Anyone who has insomnia knows it can be absolutely devastating. You want so desperately to sleep but it’s the last thing your mind will allow you to do. You carry on with your day feeling completely drained and in pain.
You want the night to come already so you can try sleeping again but also dread it because you believe you won’t. The first thing you do is reach for sleeping pills, but they only work for a short time before you can’t sleep again.
I know this because I had chronic insomnia for 3 years.
After trying everything in the insomnia cures alphabet from Ayurveda to zinc, I finally sleep soundly. I found there are 4 core things you can do to finally cure insomnia and feel rested.
1. Challenge Negative Sleep Thoughts
I would bet that if you can’t sleep, you have some thoughts going through your head that sleep is going to be difficult. Some common insomniac thoughts are:
“If I don’t sleep tonight, I would be able to (work/exercise/etc.) tomorrow”
“If I wake up in the middle of the night, I won’t get back to sleep”
“I know I won’t sleep tonight”
It’s easier said than done, but reframing your thoughts around sleep is absolutely vital to finally getting to sleep.
Give yourself at most an hour per day to think about sleep and write down these thoughts. Write anything down that comes to mind, even if it sounds completely irrational.
If you only give yourself an hour to ruminate about your stress oversleep, it gives you more space to enjoy your day – even if you’re sleep deprived.
Insomnia often starts because of some temporary life stress that caused you not to sleep. This alone can cause a negative cycle where you start associating sleep and your bed with stress.
It can take a time to unravel the pattern that is ingrained in your unconscious mind but there are 2 key things to do to change your habit:
I. Counter Your Negative Sleep Thoughts With Positive Ones
Once you write down your negative sleep thoughts, you’ll see that they aren’t absolute truths. You know you’ve slept before, so it’s not like you won’t sleep again. You had days before with little or no sleep, but you’ve survived.
You’ll be okay.
II. Get Out of Bed
If you can’t get to sleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing like read a book under low light. This is to help break the connection that your bed is a place to think. Return to bed only when you feel like your eyes are getting heavy.
3. Retrain Yourself
Curing insomnia is all about retraining yourself. To accomplish this, there are 3 keys:
I. Keep a sleep journal for a week
Keep track of the time you went to sleep, and the time you woke up for 7 nights. Once you have the number of hours you sleep per night, add them up and divide by 7.
Here’s an example sleep diary:
Monday: 1am-7am – 6 hours total
Tuesday: 3am-6am – 3 hours total
Wednesday: 11pm-6am – 7 hours total
Thursday: 12pm-5am – 5 hours total
Friday: 2am-7am – 5 hours total
Saturday: 1am-10am – 9 hours total
Sunday: 12am-5am – 5 hours total
The total number of sleep hours in 7 nights is 40 Hours. Divide 40 by 7 nights, and the average number of hours of sleep is 5.7 hours. Round up to the nearest hour, so in the case, the average sleep time is 6 hours.
II. Wake up at the same time every day
Now that you know you sleep on average 6 hours per night, you’ll need to stick to the same wake time every day of the week, including weekends. So if you need to wake up by 6:30 am for work throughout the week, you should be waking up at 6:30 am on weekends.
III. Now calculate your new bed time
In this example of someone who needs to be up at 6:30 am and gets an average of 6 hours per night, your bedtime should be 12:30 am.
This takes the pressure off “needing” to be in bed by an earlier time, and it’ll also help you get sleepier by the time you actually go to bed
Do this until you consistently sleep 6 hours between the hours of 12:30 am and 6:30 am. If you stick to a routine, even the most hardened insomniac can generally get a regular sleep schedule within 2 weeks with this method.
Once your schedule regulates, go to bed 15 minutes earlier – in this example, that’s 12:15 am. Stabilize this bedtime for one week, and change your bedtime to another 15 minutes earlier.
In 6 weeks, someone who sleeps on average 6 hours should now be sleeping an average of 7 hours.
If you do all of the above every single day, I can guarantee that you will make progress towards solving insomnia.
Keep in mind though that sometimes you can try your absolute best and do everything right to get a great sleep, yet still, sleep won’t come.
It’s ok. You didn’t fail – this process can take a few tries.
Even when you’re tired, go out and try to enjoy yourself. Go for a walk in nature, or eat your favorite food. Visit a friend and talk about silly things, or watch some funny videos online.
Deep breath…you can solve this.
You are so much more than insomnia.