photography by Alex Van
Insomnia, as defined by the National Sleep Foundation, is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can be co-morbid (caused by or affected with another disorder), onset (experienced only at the start of bedtime), and maintenance (you wake up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning and can’t go back to sleep). Whether you have been clinically diagnosed, or think you have it in some form or another, this list will give you ways to feel like you’ve had a good night sleep without you actually having to fight for one. You’d be surprised at the ways your body can adapt so you can still perform ideally under the circumstances. Here are just several of the best ways you can accomplish this immediately:
Forget the “Cause”
The last thing you want on your mind right now is brainstorming what stress-inducing events may have resulted in this disorder and how you can fix them. The number one best thing you can do for yourself is invest in regular counseling sessions because they guarantee solid long-term improvement and solutions. But because it is also the largest investment of your time and resources, it involves planning. So while it yields the greatest return on investment, it is not one of simple things you can do to rest easy right now. You will eventually get the ultimate healing with help from the objective perspective of a professional, but in the meantime let go of the pressure to investigate what caused your insomnia. Take the responsibility off of yourself for now.
Drink A Glass of Water
Just do it. Don’t worry about the cause… I’m kidding. Water is scientifically proven to re-energize you, balance your energy, improve your mood, and help you focus, all because you are simply dehydrated. I’m not going to tell you to make sure you drink a 12 ounce glass of water every hour from morning to bedtime and you’ll sleep better, because that is obviously true, but we wouldn’t be stressed and ailed about nearly as much as we are in life if all of us could stay consistent with daily regimens. Lucky for those of us who get distracted by life, one glass of water will provide all the aforementioned benefits that you can feel after just 30 minutes. 75% of Americans are dehydrated, according to a CBS report conducted by the Institute of Medicine. When 60% of our bodies is water, with 85% of that being used by the brain, all it takes is one glass to instantly and drastically improve our state of being. It will be the equivalent of waking up refreshed from a power nap.
You may not be able to physically put yourself to sleep but you can develop the art of resting your mind, and this may prove to be just as invaluable as resting the body. Your brain shows the same high activity when you’re asleep as it does when you’re awake, according to a study done by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Therefore the only time you can voluntarily give your brain a break is through meditation. This does not have to be the stereotypical performance of turning off all distractions, sitting up-right with your hands on your legs, fingertips touching, while you visualize a calming scenario and count your deep breaths if your brain insists on talking, until you can can finally manage to completely shut it up and be thoughtless and try to keep it that way for as long as you can, and the whole process feels like a game of Jenga. While in the long run this kind of mastery can alter your brain so much that it will perform as if it is decades younger, again, you need not put this pressure on yourself at this time. My favorite method is mindful meditation because it is beginner friendly and very flexible for any current environment. Of course it helps to turn off any distracting devices, but if you don’t feel like it for any reason, please don’t even worry. All you simply have to do is be aware of yourself. notice your breaths and your blinking, acknowledge any pain and tend to it. Hear sounds. Accept yourself for what you are doing and where you are without analyzing. I want to make a more in depth post about this, because it is something so simple and amazing and you can do it any where and in any way you please and feel instantly refreshed.
Stretching does wonders for the mind’s fatigue, because the muscles are one of the ways your body shows you how you’re tired. It goes beyond the obvious muscle fatigue from physical activity. I believe when you are stressed or otherwise on alert, your body will tell you when you need it’s time to take a break from whatever you’ve been putting your mental and emotional energy into. For example, there is a reason why they call it a “weight on your shoulders”. Your back and shoulders literally carry stress, which is why they are the first and biggest target during a massage. But your body even continues to tense up when you’re dreaming- another reason to not force yourself to sleep when you can’t! Do simple stretches that help circulate blood flow and “open” your body, or otherwise reverse all the tensing up your body does during the day. All you need is one stretch per major muscle group for more than 20 seconds. Now, I don’t know if this happens to you, but when I am stretching on a sleepless night, at first my heart starts racing and I will feel some kind of rush of nervous energy and it makes me push myself harder into the stretch, then my body will reveal how I need to adjust until it feels right, and push myself until I feel a satisfying breakthrough of tension. When I’m done my heart rate is slower than before I started. This is why I am not recommending any specific poses. Just start with one and keep realigning yourself until it hurts in a way that hurts in a beneficial way, and by the time you’re done you will feel like it is a new day.
Change Your Circadian Clock
When you are able to fall asleep, you do not have to try sleeping at night and waking up in the morning if it the nature’s clock doesn’t naturally work for you. Instead you can actually split up your sleep cycle- or circadian rhythm- to fit in with your daily duties and obligations so you’ll aim to sleep smarter and harder rather than longer. By breaking your sleep cycle into periodic naps, this allows your brain to enter the deepest and most important stage of sleep as opposed to an hour or more into normal sleep cycles, or hardly at all for abnormal sleep cycles. I discovered this concept in 2011 through an online article entitled “Alternative Sleep Cycles: You Don’t Really Need 8 Hours!” on the website High Existence and adopted pattern successfully. At the time I was a teenager, and my insomnia was so bad that I developed auditory hallucinations. I began to take a 30 minute nap every four hours. I would start falling asleep the second I’d lay down, have dreams more vivid than I ever had, and would often wake up drooling. But the last nap of my 24 hour day had me feeling like I had slept eight hours!
Other Simple Things That Help
- Find humorous content to laugh at, and make sure you laugh hard: this lifts your spirits in a way that makes you feel simultaneously refreshed and relaxed.
- Drink something hot, take a hot shower, get in a jacuzzi, or go swimming: warm water is scientifically proven to have a stimulating effect on the body, similar to human touch.
- Cuddle with a furry pet or loved one or flirt with someone: affection gives you peace of mind, which helps you feel relaxed and rested. It is the same feeling water gives you but ten times stronger (anything that makes you feel “warm and fuzzy” inside will also make you feel rested. It sounds bogus but flirting does have this affect).
If you made it to the end of this article, I thank you so much! I’d love to hear your thoughts about your sleeping habits or lack there-of and what you thought about my insight. I’d also be more than happy to clarify anything that sounded confusing or that you would like more information on. Here’s to hoping you rest easy tonight!