Recently I had a bad night of tossing and turning. I was up for a few hours, then overslept the next morning.
And while I was lying there, unable to sleep, I knew I was violating some of the beat-the-insomnia advice that experts give. Though, true, to give myself credit, I was following some advice.
These tips were on my mind, because I’d just read Andrea Petersen’s Wall Street Journal piece “Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia Blues.”
I violated one of the most basic back-to-sleep tips — the tip to get up, rather than toss and turn.
If you have trouble with insomnia, here are some of the tips from the article:
1. If you’re wide awake, get up.
I just kept lying there thinking, “I should get up.” Somehow, I couldn’t muster the energy to get up. I would’ve been a little cold, when I got out from under the covers, and I didn’t feel like reading my book…so I just stayed put. Bad idea.
2. I love this tip: If you watch TV, wear sunglasses.
Hilarious! It helps to block the light that will mess up your circadian rhythm. I couldn’t watch TV during my insomnia because (this is embarrassing to admit) my family and I were staying in a rental house, and I didn’t know how to turn on the TV. TV-watching is so confusing these days. If I’d been wide awake, I could’ve figured out how to manage the TV, but I couldn’t face the challenge in the middle of the night.
3. Don’t eat.
I make a point not to eat between dinner and breakfast, as a habit for healthy eating, but the article makes an interesting additional argument: middle-of-the-night eating can condition you to keep doing it in the future. I was reminded of a dog-training story I just read: a couple had trouble because their dog kept waking them up in the middle of the night to eat. Turned out that the dog had been conditioned to do that, because they’d had a new baby, and the father was getting up to the feed the baby, and at the same time, he gave the dog a snack. The baby started sleeping through the night, but the dog still wanted the snack.
4. Don’t sleep late the next morning.
Which I did, by accident. Usually I set my alarm, and I really don’t know why I forgot to set it that night. Bad timing, but fortunately, I slept well the next night.
5. If you get up, keep lights dim.
I’m good about doing this. It really does help. When we moved into our apartment, I was careful to make sure to put dimmable lights in the bathroom.
Interesting fact I learned: “Waking up–and staying up–in the middle of the night is more common than having trouble falling asleep.“
I wrote more sleep-related tips here: 14 tips for getting more sleep–and why it matters. I’m a sleep zealot! I’ve learned through tough experience that it’s hard to be happy, and to stick to my good habits, when I’m exhausted. In fact, “sleep” is one of the key habits for the Strategy of Foundation that I write about in Better Than Before. If you want to change a habit — any habit — getting enough sleep is a key first step.