This is a slightly more personal article than the others.
I'm picking up my pen to talk to you about a subject that's not very funny and which hit me hard when I started to enter working life.
I had already experienced severe insomnia the day before my baccalaureate, my competitive exams, my driving license and other major events but I never thought I would have to live with insomnia on a daily basis.
After managing my insomnia with the help of yoga, sophrology and hypnosis, I again experienced a period of strong turbulence when my son was born. Waking up several times in the middle of the night for more than two years, I had the feeling that motherhood had completely derailed my sleep.
Today, things are much, much better. Until the next episode?
In this post, I share 28 tips that have helped me and which I hope will help you find more peaceful nights.
We are all different and what works for some doesn't work for others. Tap into what speaks to you and gradually try to establish routines that support your well-being.
Being sleep deprived is a painful experience. It affects our mood, our vitality, our health.
If there is only one thing I would recommend to everyone who suffers from insomnia, it is to approach the problem with lots and lots of self-compassion and self-love.
The different types of insomnia:
Being all different from each other, the insomnia of some does not resemble the insomnia of others.
Here are some main categories given by the sleep foundation which I hope will allow us to see things more clearly:
- Acute insomnia: it occurs following a shocking or traumatic event. It lasts from a few days to a few months or turns into chronic insomnia.
- Psychophysiognomic insomnia: the fear of not falling asleep becomes such that it maintains insomnia: a real vicious circle.
- False insomnia associated with poor perception of sleep: some people have the feeling of not sleeping even though their nights are completely normal.
- Idiopathic insomnia: some people are unable to get enough sleep consistently
- Insomnia linked to mental disorders: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and many others are causes of insomnia
- Poor sleep hygiene: the person has activities or an environment that is not conducive to falling asleep such as activities that are too stimulating, a room that is too hot, etc.
- Insomnia due to a substance: alcohol, drugs and sometimes even sleeping pills result in very unrestful nights
- Medical conditions: certain illnesses cause the person to sleep very poorly or not at all
- All other insomnia that does not fit into any category!
1. Identify the cause(s) of your insomnia
Do you know why you can't fall asleep in the evening or why you wake up at night or even wake up very early in the morning?
In my case, it was very simple although it took me a while to really realize it.
From morning to evening, I put crazy pressure on myself to do more and more. No more work, no more sports, no more of this, no more of that.
Combined with being afraid of everything and living abroad, far from my loved ones and my significant other, I felt very isolated. It was only when I drastically reduced my schedule and demands that everything became easier.
When our body is constantly pumped with adrenaline, the stress hormone, it becomes very difficult to calm down. Adrenaline helps us escape if we are attacked by a lion, so that we can fall asleep peacefully in the evening, a little less!
Transform yourself into a private detective: identify repeating patterns, find what irritates/scares/anxiety you. Analyze everything with a fine-tooth comb to understand your stress mechanisms. This will help you take effective measures against stress and one of the indirect effects will be to sleep better.
2. A good night’s sleep begins as soon as you wake up
What do your days look like?
To marathons? sprint races? untenable agendas and meetings in a queue?
If your job or your life as a mother requires you to go through areas of turbulence, so be it!
But look at how to insert small moments of calm to come back to earth. A relaxing breath hidden in the toilet, a little meditative moment in the car, the repetition of a mantra behind the screen of your computer.
By taking the pulse of your state of stress during the day, you will be able to better manage it to keep it below a certain threshold.
When the stress level goes live, it is even harder to bring it back down.
The idea in all this is to maintain a state of well-being throughout the day which will lead more naturally to falling asleep quickly and peacefully in the evening.
Turn on your radar as soon as you get out of bed!
I will speak within 11 next points of basic hygiene tips for sleeping well. In the depths of a wave of insomnia, checking all the boxes can make you feel like you've at least done the best you could. It is quite possible that following these simple rules will not change anything at first glance. And that’s ok: you have to start somewhere.
3. The importance of your diet
You may have heard your grandmother once say: breakfast like a prince, lunch like a king and dine like a pauper.
And you certainly said to yourself at the time that vintage-style well-being was not your cup of tea.
And yet! The way you eat affects your sleep. Come on, make a little effort and trust Grandma, because she is (once again) right!
Make your midday meal the heartiest meal of the day. In the evening, choose foods that are easily digestible, in small quantities.
Avoid alcohol which dries you out and makes you thirsty and herbal teas which make you get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.
Soups in winter, steamed green vegetables in spring, light mixed salads in summer and cucurbit gratins in autumn: this is how to organize your dinners throughout the seasons for peaceful nights.
Save the fondues, tartiflettes and other gargantuan dishes for lunch, after a snowshoe ride!
4. No tea, coffee or stimulants after 12:00 p.m.
In the same vein, avoid drinking tea, red bull coffee and other stimulants after lunch. Some people are more or less sensitive to it, but if you suffer from insomnia, put all the chances on your side!
5. Do sports, but not just any time
There is nothing better than the good physical fatigue that follows a sports session.
Have you ever felt this difference between physical fatigue and mental fatigue?
The first is healthy and resets the clocks while the second is often what we feel after a stressful day at work without having set foot outside.
Try to walk or move for at least 30 minutes a day, preferably during the day and not right before you jump into bed.
6. Create a calm and relaxing evening routine
The watchword after 8:00 p.m.: slow down!
If you start a stimulating activity too late, chances are it will be difficult to fall asleep.
This is at least my case and the reason why I avoid working in the evening at all costs because I know I will have a sleepless night.
Do gentle yoga, read a slightly boring book, take a bath with essential oils, take a meditative walk.
There are so many ways to relieve pressure in the evening!
7. Turn off the phone and put it in a drawer
You probably know the lesson about screen light being bad for your eyes, your body clock and everything else.
This is a good first reason to part with your phone after a certain time.
Far from being a secret, applications and cell phones in general are addictive.
How many times have I fallen into the vortex of social media and broken my resolution to go to bed earlier!
Let's make an effort, cut the cord!
Is your phone also your alarm clock? Invest in an alarm clock to place on the nightstand so you aren't tempted to keep your object of temptation!
8. A question of light
Our biological clock synchronizes with daylight!
To sleep better and stimulate the production of melatonin, the famous sleep hormone, you should expose yourself to the sun in the morning and reduce the light in the evening.
Hello subdued atmospheres!
9. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends
Adopting roughly the same rhythm every day is the secret to properly regulating your circadian rhythm.
Probably one of the most difficult points for me to put in place…
By getting into this good habit, we ensure that the pressure to sleep will be there the next evening.
It's better to go to bed at a fixed time, even if it's a bit later than you'd like.
And if you have to choose, get up every morning at the same time: it's the time you get up that codes the time you fall asleep, like a chronobiological anchor.
10. Recreate the Marsupilami’s nest
The Marsupilami nest, a giant bed hanging from a tree which always seemed to me to be the most comfortable place in the world...
If you can't sleep in it, the important thing is to make sure that you sleep in a comfortable place.
Quality of the mattress, cleanliness and softness of the sheets, thickness of the cushion and duvet, all these small details can considerably improve the quality of your sleep.
Your investments in quality bedding will be repaid in hours of restful sleep!
To slow down the wear of your mattress and avoid the hollows imposed by the shape of your body, consider turning your mattress around 4 times a year, when the seasons change.
11. The right temperature for your bedroom
All specialists agree on this point: keeping the bedroom temperature between 16 and 18°C makes it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.
You've probably already experienced an overheated atmosphere during a summer heatwave...and falling asleep took hours.
When falling asleep, body temperature decreases. Lying down in a cool room therefore promotes this phenomenon.
If you like to sleep in socks and are prone to insomnia, you will have to review your outfit ;-)
12. A feng shui bedroom
If you believe in the power of energies, you will like this section!
Feng shui, an ancient Chinese art which consists of harmonizing the energies of the environment, gives us some simple tips for properly arranging the bedroom:
- Make sure the head of your bed is against a wall (not under a window) and the bed is placed as far away from windows and the front door as possible
- Round off the corners of the room with a plant, a floor lamp, a small piece of furniture or even your meditation cushion. Angles disrupt the harmony of a room.
- Choose soft, diffused light, conducive to falling asleep
- Put away the socks lying on the floor, the old handkerchief behind the bedside table and the pile of books you have already read: order contributes to calm and peace
- Make pairs: to strengthen the unity of your bedroom (and your couple), use objects in pairs: nightstands, bedside lamps, valet stands or simply cushions on the bed.
13. The bed just for sleeping or for intimate relationships
Ideally, you should only go to bed when the urge to sleep arises.
If you like to read, do it in your living room or other quiet place.
The bed is for sleeping or for sex parties.
Too much time spent in bed without sleeping disrupts sleep.
You must therefore go to bed neither too early nor too late!
Points 1 to 13 mainly aimed at the basic hygiene rules for sleeping well but it is quite possible that even by respecting them to the letter (which is not necessarily necessary, I would like to point out), you continue to have sleepless nights.
In the following points, I will talk about stress management and natural methods to gradually stem the scourge of sleepless nights.
14. What not to do in case of insomnia
If you don't fall asleep, don't panic. With any luck, you'll catch the next sleep train. I hope so with all my heart!
These few tips helped me a lot to not aggravate the already painful situation of not sleeping well:
- I don't look at the time: because I know that I will automatically start counting the hypothetical amount of sleep remaining. The fear of not falling asleep maintains the phenomenon.
- I don't touch my phone: firstly because I might see the time there but above all because light waves affect the biological clock.
- Anxiety in anticipation of the lousy day ahead: yes, it's not going to be easy to get through the day and complete the to-do list with so little rest. But I avoid thinking about it. It'll be OK !
- I get up: tossing and turning in bed is no good and what's more, it terribly bothers my partner. So I sit down in the living room with a not too captivating book.
- I go to bed at the usual time the next day: if we give in to the temptation to go to bed with the chickens (i.e. at 7:00 p.m.), we risk disrupting an already battered biological clock.
15. Don't stress about the consequences of insomnia
Stressing about stressing, the most useless of miseries. And yet, I plead guilty!
Yes, sleeping is super important for your health.
And sleeping too little or not at all has consequences on our body.
But instead of focusing on all the horrible things that could happen, let's try to keep the focus on our well-being, showing empathy more than ever.
16. Sleeping pills: short term
I experimented with taking sleeping pills. Benzodiazepines to be more precise.
I had reached a threshold of exhaustion such that I needed a forced break from the infernal cycle of insomnia.
My doctor prescribed sleeping pills.
It helped me for a while but I realized that a psychological addiction would set in if I didn't stop. As I weaned myself off, I told myself “I didn’t take as much sleeping pill as I did last night, so I’m not going to sleep.”
From one day to the next, I sent everything flying. I told myself that I absolutely had to find another solution and that’s what I did.
Sleeping pills are, in my humble opinion, a transitional or emergency solution. But not for the long term.
17. Take your problems head on, the solution is always in action
One of the things I've noticed in life is the feeling I get when I take action.
For each problem that generates stress, putting a plan of attack in place provides relief, even if you still have to wait for everything to be resolved.
The longer we wait to resolve a problem, the higher the stress level rises!
18. No more email or internet after a certain time
At one of my previous jobs, I could receive up to a hundred new emails per day.
My worst nightmare.
Just seeing the number in the morning made me sick.
I have now got into the habit of managing the sending of emails with the greatest parsimony. I group as much information as possible in a single email and if I forget something, I wait for the next one to group my requests. If I send fewer emails, I will likely receive fewer.
After a certain hour I don't check my emails at all until the next day. Otherwise, I run the risk of reading news that will stress me out or make me feel strong emotions (great joy, great stress, anxiety), exactly what I'm trying to avoid in the evening.
19. Reduce nuisance, simplify your life
Our lives are too busy with information, equipment, requests and other demands that make our days unbearable.
What if we simplified?
By buying less to also have less to wash, maintain, repair, exchange?
By reducing the amount of media consumed?
By saying no to too many invitations?
20. A small glass of milk at midnight
At the time, when I was still drinking cow's milk (something I no longer do today because I can't stand it anymore), I would sometimes pour myself a small glass at night, in the midst of insomnia.
Oddly, it had a calming effect.
While researching, I found that there was a scientific reason for this: milk contains an amino acid that plays a role in falling asleep: tryptophan. However, it is not in sufficient quantity to immediately fall into drowsiness.
If milk helps you fall asleep, it is more because it is part of a relaxation routine than because of these chemical compounds.
But if you like milk (or herbal tea), you can always try it and see if it helps you, even just a little!
21. Whether or not to keep a sleep diary
I kept a sleep diary twice, with very different results.
During my first experience, just seeing such low numbers for my sleep hours discouraged me and made me even more stressed.
The second journal (which I still keep as I write these lines) was more saving. When a night is too bad, I just give it a star. I focus less on the numbers and my goal is to reduce the number of stars.
Depending on how you feel, keeping a sleep diary can help or, on the contrary, cause anxiety. If you notice that the experiment is not productive, don't hesitate for a second and stop.
22. Fear of not sleeping
Or the principle of self-fulfilling philosophy!
By sleeping poorly, it is the apprehension of bad sleep that becomes the cause of insomnia. The snake that eats its own tail, so to speak.
To defuse the phenomenon, it will take a lot of patience to relax and to associate bed and going to bed as a pleasant time again.
This is why it is not recommended to stay in bed if you have insomnia (point 14).
Sophrology, hypnosis (point 25), yoga and meditation (point 24) are effective tools for regaining calm, provided they are practiced regularly.
23. Cardiac coherence
This is one of the breathing relaxation methods that has helped me the most in reducing stress levels.
I talk about it at length in this article.
To summarize, cardiac coherence is a breathing exercise to be done 3 times a day or more, at intervals of 3-4 hours. For 5 minutes, breathe calmly at the rate of 5 seconds to inhale and 5 seconds to exhale, i.e. 6 breaths per minute.
The RespiRelax mobile application is great for helping to inhale and exhale for the same duration.
I highly recommend giving it a try if you like breathing exercises or are simply curious to try anything to increase the chances of a good night's sleep on your side.
24. Talk about it but not anytime or with anyone
Keeping your problems to yourself can be devastating.
Perhaps a loved one who knows how to listen with empathy could lend an ear to your concerns?
I personally spoke about my sleeping problems to my sister who also experienced very bad nights during her studies. It allowed me to put things into perspective and test methods that I hadn't thought of.
One thing I avoid at all costs: talking about insomnia in the evening or at dinner. Or to people who can't understand. This is a forbidden subject!
25. Meditation, relaxation & yoga
Most insomnia is caused by high anxiety.
There is no miracle, no one but you can lower his level.
As mentioned in point 16, the solution lies in action.
What are you going to do to calm down little by little?
What routines will you create to feel more peaceful?
The solution to my insomnia was relaxation and hypnosis (next point).
Doing a little yoga every day helps you stay calm and it’s proven ;-)
The solution that worked miracles for me, at the heart of my strongest attacks of insomnia.
Hypnosis is anything but what you see Messmer doing on TV ;-)
Practiced with a sophrologist or alone at home, hypnosis allows you to reach a very deep state of relaxation while making some adjustments in our unconscious.
Everyone has been able to experience a modified state of consciousness: when we read a captivating book that makes us forget everything, when we contemplate a landscape in such an intense way that we escape from it,...
Putting yourself into a state of hypnosis is however like sport: it is something that can be learned and its repetition allows us to become more and more comfortable with it!
I share with you my favorite hypnosis session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJXqeBgA-sE&list=PLKPK6o_edJUwMfbdvr241P0ISbWTgBEK0&index=6 .
Try it and tell me if you like it!
27. The relaxing sound of Tibetan bowls
Certain music has an almost immediate relaxing effect.
The sound of Tibetan bowls harmonizes the chakras.
When the mood strikes me, I love to do a session with the tinkling of Tibetan bowls in the background.
Just like hypnosis, the sound of Tibetan bowls gives me shivers of pleasure and relaxes me almost instantly.
No need to purchase it. There are tons of playlists on YouTube and music apps to enjoy.
You know ?
28. CBD oils
Recently, so-called “CBD” cannabinoid oils were authorized for marketing.
Derived from hemp, CBD oils are not a drug because they do not contain the THC agent known for its “planning” effects.
Natural molecules already present in the body, cannabinoids are effective in relieving anxiety, pain and insomnia.
Validated by the WHO, cannabinoids are neither addictive nor toxic. Perhaps a solution for you, to begin the journey towards more restful nights?
If you arrive at the end of this article in a state of drowsiness, know that this was not my intention but that I am very happy for you. Come on, go to bed for a big sleep.
Discover here our eco-responsible yoga outfits made in France from recycled materials, perfectly suited to the practice of all types of yoga!
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