During a recent trip to the doctor it came out that I suffered on and off from insomnia and was constantly tired. It’s not something I usually bring up with doctors anymore because a) I’ve got used to it and b) they usually just reach for the prescription pad. So I hadn’t brought it up this time either.
But when it came up I was most surprised by the doctor’s reaction. Instead of instantly reaching for her prescription pad she started asking me questions. Actually conversing with me about the problem and then she started explaining to me about melatonin production and the circadian rhythm and how we needed to look at getting mine back on track.
It was quite an interesting concept in these modern times because most of us aren’t really in to these sorts of concepts. So, while part of me thought it was rather cool that my doctor was taking a holistic approach rather than just reaching straight for the prescription pad, a part of me was trying very hard not to burst out laughing.
The main things I now have to focus on to try and get my rhythm back are essentially threefold:
- Evening exercise: this one kind of goes against a lot of what I know about insomnia. Most of the advice I’ve read warns against exercising too close to bedtime due to the resulting increased levels of adrenaline and/or endorphins or whatever in the body. My doctor’s idea seems to be in tiring myself out and helping to stretch out the leg muscles which twitch and cause me problems once I settle in for the night. I guess timing will be critical.
- Earlier bedtime routine: I always knew that I needed to try and get myself in to a better routine when it came to my bed time and it definitely aligns with all the advice I’ve read for insomnia and sleeplessness.
- Cognitive calming: this is the trickiest part, particularly in this age of technology. At its most basic it is the winding down before bedtime and relaxing of the brain – nothing that stimulates the mind. So, I’m not allowed to watch TV or use my computer, iPad or mobile phone in the couple of hours before bedtime because of the effect they can have on my brain’s ability to cognitively relax. Read up on blue lights and melatonin production.
So how am I going so far? Well, the exercise is not working out very well for me at all, no pun intended. I have only exercised once in the past week, not counting the night I did calf stretches, so I really need to work harder on that. The new, earlier bedtime routine, thankfully, has not caused me too much trouble. There has actually been only one night in the past week where I have not made it to bed on time. Next weekend may prove to be a challenge, though, when daylight savings ends and I have to start going to bed even earlier.
The cognitive calming is definitely proving to be a challenge. Seriously, do you know how hard it is to not watch TV or use a mobile phone or play on a computer or iPad of an evening? I’d never really thought about it before myself, but now that I can’t do any of the above, it’s kind of like being grounded and I’ve done nothing wrong. I have failed at it more than a couple of nights in a row and ended up watching TV or playing games on my iPad or sneakily tweeting the night away. Unfortunately, the truth is I have actually noticed a difference between the technology-free nights and the nights I broke my grounding so-to-speak. The nights I used the technology I found it much harder to switch off when I went to bed and I lay awake thinking about things for much longer than the nights I was technology free.
But the fact remains, what do you do when your usual routine is taken away from you? My first thought, as a bookworm, was ‘can I read instead?’ Because, honestly, that would be awesome and I have that many books on my To Be Read list it’s getting shameful. But my doctor’s advice was that reading would be a suitable alternative as long as the books weren’t too stimulating; i.e. it has to be a book I can easily put down – not a ‘page-turner’. That pretty much throws most of my reading list out the window! If a book doesn’t enthral me so much that I can’t put it down, I’m not sure I want to read it.
am try to be a crafty person, so I have pulled out my crocheting and cross-stitching projects and figured I might finally make a dent in those. So far, I’ve finished one crochet square, which only had three rows left to go on it anyway…
I’ve also pulled out a couple of my notebooks and taken up writing in my journal again. It was a little disheartening to realise the last time I wrote in my journal was two years ago. But perhaps, if I can’t use my computer before bedtime, I can start writing down ideas in my notebooks or do some free writing activities or something.
I’ve even contemplated doing housework of an evening. That would double as exercise after all, and then I wouldn’t feel quite so bad on the weekends when I spend an afternoon catching up on TV instead of doing the laundry or cleaning the kitchen…
The doctor thinks it will take about three months to notice if it’s made any sort of difference so, in the meantime, I guess I’ll be having all sorts of adventures in nothingness!