Most people who know me well enough know that  I suffer from chronic insomnia. It’s been better in recent years, but it’s still a daily struggle. It started in late high school years – I would lay awake for hours at night, my mind racing incessantly about nothing and everything. It only got worse when I got into college. By my sophomore year, I would lie awake for 2-3 hours every single night. Finally I went to the doctor to get medication for it. I’ve tried Trazodone (hated it) and Ambien (loved it!), but prescription medicine is expensive, especially without insurance. Eventually I transitioned myself to OTC Tylenol Simply Sleep. At the beginning of my senior year, I decided that I was tired (no pun intended!) of being groggy and sluggish all day, which is an unfortunate side effect of sleep aids. I slowly weaned myself off of the meds and started incorporating some basic anti-insomnia tactics.

It wasn’t until 2008, however, when I finally read this amazing book: The Insomnia Answer. I considered myself an insomnia expert, but it wasn’t until after I read this book that I finally learned what I’d been doing wrong and everything that I could do.  The book provides information about sleep waves and then helps you develop a personalized sleep program to combat insomnia. I didn’t know that there are three main types of insomnia and that there are different tactics to be tried for each type. I have trouble falling asleep (you can also have trouble staying asleep and/or broken sleep – yes, you can suffer from multiple types, which has happened to me), so there are many things that I try to do or avoid:

1) no caffeine after noon! (I’m actually good about this)
2) exercise before evening (preferably before 6 but…life doesn’t let that happen often)
3) wind down in dim light for an hour before bed (I have Christmas lights that work perfectly)
4) don’t eat too close to bedtime, but don’t go to bed hungry
5) no napping! (literally, ever.)
6) most importantly, stick to a sleep schedule (the book teaches you to set up a personalized sleep schedule that works for your body)

When I do need to take some kind of a supplement, I take only natural supplements – either a “Moon Drop” lozenge or 1/2 of a melatonin tablet. I learned that the sleep cycle (what makes you tired) and the alerting force (what keeps you awake) are not on the same wavelength – your sleep cycle can be in full peak when your alerting force is at half mast (think of the 2-4 p.m. groggy time of the day as an example), so I try to be conscious of that. And you know, it’s been better in the past few years. I’ve learned what my body needs for healthy sleeping. I’ve realized that getting 8 hours of sleep does not mean that I won’t be tired, especially since I’m depressed (has happened consistently in the last year – especially today, which prompted this post). Most importantly, I’ve learned that there are natural ways to combat chronic insomnia. If you don’t suffer from insomnia, consider yourself blessed. If you do suffer from insomnia, please feel free to ask me or check out The Insomnia Answer. Sweet dreams!

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