A True Account By An Insomniac

Posted by : foongpc | Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | Published in

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It was a dark and stormy night. I was busy blogging on my computer when I realized it was past 2am. Time to sleep! So I switched off the computer and went straight to bed. The bed looked so inviting so I laid down, closed my eyes and proceeded to sleep.

One minute ticked by, two minutes….then three. I opened my eyes. What’s the matter? I had yet to drift into dreamland. I tossed and turned in my bed. Half an hour later, I sat up, wide awake. Outside the rain had stopped. I did not feel sleepy anymore!

If you think this is going to be a ghost story, I am afraid you will be disappointed. Sorry for the misleading title! Ha ha!

After reading about a blogger suffering from sleeplessness the other day, I thought I should share my thoughts on this topic today. So if you have experienced the above minus the dark and stormy weather, then welcome to the world of insomnia!

Actually, if you have insomnia every night, it could be due to a medical condition and the best way to solve it is to see a doctor. However, if you experience sleeplessness once in a while, then here’s some ways to cure or prevent it. These are just some of my suggestions. They may or may not work for you as each individual is different. But try them no matter how ridiculous some of these ideas may sound to you.

1. Clear your mind before you sleep.
Most of us are pre-occupied with what we need to do the next day. If you go to bed worrying what you need to accomplish the next day, your mind will not rest. So the best way is write down a “To Do” List for the next day before you sleep. Sometimes your mind is pre-occupied with some events that happened during the day. Write down these events and note down what exactly is bothering you before you sleep. Once your have cleared your mind, it is easier to go to sleep.

2. Take a warm bath.
This will help you relax. However, you must take it at least 1 hour before sleep. A warm bath will raise your body temperature and this will prevent you from sleeping. We sleep best at optimum body temperature. After 1 hour, your body temperature naturally drops, so that’s the best time to sleep.

3. Avoid stimulants like coffee, black tea, cola drinks, chocolates, alcohol and cigarettes.
Coffee, black tea, cola drinks and chocolates all contain caffeine which is very stimulating. Alcohol dehydrates your body and this creates unrestful sleep. Cigarettes contain nicotine which produces faster brain wave, heart rate and breathing rate, not to mention an increase amount of stress hormones in your blood.

4. Have some sex.
Good news for those who like to have sex before going to sleep. A lot of people reported that they slept very well after having sex. So it’s a good idea to have sex with your partner during bedtime. Anyway, your bed is good for only two things - for sleeping and for having sex. Those without partners, don’t fret. Self-masturbation works just as well!

5. Sleep on your back.
This is the best position for relaxing and allows all your internal organs to rest properly. The second best position is sleep on your right side. Let me repeat. Sleep on your right, not your left. This is because sleeping on your left causes your lungs, stomach and liver to press against your heart and that’s not a very wise thing to do. But even if you don’t care much for such positions, never ever sleep on your stomach. That’s because sleeping on your stomach will put pressure on virtually ALL your internal organs, including your lungs, which results in shallow breathing, not to mention causing stiff necks and upper back problems.

6. Get a massage.
Massage helps to you to relax. Of course it must be the slow and gentle, yet firm strokes. Not the vigorous kind that makes you more alert. You must get your partner to do this for you, so if he or she does not want to, then try to have sex instead. If all else fail, just self-masturbate! (refer to Tip No.4)

7. Don’t count sheeps.
I don't know who originates this idea that counting sheeps will help you sleep. The idea that sheeps actively jumping over a fence is in itself not very calming to the mind, so how can it possibly help you sleep? Also when is the last time you see sheeps jumping over a fence? I wonder if picturing sheeps jumping over fences is exactly what keeps millions of people awake at night! Come to think of it, a better visualization would be picturing sheeps sleeping and counting the number of zzz coming out from their heads and floating up the sky!

8. Don’t associate your bed with some active or stressful events.
Some people use the bed to chat on their hand phones, others think about their problems in bed, still others read exciting page-turning novels in bed. When you do these things, your mind associates the bed with anything but peaceful and calming sleep! In hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) this is called state anchoring.

An anchor is an experience, taste, touch, or smell that instantly recreates an emotional state in your body. For example, have you experienced hearing your favourite song and a certain emotion comes flooding to you? That is because, when you listened to that song the first time, you were feeling that way at that point of time and this feeling is anchored to that song.

Similarly, when you read a book or chat away on your hand phone in bed, your actions anchor the feeling of wakefulness to your bed. This makes your mind think that the bed is not a place for you to sleep. So every time you go to bed, you automatically feel wide awake! And you wonder how come you are able to sleep anywhere except in your bedroom!

9. Sleep in complete darkness.
You read this right. I want to emphasize the word "complete" here. Some people like to leave the bed lamp or the bathroom lights on. But this is what keeps us from having a good night sleep. Even streetlights shining in through the windows from outside is not good. The reason for this is simple. Our body produces a hormone called melatonin which is responsible for making us sleep. This hormone is produced only when you are in darkness. If there is light, the melatonin production will be affected, and so will your sleep.

10. Make sure room temperature is neither too hot or too cold.
We sleep better in cooler environment. As mentioned earlier (refer to No.2) we sleep best at optimum body temperature. The room temperature will affect our body temperature so if it's too hot, we won't be able to sleep. However, this does not mean you will sleep better in freezing temperature either.

11. Don’t toss and turn in bed.
Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Tossing and turning will only make it worse. By getting out of bed, you change the pattern making it easier for you to fall asleep later on.

12. Exercise.
Exercise makes your body temperature goes up and makes you feel energetic the whole day. In this way, you will be more likely to sleep easier at night. If you notice, people with more “mental” jobs like office workers have more problems sleeping than people who work physically hard all day like construction workers. However, don’t exercise close to sleeping time, as your body temperature will still be high for the next few hours and will affect your sleep. For this reason, never go for a workout at the gym at 9pm!

13. Have a power nap during the afternoon.
A power nap means a short quality nap that is normally taken during the afternoon. In some countries such as Mexico, it's a custom to have daily afternoon siestas. When you take a short nap during the afternoon, you will be more energetic and fresh throughout the rest of the day. When night comes, you are more inclined to sleep better. However, limit your short nap to no more than 30 minutes. If you nap more than 30 minutes, you will confuse your body circadian rhythm and makes it more difficult for you to sleep at night.

14. Practise relaxation techniques.
The reason why you toss and turn in bed is because you are not relaxed. One way to relax is to imagine you are inside a lift as you lie in your bed. Imagine you are on the 100th floor. As the lift descends, count as it passes each floor. 100, 99, 98, 97, 96 ….and so on. With each passing floor, you feel you are getting more and more relaxed. Hopefully before you reach the ground floor, you are already in dreamland! Of course, if you have phobias with lifts, or associate lifts with ghosts (made famous by the Chinese movie "The Eye") don't use this method. You may opt for other relaxation exercises which are just as effective.

15. Eat a light snack.
Although your digestion slows down during night time, eating a light snack that does not burden the digestive system too much will help. However, make sure you eat at least 1 hour before bedtime. Food such as bread, fruit and warm milk are good choices. Avoid food containing simple sugars and carbohydrates because these will cause a spike in your blood sugar levels and causes bursts of energy. Also food that are high in fat or spicy should be avoided as these cause gas and bloating in the stomach. Warm milk is excellent as it contains amino acid L-tryptophan. Research shows that L-tryptophan makes us drowsy and helps us sleep better.

16. Listen to music.
The music should be soft, preferably instrumental songs and not loud, rock songs. Also don’t listen to your favourite songs during sleep. You will tend to concentrate on the song and stay awake!

17. Drink herbal tea.
Chamomile, passion flower or valerian tea is excellent as they are natural sedatives and sleep promoters without the side effects of sleeping drugs. These are herbal teas. Don't confuse with other forms of tea like teh tarik which will guarantee to keep you awake!

18. Sleep with your head facing north.
This is not some feng shui advice from Lillian Too. Although not proven, it seems that sleeping in this position aligns your body with the earth’s magnetic field, bringing your own energies in harmony with earth. No harm trying but if you cannot turn your bed to face North because of lack of space in your bedroom or putting your bed in that position looks really awkward, then just forget it!

19. Develop a bedtime routine.
For example before going to sleep, you fold the laundry, check the locks, brush your teeth. Because humans are creatures of habit, these actions will program your body to get ready for sleep. It’s somewhat like the Pavlov's experiments with dogs. Or this is another form of anchoring (refer to No. 8)

20. Listen to Innertalk "Sleep Soundly" CD.
Innertalk is a company founded by Dr Eldon Taylor who did a lot of research on the effects of mind programming using CDs. I am sure you have heard about the effects of writing down and reciting affirmations to reprogram your mind. However, affirmations rarely work because your conscious mind will reject them as untrue. For example, if you affirm that you sleep very easily at night and you sleep deeply all the way till morning, your conscious mind will reject this affirmation because it knows very well that you have been tossing and turning in your bed every night! What Dr Taylor did was he used a patented technology to hide these affirmations behind music. When you listen to his CDs, you hear only music, but your sub-conscious mind will catch the affirmations that is not audible to your ears! Listen to his "Sleep Soundly" CD will help to reprogram your mind about sleeping.

Well, that's it! 20 ways to cure the insomniac in you! Whichever method you use, take sleeping pills and drugs only as a last resort. Even then, do not take them continuously or you can become dependent on them. And whatever you do, don't mix alcohol with sleeping pills! It's deadly. You don't want to end up like Heath Ledger, do you?

(11) Comments

  1. Bengbeng said...

    i dont think of insomnia as insomnia. when i cannot sleep i jus do something n dont waste time waiting for it to come. eventually when it is time, it is time. i might end up not sleeping for the whole night e.g. but i will make up for it eventually. i tend to try not to think too much at night. i compartmentalize my life

    June 24, 2008 at 5:38 PM
  2. pinaywife said...

    clearing my mind, cool temperature as well as soft music is enough for me to fall asleep. you have nice tips there, i'll keep it in mind in case i get insomnia..

    thanks for leaving me a comment on my feng shui post, im actually getting really interested on it and will post more. ill check out the links too..

    cheers!

    June 24, 2008 at 8:41 PM
  3. cc said...

    Thanks foongpc! That's extremely helpful information! I'm especially interested in the anchor theory.

    June 24, 2008 at 10:28 PM
  4. foongpc said...

    bengbeng,you are doing the right thing. When you can't sleep, just get out of bed and blog! : )

    pinaywife,I'll drop by to read your posts on feng shui : )

    cc, you are welcome. I learnt about the anchor theory during one of the NLP seminars I attended a few years back.

    June 25, 2008 at 11:14 AM
  5. keeyit said...

    ehh.. i don't think so too.. if i cannot sleep just wake up and do other thing.. or watch movie..

    June 25, 2008 at 9:58 PM
  6. Kenneth said...

    Good tips, I just can't sleep during break up, it takes 1 or 2 weeks, after get over it, I have no problem sleeping. haha..

    June 29, 2008 at 2:19 PM
  7. cbenc12 said...

    wah, thats a realy great 20 tips! i have insomnia like forever since i was a kid! i remembered thinking that i could stay up all night when everyone is sleeping! i still am sometimes..

    July 8, 2008 at 10:00 PM
  8. foongpc said...

    cbenc12, thanks. Hope my insomnia tips help you to sleep!

    July 9, 2008 at 11:22 AM
  9. HEALTH NUT WANNABEE MOM said...

    Wonderful tips! I am going to try some and combine them with my helpful sleeping foods. super!

    August 25, 2008 at 12:29 PM
  10. foongpc said...

    health nut wannabee mom, I'm glad you find these tips useful. Thanks for dropping by!

    August 28, 2008 at 10:13 AM
  11. Randolf

    Thanks so much for this article, pretty useful material.
    Caraway Pork Chops

    December 7, 2011 at 9:21 PM