Sleep has never come easy to me. I lost countless Zzz’s worrying about my GCSE’s… when I was 11. Teenage sleepovers were spent staring at ceilings whilst my friends flaked out. In my 20s the bad nights increased; I’d lie awake worrying about work, life, my future. Not sleeping was as normal as buying shoes ( I had a LOT of shoes). But three years ago, when sleeplessness became a constant companion rather than an occasional unwelcome visitor, I had to admit I had a problem.
As a working mum with two young kids I didn’t go down without a fight; I couldn’t – I had too much to do. Externally I appeared to be coping. Internally I was crumbling. Daily decisions became insurmountable. At bedtime, when I desperately wanted to stop, my brain didn’t. Instead, a ticker tape of to-do’s circled around my head. For months I was alone in the dark, literally and metaphorically (your brain goes to bad places when it’s just you and your thoughts).
On a long weekend away with friends where – guess what! – I didn’t sleep, I accepted I needed help. That Monday I went to the doctors, was prescribed 3 days of sleeping tablets (an unwelcome but necessary temporary fix) and signed up for a course of CBT (insomnia is often a symptom of depression). Mostly I changed my lifestyle long-term: I made time to exercise, cut out caffeine and sugar after 3pm, drank less alcohol and more water. I went to bed later, looked at social media less. Countless small things that added up to a really big thing… I slept again.
“There’s practically no element of our lives that’s not improved by getting adequate sleep.” – Arianna Huffington
It’s only since recovering that I’ve acknowledged what I had. Insomnia affects one in three people in the UK; it has a name because it’s a condition that should be treated. The best thing about accepting it? Realising you can cure it.
3 starter steps to slay your insomnia:
Buy gel ear plugs. When they’re in I hear nothing, not my husband’s snores, or my children’s cries (they’re old enough to get me if they want me!) Putting them in tells my brain it’s time to sleep.
Believing you can is half the battle. Download a Mindfulness app like Headspace so your brain can slow down from the stress of the day.
Turn Wifi and your phone off an hour before bed.