Many people suffer from insomnia. I did in my first year of college. It was awful. It took a while to figure out, but I examined my life closely and came up with some key reasons for my insomnia and here’s what I found:
1. I drank 5 times a week. Not casual drinking, but heavy, heavy drinking. First year of college was easy so I had myself a good time. I slept fine on those nights, but heavy drinking leads to REM (rapid eye movement) rebound. Basically, because you’re in such a deep sleep when sleep is induced by alcohol or heavy drugs, your body goes straight into deep sleep. This is why your friends can draw penises (peni?) all over your face without you waking up. However, because you stay in the deep stages of sleep, you skip out on the REM stage (the stage of sleep when you dream). So the next time you try to sleep without alcohol or drugs your body will try to catch up on REM sleep. Thus, your night will be full of vivid dreams and when you wake up, you won’t feel particularly rested. The solution – slow down your drinking and get back into regular stages of sleep. This is why on Mondays you might not feel as rested as you should if you partied hard on Saturday.
2. I had high anxiety. This might of been a result of alcohol withdrawal or the relationship I was in at the time or a combination of both. Find out what is making your life stressful and eliminate it. No, don’t kill your significant other, just sit down and discuss some of the things she or he does that winds you up, or if that doesn’t work, part ways. You’d be surprised how infectious anxiety is. If you hate your job, find another. If your life is meaningless, find meaning. If school is stressing you out, get organized and do your work well before it’s due. Think of when you have a job interview the next day and how being nervous or excited about it can keep you up at night. Often times, people with insomnia have this anxious feeling all the time and don’t even realize it. They don’t remember what it’s like to be relaxed. I know, this step especially is not as easy as I’m making it out to be but, believe me, when you make that change, things will be better.
3. There is too much noise. I lived in residence. People were partying somewhere in the building at all times of the day and night. When you have insomnia, all the little things chew at your brain. They might not be the main reason you can’t sleep, but they add to it. Put on some white noise. I’m a big supporter of the fan (fan of the fan, nyuk nyuk), but find something that works for you. If you tend not to move very much in your sleep, try ear plugs.
4. Don’t do anything else in your bed besides sleeping and the nasty. In residence I used my bed as a couch. I watched TV and played videogames there all the time. Our bodies are easily conditioned. If you watch TV or play on your computer in bed, your mind and body won’t associate the bed with sleep. If you just sleep in your bed, your body will begin to learn to shutdown when you hop in the sack. This might take a while, so be patient. When you’re suffering from insomnia you’re also making your body associate the bed with being awake. So get up, clear your head, have a glass of milk, and try again.
5. Racing thoughts make it nearly impossible to sleep. I find Sundays are the worst for this because you reflect on the whole week. To clear your head, try reading before bed. Another technique I’ve been using recently is to think of nothingness, darkness (not evil darkness, but a lack of light). The more you think of other things, the harder it is to let your mind shut down and fall asleep.
6. Deep breathing. Have you ever noticed how you can tell someone is sleeping by the way their breathing changes? Try mimicking this slow/deep breathing. It’s very relaxing and can have you drifting away before you know it. Also, if you’re focusing on your breathing, your not paying as much attention to your overactive mind and when you’re sleep deprived, some of the thoughts that cross your mind are not particularly sane.
There are a million different strategies to curing insomnia, these are just the ones that worked for me. Mainly, step 1 and 2 are most important. Simply put, ease up on the booze and the anxiety.
If you have any other tips, post them in the comment box. Hopefully, we can help a few people. Sleep well this weekend folks.