I have been in a love-hate relationship with sleeping for as long as I can remember. I’m a real night person. Therefore, I start to feel energized around 10 pm, the time most people start to get ready for bed. Unfortunately for me and all other night owls out there, we have to adapt to society and the 8 to 5 work ethic.
I lost track of all the sleepless nights that I spend looking up at the ceiling, watching the clock every 30 minutes in the hope I still had enough time to sleep before the alarm sounds.
I tried every tip out there and even used sleeping pills, but my sleep schedule is still not what it should be. I’ll share everything I learned over the years that helped me pull through.
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Have you ever heard of sleep hygiene? It’s the first thing therapists teach you if you are dealing with insomnia. It’s a set of rules you should follow to sleep better.
- Sleep in a clean room with enough fresh air
- Don’t eat a few hours before bed.
- No devices before bed or in the bedroom
- No blue light a few hours before bed. Switch your devices to nighttime, so it emits a yellow light instead, if your device doesn’t have this, you can download. F.lux.
- Go outside during the day for fresh air and natural sunlight.
- Excercise at least once a day, even if it’s only 10 minutes
- No daytime naps longer than 30 minutes
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine before bedtime, limit your alcohol intake as well.
Other helpful tips that can improve your sleep
- Take a bath or hot shower before bed
- Drink warm milk (with anise)
- Drink tea with valerian root or chamomile (without caffeine)
- Sleep with a heating pad if you experience pain or are cold, the warmth can also help you to relax
- Practice mindfulness before bed or listen to relaxing music
- Read a relaxing book to help you get out of your mind
- Put a drop of lavender oil on your pillow or use a body lotion with lavender, there are also sprays available.
- Put away your clock if you notice that you keep checking it.
- If you still can’t sleep, get out of your bed and do something relaxing. Try to sleep again after.
- If you experience stomach problems like acid reflux; sleep with an extra pillow or put something under the head end of your bed, so the acid doesn’t run back into your throat at night.
- If you have back pain or pelvic pain, it can help to sleep with a pillow between your knees.
Read more tips to improve your mental health.
If the reason you can’t sleep is because of your partner, you have to take action. After you have tried earplugs, all kinds of snoring solutions and nothing works, you may have to decide to sleep separately. It sucks if you can’t sleep together, but not sleeping is bad for your health and mental health. You can decide to only sleep together during the weekends, or not sleep together at all. You might think that this is bad for your relationship, but it doesn’t have to be. If you spend 30 minutes before bed or in the morning together, it won’t hurt your relationship, while blaming each other for not being able to sleep might.
My partner and I have been sleeping separately for two years now; it doesn’t say anything about our relationship. He snores, and I yell and fight in my sleep, it was hurting our sleep so much that we decided it couldn’t continue like that. We both have been sleeping better since and our relationship has improved.
Nightmares can decrease the quality of your sleep; you might wake up multiple times a night or be afraid to go to sleep. It can help to find out why you are having nightmares. The first thing you should do is keep a journal or piece of paper next to your bed. The next time you have a nightmare; briefly describe what your nightmare was about before going back to sleep. If you keep experiencing nightmares, it can be useful to see a therapist and find out why you are experiencing nightmares. Nightmares can be caused by many things; stress, trauma, too many stimuli before bed, etc. Make sure you follow the sleep hygiene rules, so you go to bed with a calm mind to minimize the risk of experiencing nightmares.
Nightmares are scary, but not dangerous. If you keep being confronted with traumatic nightmares, it’s normal that you keep dreading to go to bed, but this will only make your sleeping patterns worse. It’s crucial to search for professional help if you can’t fix the nightmares yourself. It can help to be reasonable with yourself ‘ Yes, I might experience a nightmare, but it won’t hurt me.’ Try a mindfulness exercise before bed to calm your mind. Nightmares suck, but not sleeping will make things worse.
A little extra help
There are several things available to help you sleep and improve sleep quality like;
- Valerian root; Valerian helps to relax your mind and body and can help improve sleep quality, it should not be used with some medication, check with your doctor before use.
- Melatonin; Melatonin is a body own hormone that helps you sleep. If you go to bed at irregular times this hormone may be out of balance. Melatonin is also useful to deal with jetlags.
- Benzodiazepines; or sleeping pills, this should be your last resort when nothing else works. They are highly addictive, so don’t use them longer than ~2-4 weeks, or use them once in a while. I take 1 every other week to help me sleep and so far I had no problems.
Make your bedroom a safe place
To sleep, you need to feel safe. Make your bedroom a place you like to be; this is especially crucial if you have traumatic experiences. Place your bed in a way that feels right, for some, this means in the corner; others want to be close to the door or in a spot they can oversee the whole room. Decorate your room with pictures, pillows, and others things that help you feel right at home.
Honoring your biorhythm is essential. Go to bed at a decent time and wake up around the same time each day. There are special lamps and alarms available that mimic sunlight if you have trouble waking up. If you are a night owl like me, it’s difficult to sleep early, but you should try to sleep before 11:30 pm and wake up before 8:00. Some people need more sleep, and that’s ok, find something that works for you, but make it a habit, your body will thank you.
My sleeping pattern
My boyfriend and I sleep separate and that works great for me. I drink some fresh mint tea before bed, cause it contains no caffeine. I sleep with two warm heating plushies, and I put one drop of lavender oil on them, and I spray a little lavender on my pillow. If I’m not tired, I take a warm bath with lavender first. I go to bed around 11:30 pm and most of the time I fall asleep with all these tricks, if not I do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise; I tense my muscles for 15 sec and then relax – starting with my feet I work my way up to my head. When I’m done with the exercise, my body is completely relaxed, and I often fall asleep shortly after. Of course, I still have nights that I have trouble sleeping, I mostly leave my bed to cuddle with my cats and drink some water, and I try to sleep again 15 min later. I realized that having a sleeping schedule helps me sleep easier and better, our bodies love patterns, and we should use that to our advantage.