Mighty Life List
Aug 30 2011

How Do You Fight Insomnia? My 10 Tips.

10 Tips for Fighting Insomnia | Mighty Girl

Tempur-Pedic asked me to track my sleep habits with a Fitbit and share the results. This is the first time I have been paid to sleep, but I have made it a professional goal to pursue further opportunities in this field. You know how to reach me.

Raise your hand if you ever have trouble sleeping. Actually, if it’s 3 a.m. you can let your hand fall listlessly by your side, I already saw you on Twitter.

A few of you have asked me how I like my Fitbit. Until Tempur-Pedic asked me to use one to track my sleep, I never bothered to learn how. Now, after sleep tracking for a week, I think it’s the most useful feature. It proved something I always suspected about myself. When my health and stress levels are in order, I have a straightforward relationship with sleep. Things have been going better lately, which means the worst night of sleep I got last week looked like this:

While waking up 11 times may not be ideal, I’ll take nearly nine solid hours of sleep any day. You can even throw in a nap, and I will not complain.

When I’m under heavy stress, however, my body prefers to be conscious enough to fret. As you might imagine, a few months ago I was awake. For weeks.

Because insomnia is such an indicator of anxiety for me, I do everything I can to get my sleeping habits back to normal. These are the top ten tricks that work for me:

1. Clear your head. Anxiety is a stimulant. I put stressful tasks at the top of my to do list in hopes of making headway before bed. For larger tasks I find it helps me to make a plan — a detailed list for the next day, an outline of a project that will take weeks to complete. If my worries are more emotional, I write stream-of-consciousness in a journal. This way I don’t waste sleep time worrying about things I can tackle in the morning. Speaking of which…

2. Keep a pen by the bed. There will always be something you forget to write down. Something so pressing that it jolts you from sleep at 3 a.m. Don’t regain consciousness while you worry about remembering the important thing. Write it down and roll over.

3. Get off the couch. Exercise. Harder than you usually do if you’re athletic. One of the less-touted benefits of strenuous exercise is that it exhausts you. Perfect.

4. Stop the nightly grind. This isn’t an issue for everyone of course, but I grind my teeth in my sleep. I didn’t realize how much it was waking me until I got a mouth guard, and so I mention it here. Consider it, my stress-ball friend.

5. Clear out electronics. They say you need to remove even the tiniest lights if you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythms, and maybe that’s true. Illuminated clocks are so accusatory they might as well have an exclamation point after the time. But the little charging lights on my computer, phone, iPad, camera? Those are more of a problem if I’m already awake in the dark. Each one is a tiny siren song, coaxing me to conquer another level of Plants and Zombies. Not to mention how often my phone wakes me with a late-night text or call from one of the many inconsiderate louts who I have come to love. So when I’m having trouble sleeping, all the gadgets go in the living room.

6. Don’t play dead. When I’m up, I just get up. I won’t stay in bed awake for more than fifteen minutes because I don’t want my bed to become a place where I worry about not sleeping. I’ll take a bath or go read on the couch, any activity I can do supine. And if you fall asleep in the bathtub? Success.

7. Stop taking uppers. No more caffeine. If I can’t sleep, I stop ingesting stimulants because they are chemically designed to keep me awake. (I’m wacky that way.) I’ll take a two-day withdrawl headache over a month-long stint as a zombie.

8. Shower before bed. The warmth is supposed to sleepify you, and maybe it does, but I find it relaxing just to climb into bed clean. Sleeping with freshly shaved legs is also a nice bonus.

9. Get stuck. I get regular acupuncture, and I almost never have trouble sleeping on days when I have a session. The effect is similar to a good massage.

10. Powder your nose. When you finally do get to sleep, the last thing you want is to be woken by your bladder. Use the bathroom right before bed, and limit liquid intake an hour or so before you (hope to) go to sleep.

According to the Fitbit, my bout of insomnia is mercifully in past. To whit:

BAM! How you like that, Insomnia? Come and show your face, if you got beef! Or perhaps you should come back in the morning when I’m awake. We’ll discuss your behavior over a leisurely breakfast. You can do the dishes.

So that’s what works for me. How about you? How do you get to sleep?

Let me know if you need me to come over and spoon.




If you want more information on how to buy a good mattress, you can get it here. The folks at Tempur-Pedic want me to remind you about this, “This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, because we think you deserve to get your best night’s sleep every night.” Thanks, Tempur-Pedic. You’ve got my back. (Pun brought to you by Maggie as a reward for reading the fine print. You’re welcome.)