watervole: (Default)
1.  This next tip turned out to be surprisingly effective.  No clock in the bedroom.

Don't have a clock where you can see it when you're in bed.  I tried this after seeing it mentioned on an insomnia website, and it made a real difference.

I suspect the reason it works is that previously when I woke up in the night, I'd glance at the clock and think "Oh, my God, it's 4am". I'd then lie awake for ages worrying about it being 4am.  Also, I'd wake up a 7am, think  "It's too early to get up" and try to sleep for another hour.

Now, I have the clock turned away from the bed.  My mental rule (and I seem to be able to stick to it - if you can't stick to it, then remove the clock totally) is that I'm not allowed to look at the time unless I'm actually out of bed.

If I wake up in the night (which doesn't seem to happen much now), I roll over and go back to sleep.

If I wake up early in the morning and I can see daylight through the curtains, then I get up (don't yet know how this will work in winter, but it's fine at present.) 

The main gain here is that I seem to be getting up around an hour earlier (which suggests that is what actually works for my body when I'm not imposing man-made time constraints on it), but not needing to go to bed any earlier.   I've effectively gained an hour every morning and I find it's a productive hour as I'm waking when my body wants to, rather than when I thought it wanted to.


2.  Relaxation exercises.  Like meditation in many ways, but to do when you're actually in bed.  I find the meditation before bed to be more effective, but if I skip that for some reason, then trying to relax each set of muscles in turn, starting with the scalp and working down to the feet, can often help.


3.  Keep your feet at a comfortable temperature.  Don't ask my why the feet are the most important, it just seems to be that way.  Wear bed socks if they're too cold.  Stick them out from under the duvet if they're too hot.

Lifestyle bits tomorrow.
watervole: (waterlily)
The last half hour before going to bed should be something relaxing and not too stimulating.  The brain needs to unwind and get into a state where sleep is easier.

Good activities for this include reading (but not anything that is going to keep you on the edge of your seat), embroidery (I do most of my cross-stitch when unwinding in the evening and it works really well as a relaxant.), listening to relaxing music, doing the crossword, etc.  Do NOT touch the computer.  Do NOT use the TV.

Meditation.  Ten minutes of meditation, last thing at night, is one of the most effective steps of all.  Meditation takes time to learn, but the effort is worth it.  I don't think the exact method matters much.  I learnt from a library book.

The technique I use is as follows:

1. Think of five positive things in your life. eg.  We own the house we live in.  Today was nice and sunny and I made progress on the allotment.  My children are alive and healthy.  I reduced my pile of paperwork.  There's a bird looking at our nest box.

As you think of each item, take a deep breath and let it right out.    Go 'ahhh' as you breathe out.  Pause and relax between each item.

2.  The way I start meditation is with breathing exercises.  In essence, focusing on the breathing stops you focusing on things that are worrying you.  Also, slowing your breathing helps to relax you.  (When you're stressed and tensed, you tend to breathe faster)

Simply sit in a comfortable position.  I usually sit on the bottom step of the stairs or a low cushion and cross my legs.  (It's easier to cross your legs if you're a little above the ground)   Sitting upright on a chair will work just as well if you find this more comfortable.  Don't slouch, that isn't good for breathing exercises.

Breathe slowly in and out.  concentrate on the sensation of the air going past the tip of your nose.  Count each breath.  One in, one out, two in, two out.  When you complete ten, go back to the start.  (When you're good at it, you may be able to skip the counting, but I find it helps you to focus on what you're doing and away from all the things that stress/distract you.)

If you're still getting distracted, then imagine you're breathing in and out of the soles of your feet.  Sounds odd, I know, but it really works for me.  I suspect that the benefit is because it makes you breathe using your diaphragm, even if you don't know what/where your diaphragm is.

Keep up the breathing exercises for three cycles of ten, or longer.

Total time - ten to fifteen mins.  Total sleep gained as a result - masses.  I fall asleep much quicker when I meditate beforehand.  It's easier to sleep when the mind isn't cluttered with worries.

3.  Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] rwgray for reminding me of this one - no coffee after mid-day.  I drink so little coffee now that I'd forgotten how much it can stop me sleeping.

Tomorrow, I'll cover clocks and relaxation techniques.
watervole: (waterlily)
Having pretty much beaten the insomnia now, I'll list things that helped in order to help others.

I won't put everything in one post, as I don't think that's helpful.  (We can only absorb a few pieces of data at once).

Firstly, find out the causes.  (Stress is an obvious one and was a big factor for me, but a lot of the tips I'll go through will help even in this case.)

I had two causes, possibly three.

The first was salmeterol.  It's a medication I take for asthma.  It helps me breathe at night, so I can't do without it totally.  However, I decided that I needed to reduce the dose.   The only way to reduce your dosage of asthma medication is to improve your lung function, so I doubled the number of visits that I made to the gym.  Sure enough, within three weeks my peak flow had improved by 50 points and I was able to halve my dosage.  

Conveniently, that leads us onto the fact that exercise (preferably in the morning or afternoon and not last thing at night) is also helpful in reducing insomnia.

Even better, exercise also reduces stress levels, which will also help that part of the insomnia that is due to stress.

My third likely  cause (after salmeterol and stress) was that I was staying up late working on the computer.  Post-Odyssey, I no longer need to do that amount of computer work, so I'm turning off the computer one or two hours before I want to go to bed.  This is effective on two scores.  Firstly, it means I do something else that is more relaxing and conducive to sleep.  Secondly, I am removed from the temptation to just answer one more email/check LJ just once more/just complete this last task.

So, to summarise:

The first three steps to dealing with insomnia are:

1.  Check to see if the insomnia could be a side-effect of any medication that you take.  Look for alternatives or ways in which you can reduce the dose.

2.  Exercise,  every day if possible, helps you sleep better.

3.  Turn off the computer at least an hour, preferably two, before you want to go to bed.  (and do NOT have  a TV set in your bedroom).

More tomorrow, because I am now going to follow my own advice and turn the computer off.

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Judith Proctor

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