Sleep. Thoughts of sleep. Daydreams of sleep. Desire for sleep. But when it comes time to sleep...can't sleep?
Can't fall asleep? That's sleep onset insomnia. Can't stay asleep? That's sleep maintenance insomnia.
Do you feel tired when you go to bed, but as soon as your head hits the pillow you're brain hits the alarm..."I can't fall asleep...I need to fall asleep soon/now...What time is it?.."; These are the thoughts interspersed with the urgent anxiety-provoking issues that MUST BE SOLVED in order to fall asleep...or so your brain, followed by your body chemistry, tells you.
OR do you fall asleep easily. Tired. Sleepy. But at 1-3 AM or 4-5 AM you're awake. Wide awake. "Now's the time to solve all the problems in my world!" There's an urgency and anxiety that wakes you. It could be hours before your brain is able to sleep again...and by then, it might be time to go to work.
The first thing to realize is that some of these patterns may be biologically normal. You see, before electricity, before the inundation of modern society's demands, we honoured a primordial sleep pattern. Clark Strand discusses it in his book "Waking Up To The Dark", (well worth the read, if only to soothe your restless soul in the wee hours). The primordial sleep pattern involved taking about an hour to fall asleep, waking for 1-3 hours in the early early morning hours to meditate ("The , and then returning to sleep. A sleep pattern of 9-10 hours. So take heart. You may be more normal than you thought.
If embracing the primordial sleep pattern isn't about to happen for you, consider aiding your sleep, (either sleep onset or sleep maintenance insomnia,) by incorporating the following:
Reducing anxiety, re-programming your brain for sleep, calming the nervous system, and regulating melatonin are all benefits of meditation.
2. Talk to someone.
Address the anxiety-provoking issue - is something going unsaid or undone?
Discussing strategies to directly address the anxiety- provoking issue is an important step, as is discovering and changing the underlying reasons you may feel powerless. Talk to a counsellor, psychologist, life coach, Body Talk therapist, naturopathic doctor, or anyone else that you discern is helpful.
3. Supporting yourself with herbs and supplements that calm the nervous system and balance neurotransmitters - for example: kava, passionflower, valerian, GABA, L-theanine, 5-HTP, melatonin, and skullcap. A naturopathic doctor can help determine the therapeutic dose for you.
4. Attempt sleep hygiene basics:
- dark room
- no electronic screens for 1 hour prior to bedtime
- go to bed AND wake up around the same time
- white noise, if needed
- keep your bedroom clean, cool, and electronics-free (no TV, phones, tablets etc.)
- make bedtime a calming routine, each step of bedtime becomes a positive re-enforcement of sleep
5. Exercise exercise exercise...but not too late! Regular aerobic exercise (walking, running, biking, hiking) has been shown to be helpful in chronic insomnia.