Thursday, October 16, 2014

Long nights make for long days

I am not a good sleeper. In fact, I'm quite a bad one, at that.

Be careful not to misinterpret that statement - it's not that I don't like sleep, or don't want or need sleep. I really love it. And I definitely want and need it. I'm just not very good at actually achieving good, restful sleep.

My brain tends to go into over-drive mode at night (I received an actual medical diagnosis of suffering "racing thoughts" at one point) and it's very, very hard to shut down, even when I'm tired. My body can be totally worn out, screaming for rest, and my brain is still going a mile a minute (usually creating heart-pounding anxiety, because it's always when I generally start thinking the worst of the worst stuff, awesome!).

Once I do fall asleep, I'm not great at staying asleep: I tend to wake up multiple times throughout the night, either getting up to use the restroom or just laying awake because something disturbed me. I'm pretty sure I inherited this lovely trait from my mama. She's a really light sleeper, too - I can remember standing next to her side of the bed when I was little, just barely whispering "mom!" and her instantly being wide awake. I thought it was just a mom-thing, but, since I'm not one yet, I think it's just a trait... sigh. I wish I'd inherited my dad's ability to sleep through anything and everything, instead!!

C, luckily thankfully (I guess) does not have this problem - he generally sleeps like a rock all night, every night. Me, on the other hand? I toss and turn, and the slightest thing wakes me up and keeps me up. Lately, that thing has been a certain kitten who wants to bound across the bed and aggressively snuggle. C keeps snoring away, never even noticing the cat in the bed, but the minute Toby jumps up, I can feel it, and I'm awake. We try to solve this by closing the bedroom door, but if the door is closed, the cats sit outside it and cry, which (surprise) keeps me awake. Again, C doesn't even notice.... ha

Anyway. Over time, I have developed a list of things that generally sometimes help with my sleep issues. I thought I'd share a few of the tactics that I rely on, in case there are any other (sleepy) bad sleepers out there reading.

1. A warm drink: I rely heavily on Sleepy Time Tea, which is an herbal blend made with natural sleep aids. I make a cup before bed a lot of nights, and if I'm really feeling wired, I use two tea bags to double-brew and hopefully get a little more oomph. Another go-to for me is a cup of warm milk with some Ovaltine powder stirred in. As old as that makes me sound, it is really comforting, and it's what I usually make if I find myself awake in the middle of the night.

2. Don't look at the clock: This one is hard, but it really helps me. When I wake up in the night, I make every effort to not look at the clock beside my bed. If I could, I'd get rid of the clock all together, but I'm pretty sure not having it would cause me anxiety... what a cyclical issue, ha! If I look at the clock, I start to get worked up about the sleep I'm not getting. Which obviously doesn't help! So, I do my best to not look at see what time it is, and just work on keeping my eyes closed and going back to sleep. If the alarm hasn't gone off, I don't need to know what time it is.

3. White noise: We run a box fan in our bedroom 24/7/365. I have found that having some noise in the background keeps me from focusing on either the impending silence, or the little tiny sounds that a house makes when it's quiet. The sound of the fan is just loud enough to keep me from hearing every drip or creak, and quiet and constant enough that it helps lull me to sleep.

4. Benadryl: I'll be honest - in college, I got a bit too reliant on both prescription and OTC sleep aids, and had to work really hard to wean myself off of them. I didn't like the fact that I couldn't sleep without taking something, and I thought it was better to naturally sleep badly. I still generally feel that way - it's better to just be in my natural state than reliant on medications. However, we do usually have a bottle of OTC Benadryl, which has the same active ingredient as an OTC sleep aid, but at a much cheaper price. On really bad nights, or after a few days of not sleeping well, I will take one pill, and it usually does the trick. It's just enough to put me to sleep without making it hard to wake up again or making me groggy the next day.

5. Multiplication tables: This one is probably unique to me, but it works. Your average "counting sheep" or just counting "1, Mississippi, 2, Mississippi" doesn't work for me, because I count too fast and then get anxious about how much time I've spent counting (a little crazy, I am!). I resorted to multiplication tables a few years ago, and have found that they have a much better effect: I have to think just enough that it keeps my brain focused, but is repetitive enough that eventually I fall asleep. I start at 1x1 and work my way to 1x12, then start over with the 2s. A few rounds in, and I'm usually sawing logs!

Do you have trouble sleeping? Any tricks that work better than others? Are you someone lucky enough to have no trouble sleeping, anytime and any place? Trust me, I'm jealous...! Teach me your ways.


Kate @ A Thought and a Half said...

I love this! I have issues with racing thoughts and anxiety...will have to remember these tips for myself. Sleepy Time Tea is awesome, too!

Kate @ Like American Honey said...

I am also a pretty bad sleeper (made even more annoying by my husband who could fall asleep during a hurricane, haha.) I love the idea of tea at night and will have to check out that herbal tea!

Caitlin W. said...

I'm the Charlie in this case, and E is the Lindsay. We tried a fan, but a certain cat named Oliver is afraid of fans... wth?! We have a noise machine and it works wonders (when we turn it on! ha!). Especially because I'm an early riser and we live in a little apartment where you hear EVERYTHING regardless of what room you're in :) Nice post!!

Stephanie @ My Freckled Life said...

Story of my life!! Although I think multiplication tables might stress me out, because goodness knows math isnt my strong point!