This will be a first for me. Writing a "tip" blog, that is. Not being up all night. Definitely not being up all night. This is for all my dear fellow insomniacs. Hopefully, something will help!
I've had trouble sleeping as far back as I can remember. I clearly remember being a small child (think 3-5) and lying in bed for hours staring at the ceiling, trying to sleep. I wasn't much of a napper, either. That was always more of just a "lie down" time for me.
It has, of course, gotten worse as I've gotten older. I was destined to have insomnia. It runs rampant in my father's family, and my mother and her father are (were, in his case) narcoleptics. The funny thing about narcolepsy is that the disorder really isn't that you just fall asleep on command, I mean, it is...but it's because of the underlying insomnia. My mother is up and down all night, without medication. On a good night, she'll get about 4 hours of sleep, usually in 1-1.5 hour increments. Not a fun way to live.
So I wanted to share with you, some of the tips and tricks that have helped me. And probably some that haven't.
• Earplugs: The most helpful thing to me yet. The overwhelming majority of my problem is/was that I am a super light sleeper, who apparently has bionic hearing whilst sleeping and falling asleep. But no other time. Every little thing would wake me or keep me awake. They've been a lifesaver. And I can still hear my alarm or any emergency sounds just fine.
• Melatonin: I've taken melatonin off and on for probably 3-4 years now. What it helps (me) with is the falling asleep process. It definitely makes me drowsy within 30-45 minutes. I wouldn't say that it is always strong enough to keep me asleep, but I have had mornings after I've taken it too late, that I felt hungover. So...
I will say that this is not necessarily a medication, it does occur naturally in our bodies. Some just don't process it correctly or enough.
• Meditation: Yes, I've tried it. No, it didn't work for me. I don't think. I've tried a few methods (concentrating on one word slowly over and over, clearing the mind, focusing on sleep), and I just didn't get the results. I think the goal is probably relaxation of the mind, but that rarely happens to me ever anyway. It may work for you, though.
• Praying: It has worked most of the time. I am the praying type, if you're not, that's ok. I have fallen asleep in the middle of praying (in bed, at night, not just anywhere) so many times that I don't have numbers. I've also prayed specifically for sleep many times when it seemed like I wouldn't get there myself. He made us, He knows our physical bodies need rest, and He wants us to take care of what He's created. Why wouldn't He give you sleep? (There are times when this hasn't worked...but only when He wanted me to listen or figure out something)
• Other medication: I've taken a few OTC sleeping meds, and none of them have worked. Not even the PM types of regular pain relievers, sinus meds, whatever. Though NyQuil type things make me hibernate for days, the sleep or PM stuff makes me crawl walls. I'm just weird. I've only taken a prescription med once, and I didn't notice much difference from the melatonin, but maybe once wasn't enough.
• Listening to music: Does not relax me enough to sleep. I love music, and I think it is very relaxing. However, music keeps my brain active, which keeps me awake. Though it might help some.
• Beverages: Some swear by warm milk, which I've never tried, and some have other remedies. My 2 most helpful would be either a glass of cold chocolate milk or a glass of wine. I really have no idea why the chocolate milk works...definitely not the same reason the wine does, I do know that.
• Exercise: Honestly, this is probably the best guarantee of sleep I know. If I've worn myself out during the day, I'm going to sleep that night. Whether it is planned exercise periods during the day, or just a very busy, very hectic day, as long as I've been very active, I will sleep. I've also tried relaxing exercises at bedtime (think yoga and stretching), and I've gotten good results from that. I think if you just empty the tank, your body will have to recharge to go again tomorrow. At least a vast majority of the time.
• the Bed: Some say to keep the bed sacred, and only for sleeping, as it will help you into the mindset of sleep. This has never mattered with me. I love my bed, and sometimes spend all day in my bed, and still sleep at night! But if this is a problem for you, find other places to do work, eat, watch tv, etc.
When all else fails: Nap! Do some research, and you'll find that many successful, high-profile people are nappers. They usually also don't sleep much at night, thus necessitating the nap. It doesn't have to be long; a 20 minute power nap is one of the most refreshing things ever. As an adult, I have become a napper. I noticed the benefits during grad school, and would often slip in a nap between my classes, work, and all the volunteer jobs I held. It really helps me.
This is not, by any means, exhaustive, but I do hope something helps you, or someone you know. It is such difficult issue to deal with.
What helps you most?