Once the lockdown set in, I have had trouble finding my way back to the world of peaceful sleeping! I am always anxious, scared, agitated, worried. This reflects in everything I do. the blogs I write, the art I create, the life I lead and its addictions. I had been trying my hands at new life choices. No amount of sculpting, sewing, sourdough and biryani making, gardening helped me get a good night’s sleep.
Then I contacted the disease itself. Only exhaustion could put an end to the daily dose of agonizing insomnia. I researched endlessly and put new strategies in place almost everyday to get my share of 7 hours sleep night.
I will put them to word. My word, you can experiment with some of the techniques and try and see what works for you. remember to take care of your mental health and body, not to prioritizing any person, addiction, relationship or work before this stressful situation and be at peace with the body cloak you have grown habituated with.
But before we deep dive, you need to find the core of the problem.
The reason why I could not get enough sleep is because I had grown a distressing amount of screen addiction. If the boyfriend would take away the phone (we are in a live in share), I would scream and throw a tantrum just to get the phone back and get into the vortex of Instagram and Youtube. The first one would show be stunning locales and gorgeous gold jewelry while the latter would show me a dystopic world, with Vice newsmen running at the ISIS battlefields amidst battered Kurdish soldiers. Of course, “the cameraman never dies”! But she is not the face I see and I often forget about her beautiful tactics to exist!
You need to find the root of the problem to work towards a solution. What is it keeping you awake at night? Depression? Anxiety? Insomnia? Physical distress? Trauma? Screen addiction? Your human mechanism is deigned in a way that a sound sleep is crucial for replenishing and refueling your body. Once you have identified a problem, we could work towards a solution. If needed, I highly encourage taking clinical suggestion.
Practice listening to White noise
Listening to white noise makes me sleep like a baby. It reminds me of the childhood days I spent in Behala when the world was drowning in a deluge! Come every monsoon, Kolkata and a large part of southern West Bengal will be inundated in knee deep water. Things changed with the introduction of planned sewerage system but I had seen banana floaters at the narrow side-lanes and I thought they are fun!
Listening to the sound rain brings me peace. I intend to name my child, “Petrichor”. I usually tune in to youtube, search for a rain sound with storms and sleep come kissing me sooner than light! I feel comfortably cold, safe and wrapped in a bubble of a beautiful make belief world.
White noise is a choice of static sound that helps you concentrate, puts a new born to calming sleep and often can be compared with the calm that chanting brings to the faithful. I also have an app that plays such sounds on my phone. They are free and effective tool for finding the elusive comfort at bed time!
Stay away from media devices
I know this is difficult when you are also listening to white noise but this one rule must be strictly enforced to ensure proper sleep time. Allow your mind and eyes 30 minutes before sleep time when you are not glued to a screen. Be it a laptop, a mobile or a tablet. I envy the boomer generation for this one great habit they had inculcated!
Develop a sleeping habit
A nighttime routine is important. A long practiced habit basically directs your brain to follow a system. As legends say, old habits die hard. After supper, brush your teeth, follow a skin care regime, tie your hair in a high knot, walk at the balcony for a while, call up your family, and go off to bed. You may also practice journaling or reading a book for a while before you turn the lights off. One day, you put a hard stop and follow this active routine which also makes you feel good, chances are you will adhere to this!
Comfort should be priority
The bedroom should be comfortable and a place that echo the essence of home. I recall staying in this grand property in Leh when I was sick but I could barely get sleep for three hours at night. At the same time, I would come back home and sleep on the mattress lying on the floor (we have not bought a bed yet), and I would be a log for next 10 hours. That is what home does. Magic!
You can lit an oil lamp with beautiful aroma ruminating in the room. Ample air must be let you, ideally natural. I do not like to sleep in AC but if that works for you take an informed decision based on the opportunity cost to the environment by using an AC.
The bed should be made every night before you go to sleep with fresh sheet and comfortable pillows. I being a Bengali girl need my bolster although I do perfectly good without a pillow!
Exhaustion is magic
If your sleeping problem persists, try to exhaust your body. Often times, lack of sleep is caused due to lack of physical exhaustion. Your mind may be tired with the day’s routine, but the body retains energy. It is time to get over the sedentary lifestyle and wear your body out. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Practice cardio and free hand exercise. Sweat it out and the body will crave for a sound night’s sleep. Needless to say, regular exercising will have profound impact on uplifting one’s mental health. More on that will come on a separate blog post.
Destress is Magical!
Stress takes a larger toll on our body and mind than we can even imagine. It can rob the night’s sleep, keep your mind occupied with a fixated thought and wear out your body’s immunity.
Destressing is a healing journey which is mostly induced by own self. I can suggest a few of the following ideas to destress your mind and soul. These are mostly instant mood boosters and not medically prescribed.
- Smelling aromatherapy oil
- Hot shower
- a face mask followed by skin care routine
- Singing a song with beautiful lyrics
The Anulom and Pratilom Yoga practices have been helping people control oxygen intake to regularize sudden panic attacks and normalize, concentrate better and destress. Deep breathing points your mind to concentration of respiration, a focal point of any living entity. A lungful of Oxygen boosts your brain cells and brings calm almost instantaneously.
Maintain a Gratitude Journal
Writing about the things you are grateful for at the end of the day is a nice way to embrace this beautiful gif called life! It can be small things that make you happy. My gratitude journal often has entries like, my chilli seedlings are now growing… the lady finger plant has grown the first fruit.. I am thankful to have discovered a great series called Breaking Bad! I often write about the privileges I have received in life, a gentle way to remind to give back. A gratitude journal is a good way to remind you how far you have come in life!
Sleep Anxiety is a thing: Get it checked if required
While most of the tips I scribble here are derived from my research, experiments and lived experiences, it is always wise to visit a phycologist for expert advice if your issue persists. Oftentimes, sleep deprivation has a different root cause which can not be cured with popping sleeping pills and your doctors knows it the best!
Light proof the room
I for one can not sleep in a dark room unless I have the boyfriend or the brother sleeping next to me. I need to know there is a living breathing entity close to me or I would just not turn the light off. That is a sleep killer. However my fear is real and I am yet to learn how to get over this. But a person sleeping next to me would consecutively hear my request to turn off the light. Pith black bed room at night brings beautiful sleep time!
Mind your food and drink intake
Drink plenty of water, at least 2 liter for every 20 kg of body weight, in a day. At night, eat light and stay away from eating sweetmeat. What you eat directly impacts your body and its function. It is wise to take informed decision on that part too! Having a warm glass of milk with a few almonds can put you sleep for the rest of the night. I often used to confuse that with Viagra, the Indian version! Fruits like kiwi, Chamomile tea can help seal the deal as well!
A hot water shower
Often taking a shower before going to bed is all you need for a peaceful night’s sleep. I prefer warm water shower and I do not necessarily wet my hair. I apply some aromatherapy oil after the shower and the aroma lingers with me for a prolonged period. How I love that feeling! Warm water strips away the last bout of stress from my mind!
Stay away from screen
I have said this before and I will say this again. Screen addiction is a bitch which I am still battling on a daily basis and oftentimes, this is what causes a night deprived of the pleasure of sleep. Put your phone on charge at a table away from your bed, ideally in a different room and engage with another activity which would require you to concentrate. Our attention span has been reduced to a mere 13 seconds thanks to excessive use of digital media which is now ready to claim its share of meat from the night’s sleep as well.
Ration screen time for yourself and the kids too. Not just sleep, this particular habit actually contribute to a better quality of life as well!
Exercise and relax your muscle
A little walk before bed time, an aimless wandering on the balcony or rooftop, a late night stretching and yoga session can also prepare your body to embrace relaxation. The aim is to exhaust your muscles to an extent that they need resting to replenish and refuel.