We’ve been in Arizona during Covid-19 for about a month and a half. When we first got here, my sleep was off. I blamed it on jet lag being that NYC has a three hour difference and not being in my own bed/personal space. But, as the days went on, my lack of sleep was getting worse and worse.
Not only was I exhausted, but the lack of sleep was making me moody and irritable and probably not so fun to be around. I was physically and mentally drained. I honestly would dread going to bed at night because I knew the whole cycle would happen over again. It went like this: not able to fall asleep for hours, then falling asleep for about an hour or two, waking up and then staying up until sunrise. I even tried to take naps during the day to catch up on sleep – but was unsuccessful. I just couldn’t get to bed and it was incredibly frustrating.
I had never understood the importance of quality sleep until now. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is so important for your health – both mental and physical. I was having difficulty concentrating during the day and being productive, I had no motivation or energy to work out without lots of caffeine, and I was experiencing a lot of sadness and depressed feelings.
I had been in communication with my therapist about all of this and we decided together to conquer this Insomnia through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. While I don’t believe there is anything wrong with taking medication if needed, I wanted to do everything in my power to try and fall asleep naturally, without going down that route. I didn’t want to rely on a medication – even if it were a mental reliance – to fall asleep. My therapist and I went through a series of lessons where I learned about sleep cycles, the various types of insomnia, how it can evolve, how to replace negative sleep thoughts with positive ones and more.
So, what has helped me? It’s quite a few things, but I have found this list below to be super helpful. My sleep is still not perfect, but it’s getting there through hard work and dedication.
- Setting time to wind down and not activate my brain. Whether that’s reading a relaxing book, sipping on some tea, taking a bath or even doing a facial massage – anything that isn’t stimulating and will calm me down.
- Designating the bed for sleep and only getting into bed when I want to go to bed. Not watching a show, answering emails on my laptop, etc.
- Not going to bed TOO early. In NYC, I would go to bed much later than I have been here. Getting into bed super early and not actually planning to go to sleep was throwing me off.
- I found taking Melatonin and CBD gummies to be helpful, as well. They taste good, too! 😉
- Doing a 5-minute meditation has been helpful. I’ve been using headspace, but there are plenty of free options. I know that Peloton has some sleep meditations, as well. Meditating at night helps me to let go of the day – whatever happened that day whether it was good or bad -and lower my heart rate, slower my breathing and prepare me for a quality night’s sleep.
MIDDLE OF NIGHT:
- Restructuring my thoughts around waking up in the middle of the night. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would go into full on panic mode. I would have racing thoughts like, “Oh no, I’m never going to be able to fall back to sleep.” “Tomorrow is going to be a horrible day because I’m going to be exhausted.” “What is wrong with me that I’m up right now?” “I’ll never be able to get a full night’s sleep without a sleeping pill.” Having negative and stressful thoughts about sleep just worsen it because they trigger even more anxiety and frustration – making it harder to sleep! I have learned to replace my thoughts with positive ones and more helpful and accurate thoughts about sleep has been a game changer. For example, learning about sleep and that our body can properly function and adjust even if you have a bad night was helpful. It put less pressure on me to fall back to sleep.
- My therapist even recommended getting up and out of bed to do something that isn’t activating – like reading a relaxing book. The tossing and turning and building up of frustration while you’re in bed can make it worse. It’s better to get up, go do something out of the bedroom in a comfortable chair and come back when you’re ready to sleep. A much better idea than scrolling through your phone in bed at 3am, huh?
IN THE MORNING:
- I began to track my sleep with a sleep diary (see below!). It was super helpful to identify patterns and problems at the beginning. My therapist recommended I wasn’t so strict with it – not checking times at night to see what time I was waking up or falling back to sleep, but just a general idea to gather data and information.
- Limiting my caffeine – not having caffeine after noonish, as I am someone who is highly effected by coffee and caffeinated drinks.
While my sleep still is not perfect and I don’t sleep through every single night – I have seen significant improvements. I hope these tips are helpful, even if it’s just one takeaway to better your sleep! Feel free to email me or message me on IG with any questions you may have.