Never before had I experienced problems sleeping. My teenage years of being able to sleep through 'til noon carried on through into my twenties and I was known to a number of my friends as Bagpuss, thanks to my incredible ability to sleep wherever, whenever. So when one night last year I got into bed and didn't fall asleep within ten minutes, I didn't know what was happening. I've slept through earthquakes before now, I've fallen asleep within minutes of finishing a coffee, I sleep. Or, I slept. Something recently has changed, and the gift that I took for granted for all those years is no longer always forthcoming. Although I'm still very capable of passing out within minutes of my head touching the pillow, more regularly these days there are nights spent tossing and turning, resulting in many a groggy morning, that I am no longer able to totally ignore.
I suspect it has something to do with my work. Despite the fact I have been self employed for a few years now, 2017 has been particularly mad for me, I work from home and have a million things on my mind at any given time. As part of my 'keeping motivated' regime I make myself find something to look forward to the next day just before I go to bed (so that I'll wake up raring to go the following morning) but I fear that may be having repercussions; there are nights when I lay awake like a child on Christmas Eve, desperate to get through the night so that I can get on with whatever it is I have planned for the next day and then there are nights when I feel more like a different child, one on the eve of an exam that they haven't revised for, frustrated, tired and panicked. The ability to turn my mind off at bed time is something that I have not yet mastered and, as a result, the more things I have whizzing around in there, the more I find myself staring at the ceiling, willing my eyes to close.
Unwilling to give into the fact that I can't sleep, I don't use the time productively. I know a lot of people who will give into it quickly, accept it for what it is and turn the lights on and start reading or pop downstairs and binge watch something on the television, invest time in a creative project or, *shudders* work all night, but I am disinclined to do that. I reason with myself and think: if I stand up or turn the light on, it will only make it harder to go back to sleep. It will also really, really, realllyyyy piss my boyfriend off, the man obsessed with sleep and how much of it he's getting. If I lived alone I suspect I would sit up for hours, well past midnight, until my mind had totally given up on thought and I would fall into a slumber. Alex trains early in the morning and then has a busy office job and by 11 the TV is switched off he's on the way to bed, to sit up alone seems antisocial, and a bit rude, so I go with him which proves to be both a blessing and a curse.
I haven't found all the answers to a perfect night's sleep. When my anxiety is bad I am still tormented by dreams of my hair falling out, when I am stressed Alex often has to wake me to tell me that I'm grinding my teeth so loudly he can't sleep and then of course there are just those nights when sleep does not come. I have however, discovered a few things that have helped me achieve a better night's sleep. The kind of night that sees you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and excited for the day, the kind of night that allows you to answer the dreaded 'and how did you sleep?' question with the answer that you've waited years to answer with: 'really well thanks.'
The temptation to list of the things that I already know to be true is massive, but I realise we have already heard the rumours on more than one occasion. There is of course truth in the fact you shouldn't drink coffee after 2pm, that you should spend some time winding down and avoiding screens before you try and drift off and we have heard a million times how incredibly beneficial exercise is to our sleeping habits. That one annoys me the most as the person who said it quite clearly has never had to psyche themselves up for exercise like I have.
We also know that we should have a tidy room, that our bedrooms should be an environment that we look forward to spending time in, that we should make our beds in the morning, light a candle, have a bath, read a book. Our parents told us that if we couldn't sleep we should try counting sheep, this never worked for me as I'd either get really competitive and set myself the target of getting to a higher number than I did the night before (think somewhere in the region of the 4000s) or I'd lose count somewhere and then get really frustrated and have to start all over again. And then of course we know about sleeping pills. Terrifyingly they are incredibly common place in the UK but, for my family at least, they are a no-no, despite her insomnia my mum will not take them and nor even will my dad, who spends a lot of time travelling and could probably do with the helping hand. They weren't encouraged for me and I don't ever foresee myself turning to them as a viable option.
So if I'm striking off all this advice as hearsay or boring, what suggestion can I possibly give you? OK. There is one more thing you can try.
Despite his obsession with getting sleep, Alex is not very lucky when it comes to actually getting it, he tosses and turns for hours and is such a light sleeper the sound of a mouse farting could wake him up, so last Christmas I did a shop around for products that might help him. During the mandatory Selfridges' Christmas shop panic I found the This Works products and basically bought the first thing that I found: The Deep Sleep, Stress Less roll on oil. I wrapped it up (a fiddly job since it's tiny), slipped it in his stocking and thought nothing of it. Every night he studiously rubs the bottle against his temples and on his wrists and I never thought to ask how he was getting on with it.
It was only when I got myself in a total tizz before I was due to go to sleep a couple of weeks ago, that he offered to rub a bit on my head. Sceptical, I said yes, not expecting anything to happen. I slept well that night, but didn't really make the connection. So every night he kept offering me the oil and every night I said yes, I was sleeping well but again, I failed to make the link. It was only when I got into bed a few hours after him one night last week, and wasn't able to access my new bedtime friend, that I realised how much I was beginning to rely on it. I tossed and turned for hours, I dreamt again about my hair being chopped off and was up at 3am for a pee. That might have been psychosomatic, but I'm not so sure. Since then I've done one night on, one night off, to work out if it really makes a difference and I can no say with confidence that it really does help me.
I have no proof this stuff works, scientifically I mean, but I have noticed a real change in my sleeping pattern over the past few weeks and this has been the only change. We already have the roll on oil but I have just ordered the pillow spray as well (since surely with that I will sleep TWICE AS WELL?!??) and I have basically decided that I simply cannot live without it.
There is a link *HERE to get both products, the pillow spray and roll on oil, for £10 (which seems like a bargain to me), the 5ml bottle has lasted Alex all year so I think that's definitely enough to be getting along with until you work out if you love it as much as I do.
I'm not a doctor, I know shit all about sleep, but I do know that when I use this stuff I sleep better, so I thought it would be rude not to at least recommend it!
Sweet dreams, let me know how you get on with it or if you have any other tips for a good night's sleep! xxx