I rarely have trouble falling asleep, except maybe if I’ve stayed up too late and get restless leg syndrome. Normally I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow… or, in the days when I used to watch videos on my smartphone before bed, I would unintentionally fall asleep while watching something.
My problem is that most nights I would wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to get back to sleep.
Once I got serious about addressing my insomnia problem, I knew I had to make changes to my behaviour when I did wake up in the middle of the night. (It was my longstanding habit to pick up my phone and start surfing the Internet, which usually meant I didn’t get back to sleep again). So I made a point of not picking up my phone, but instead tried to keep a notebook and pen beside my bed to write down all the stray thoughts that were keeping me awake.
Since I’ve settled on my most recent insomnia solution (which I’ll write about next week), if I’m awake more than 15 minutes, I get up out of bed and leave my bedroom to do quiet activities somewhere else in my home.
Before I tried this strategy, I was really white-knuckling it through my wakeful periods with nothing to occupy my attention. I tried breathing exercises and mindfulness (noticing, but not engaging with, my thoughts), but neither seemed to work. And since I’d given up pharmaceutical sleep aids and smartphone use, it was a bit of a horrorshow.
The good news is, with my new sleep program I’m now sleeping through most nights, and I’m allowed a 1-hour nap in the afternoon, which helps if I do wake up in the middle of the night, and am awake for a while.
The early days of the new routine were incredibly unpleasant to live through, but I’m really satisfied with the results. More on that next time.
This is the seventh in a series of posts about changing unhealthy sleep habits. Future posts will include:
- The sleep plan that finally worked
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow works in nonprofit and small business communications by day, and also enjoys writing, taking photographs, making art and doing aikido. You can find more of her work at michellelynnegoodfellow.com. Michelle has also written about her breast cancer journey on her blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.