Understanding Your Insomnia and What to Do About It

My first experience of insomnia was in college, and it was terrible. When you can’t sleep, it feels like a loss of control. You feel betrayed by a body that won’t take what it badly needs.

I had no idea that I could survive on so little sleep, and no idea how to make it better. That is, until I did some research, tried out what I found, and made progress in tackling my insomnia. The first and most important question to ask yourself about your insomnia is where it might be coming from. Keep reading for different possible causes, and what to do about it.

Is it Related to Mental Health?

If insomnia has recently flared up, ask yourself what else has changed during that time. Have you become more stressed? Has your mental health been suffering? Anxiety, depression, and a variety of other psychological concerns can contribute to difficulty sleeping at night.

If this is something you’re wondering about, perhaps now is the time to seek out psychotherapy. Finding a licensed psychologist, mental health counselor, or therapist to help you explore your difficulties might make a big difference in your ability to sleep at night.

Alternatively, if you have already been diagnosed with a mental disorder, and also take psycho-therapeutic medication for such, it is also possible that your meds are contributing to the problem. Did your insomnia correspond with an increase in dosage of your meds? If so, it might be worth revisiting your psychiatrist or prescribing physician to explore other options.

Either way, you might find it helpful to practice mindfulness or journaling before bed to help calm your thoughts. You could stretch or do yoga to relax your body.

Do You Have Negative Associations with the Space Where you Sleep?

One lessor known contributor to symptoms of insomnia is the fact that our brains can (sometimes unfortunately) make associations between certain locations and the ability or inability to sleep.

Think of it this way: after weeks of insomnia, every time you walk in to your bedroom, you may subconsciously start to dread the experience of another sleepless night. Perhaps, over time, that sense of dread becomes strong enough to reinforce the belief that you won’t be able to sleep.

As my mom always says, “Your brain believes what you tell it.” So, if your bedroom surroundings are accidentally telling your brain, “Get ready to not sleep until 4:00am,” that’s obviously problematic. In this way, the bedroom can easily become a place of chaos, frustration, and confusion. This isn’t the best environment for a restful night’s sleep.

Instead, it might help to change the environment of your room. If your room is usually messy, clean it up. If you usually get into an unmade bed, try making your bed each morning. If you have essential oils, try diffusing lavender in your bedroom before you sleep. Perhaps you might even try moving your bed to another part of the room to signify a “fresh start” to your sleeping routine. In my experience, anything you can do to break your normal routine can be helpful.

Is it the Quality of your Bed Materials?

Another easily overlooked aspect of a good night’s sleep is what you’re sleeping on (and under). Once when I was having trouble getting comfortable, I realized I that the comforter I was using was designed for cold winter weather. Although I didn’t put it together before, I realized I wasn’t sleeping in part because I was too hot!

Take an inventory of your bed, pillows, blankets, and comforter. Do you have too many blankets, or not enough? One thing that many people don’t know is that pillows need to be replaced at least every 1-2 years. That’s something to consider replacing for relatively cheap.

If you’re sleeping on an older mattress, it might also be worth considering getting a new one. Places like Puffy Mattress offer really good prices and have super high ratings. If you’re interested, use the code BESTPUFFY at this link to try to get $250 off! (You should know that I’m an affiliate with Puffy, so when you purchase, I will get a commission. It’s a good deal for both of us).

I’m hoping that feeling more comfortable in a cozy bed will be enough to push you into sleep a little sooner in the night.

Is it a Medical Problem?

Insomnia can often accompany a variety of medical problems: head injuries, diabetes, neurological disorders, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular issues are all possible causes. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to a physician, perhaps your insomnia is your body’s first signal that something else is going on.

To those of you struggling with insomnia, I am truly sorry! Know that you’re not alone, and there is hope that you will sleep soundly again. Hopefully these ideas help speed that process along.

What about you? What helps you sleep at night?