep and I know that I won’t be able to sleep. So he gave me a medication to cure my anxiety. I would say make this your last option. If you can still find ways to fall asleep then do it. And if it really gets worse, the go visit your doctor.