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For years I have suffered from insomnia. It seemed to go with the territory of working full-time and raising a family, due to all of life’s demands. It was something I thought I had to just accept at this stage in my life.
But, I was wrong. I didn’t have to wait till I retired or the kids grew up to sleep again. Taking these three simple steps changed my life. I only wish I had discovered them earlier.
I leave for work at 7:30 a.m. But, I wake up often at 4 a.m. Waking up two hours before my alarm clock makes me feel frustrated and stressed. I would lie in bed anxiously begging my body to allow me to get 2 more hours of sleep. Most often that wouldn’t happen and I ended up watching the minutes change on the clock instead.
And, when I didn’t fall back asleep, I already would have a negative expectation for the day.
Feeling like I haven’t had enough sleep makes me desperate to try anything from new nightly routines or sleeping pills, etc It’s an awful cycle when nothing seems to work. It sets the tone of a negative vibe for the day, right from the get-go.
Insomnia can be caused by anxiety, stress, hormones and other emotional or psychological issues. No matter the cause, it is a frustrating place to be and does affect the quality of life.
Step 1: Stop Fighting It
I started reading about a number of highly successful people that are early risers. It got me thinking that maybe I should just stop fighting it. In 2016 the Wall Street Journal made a claim that 4 a.m. is the hour of the most creativity and productivity.
The theory had a lot of backlash on Twitter from people that prefer sleeping in, but I decided I wanted to give it a try. Since I wake up often at 4 am, maybe I could just go ahead and start my day. It would give me me 2-2 1/2 hours before the family typically wakes up and an opportunity for “me” time and self-care.
A post on lifehack.org notes that if you wake up just one hour earlier each day, you gain 15 days in one year. For someone that feels like there is just never enough time, 15 extra days is a game changer. So how could this be a bad thing?
With 1-2 extra hours per day I could actually exercise before work, complete devotions and write in my bullet journal, read a few chapters of the novel I never have time to read, draw, have dinner prepared in the crock pot — and so much more.
And, without feeling like there was something “wrong” with waking up at that hour it made me kind of excited to get a jump start on the day.
“Set a goal that makes you want to leap out of bed at 4 a.m.” – unknown
I read once that to a have life full of purpose and passion you should find a reason to leap out of bed at 4 a.m. At the time that sounded crazy, but with these three action steps I have come around to actually be excited to wake up and disappointed if I sleep in.
The extra time gives me such a feeling of accomplishment because I have so much done before I’ve even started the day. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders and makes me feel lighter. This was ironic and not something I would have ever dreamed possible a few years back.
Another bonus benefit I found by early rising is I have started to appreciate the value of nature. I enjoy crisp morning walks in solitude and witness incredible sunrises. I have found that starting out my day appreciative of nature, is grounding and a great start.
All that being said, it’s important to mention that I do go to bed fairly early and average 6-8 hours of sleep. But, I’m totally okay with that since my days are so productive and I feel rested.
Step 2: Bullet Journal
A bullet journal or BuJo is considered a life hack that makes your brain feel better as a sort of internal filing cabinet. It is not a “Dear Diary” type of journal, but rather a personalized place for you to write down everything that matters. It’s a type of planner to record anything from daily tasks, goals, dreams and track habits instead of keeping them all in your head.
It was created by Ryder Carroll, an digital product designer from New York that was diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life. As such, he was forced to figure out alternate ways to be focused and productive.
Through his challenging life experiences, he developed a methodology that went far beyond simple organization and is considered an art form of intentional living.
Even Vogue describes bullet journals as “KonMari for your racing thoughts.”
I found that often when I’m lying in bed, unable to sleep, that’s exactly what happens. My mind races with thoughts and worries that I might forget something important.
The basics of Kondo’s method of decluttering are to sort items by categories, keeping items that spark joy, and releasing other items that no longer serve a purpose.
I find that I agree with Vogue. A BuJo allows me to categorize topics in my head on paper. In doing so, I chose to either allow it to spark joy and write it down with a plan of action or decide to release it and forget about it. Tracking things in one written spot stops my brain from going in overdrive trying to keep up.
It’s become so popular that people are getting fancy in their bullet journals with creative headers and colorful pages.
You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the benefits of a bullet journal.
It could be as simple as choosing a pretty color marker to use and making that particular page look great.
For me, it’s a customized space to get creative without a huge demand of my time.
Spending a few minutes in the morning planning my day fulfills an inner need for creativity. The colorful charts and letters also produce a sense of pride because of how great they look.
It’s almost a whole different topic, but I have found another benefit to embracing a few minutes of daily creativity through a bullet journal is that it improves problem-solving skills. It seems to open the flood-gates of ideas once that ball starts rolling. It’s been a huge noticeable difference to me and I enjoy it in all aspects of life.
Step 2: A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets seem to be popular these days. They are used often as a treatment for autism or sensory issues, but have gained popularity as a treatment for insomnia
The blankets have pellets inside to create the weight. Users claim the deep touch pressure (DTP) is similar to a tight hug or a massage. This is important because DTP raises serotonin levels which is good for relaxation.
A study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders notes that a weighted blanket that is more than 10% of the person’s weight has been found to have beneficial and calming effects. The participants in the study experienced a decrease in nightly movement under the blanket and had improved sleep. Raised serotonin, along with less activity for the nervous system, allowed the individuals to calm down enough before bed.
This increase in calming feelings is apparently why weighted blankets help insomnia. And, what’s also great about it is that it’s a non-pharmaceutical approach.
I was skeptical, but also very curious about the weighted blanket craze. It couldn’t hurt to give it a try so I bought one.
I’ve always liked heavy blankets so I went with the 20 pound size. It is heavy, but I really like it! The weight feels snug and cozy in a way that a regular blanket cannot.
A weighted blanket is not just hype that ran it’s course after the placebo effect wore off. I enjoy my weighted blanket nightly and it’s been over 1 1/2 years.
The cozy weight helps me fall asleep and keeps me so snug that I barely toss and turn. I realized quickly that if I go without the blanket, I have a much harder time falling and staying asleep. On my next overseas trip I will sacrifice 20 pounds of weight for the blanket. I’d choose the blanket over extra clothes any day because it makes such a difference to my well-being.
Are you an insomniac? Have you tried to stop fighting it, bullet journals, weighted blankets or found other things that help? Please comment and share below: