Sleeping is easy… the sequel
Hi people of the internet!
Yes, I’m back at my favorite subject: Sleep. Why, you ask? Well, take a wild guess.
That’s right. I’m currently not sleeping well. It seems like my brain has decided that sleep is more of an optional thing these days. Which, I don’t have to tell you (but will do anyway), sucks. Big time.
In case you’re wondering, my nights currently go like this: I go over my evening routine. Washing, brushing of teeth, writing in my journal, reading in bed. Sometimes mindfullness, if I can get my head to cooperate. Lights out. And then: I don’t actually know how to describe it, except as: my brain doing everything all at once, thinking about everything (and I mean everything), playing various kinds of music (ranging from current pop to typical kindergarten songs and nursery songs), and my body getting even more twitchy than usual. It’s like turning off the lights is my body’s signal to go into full ADHD mode, including physical hyperactivity (I mean, I’m used to that, since I’m constantly twitching various muscles in my legs throughout the day, but I really don’t need the extra intense version of that, when I’m trying to fall asleep). Then half the night is spent tossing and turning. At some point, waaayyyy too late, I’ll fall asleep (if I’m lucky), dream about the weirdest stuff, and when my alarm goes off, I feel like I’ve been up for days.
Obviously, this impacts my life quite a bit. Currently, I have a lot of trouble with forgetting things. Like, I will be doing one task, and something will interrupt me, so I’ll do that, then something else, by that time I’ll usually have forgotten all about the task I was originally doing, and by the end of the day, I’ll stumble back upon that half-done task and wonder why my brain keeps doing that. It’s frustrating. But honestly, what am I going to do about it. Well, glad you asked. I have some ideas.
First things first, I’ve realized that I’ve made slight (unintended) changes to my evening routine, that are causing me to spend less time reading, be on my phone or in front of the TV longer and not manage to calm down as much. That’s obviously a problem. I’m not yet sure, how I’ll fix this, but I’ll work on it.
But what about emergency measures? Because, let’s be honest, sometimes you just need to sleep for a few hours straight, to secure some basic level of brain function. Right? I actually have some things to do there. But, and I can’t stress this enough, these are not intended as permanent solutions. Got it? Great.
- Valerian: In Germany, valerian is a pretty commonly available sleep aid. It’s relatively harmless, as it doesn’t have addicitive qualities, and is easy on the system. I’ve recently found a new type of valerian pills, that use highly concentrated ground valerian, instead of extracts. That stuff has been very helpful. I can’t take it for more than a day or two, or I will have an unreasonably hard time getting out of bed in the morning. But it’s great to get in a night of good, or at least more, sleep when I’m struggling with continued insomnia.
- Prescription medicine: I have been at a point in my life, in the past, where I was so stressed out, I actually couldn’t sleep at all for several nights in a row. Sleep deprivation leeds to more stress and depression. I felt like I was spiraling ever deeper into this vortex of awfulness. So I went to my neurologist, and had him prescribe some sleeping pills. Now, mind you, this is a measure I only, exclusively, recommend if you are truly desperate and in a loop of worrying about not sleeping, but being unable to sleep because you’re worried about not sleeping… And these meds are intended to be used for very short periods of time, for a reason. But, if you feel like you honestly need them, it’s perfectly okay to ask your doctor about them.
- Mindfullness: Mindfullness practice is incredibly helpful in calming down my brain. But, as I mentioned above, it requires focus, and I don’t really have a lot of that left over at the end of the day, at the moment. So I try to go back to the most basic mindfullness exercise I know. I focus on my breathing for a bit (five breaths, at the least), then I try to determine five things I feel/hear (depending on what is easier), some things I feel/hear (depending on what I did first), maybe two things I can smell, and one thing I taste. If I feel up for it, I take a look around the room and try to focus on lights and shadows, and the way the room looks. This can make the difference between falling asleep in a reasonable time span, and beeing up half the night, for me.
- Read Until You Drop: If you have the chance (aka, if it won’t wake up other people/animals sleeping in your bed), and nothing gives, I find just reading until I absolutely cannot keep myself awake, and then going to bed, is an effective, if not ideal, measure. This is best employed, if you have the following day off. I try to do this, if I realize I simply can’t fall asleep, no matter how long I stay in bed. I’m sure you know the piece of advice, where you’re supposed to get up, if you can’t fall asleep. Well, I sleep with my husband, and I’m not going to wake him, because I can’t sleep, unless I absolutely can’t stand it anymore. So I don’t do it often. But if I do, it’s wildly effective, and doesn’t take as long as I usually think. Obviously, you could also do other things that tire you out, but I recommend keeping away from watching TV or similar activities (because blue light, bla bla bla).
I honestly can’t think of any more things right now, but these work relatively well for me, when all else fails. Especially the last one always works, but as I’ve said, it has some serious downsides.
Also, I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to not put a lot of pressure on ourselves sometimes. If you’re having a bad sleep week (or month, or…), you will probably need to scale you expectations back a bit. If you don’t get enough sleep, your ADHD brain is going to have even more trouble than a neurotypical brain would have. So you should give yourself a pass, if you’re not as productive, or active, or whatever, as you thought you would be. It’s okay to take a break.
Have a nice week, and sleep well!