I have had issues with sleep since the 4th grade.
At that time, I was a child of two worlds. This is also known as living with mom during the week and living with dad during the weekend.
During the week, I was inundated with the strict Catholicism that my mother tried to use as a tool to enforce my obedience. On the weekend, my newly sober father was multi-tasking: he was learning how to be a father again (as he was drunk when he was supposed to be doing those duties when my siblings were my age) by basically letting me do whatever and spoiling the shit out of me (a common tactic divorced dads usually resort to in an effort to curry favor with their children). Occasionally, he’d alternate spoiling me with letting me know how he really felt about my mother.
One time he dropped me off from school and laid this one on me: “I would be getting out of prison right about now if I had killed your mother.” I was still in the 4th grade at the time.
Freshly divorced parents are too self absorbed to realize that if there is a kid in the picture, that the familial schism that their hubris has caused is going to fuck up the kid more than it ever will them.
So, from the 4th to the 8th grade getting quality sleep was a pain in the ass for me. If I couldn’t shut my brain off at night, I was getting to bed on time only to wake up an hour later unable to get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. By the weekend, I was completely fucked because my father wanted to be ‘the cool dad’ so it became normal for him to let me sleep until the afternoons.
Bear this in mind: I harbor no ill-intent towards either of my parents. I’m just illustrating how sleep was a hard won ally for me.
From high school until the present day, I didn’t fare much better. Sure, I got better at understanding people and how they worked. And sure, gainful weekend employment coupled with social activities made going to sleep at the end of the night a breeze thanks to sheer exhaustion. But getting enough quality sleep has always been a pain.
In recent years, if it hasn’t been anxieties about employment, or the future, it’s been about someone else: a new baby, a sick child, or a light sleeper sleeping next to me.
Since I have become the resident Resident of my family and since I have accepted the fact that I can’t burn the candle at both ends (like I did in my youth now that I’m in my mid-30’s) sleep is my favorite hobby.
Unfortunately, there are still some incidences where I can’t turn my brain off.
What to do in the Event of a Sleep Malfunction.
Before I go further, I should re-iterate that I’m not a sleep expert, nor am I a medical professional.
I’m just another asshole who has an opinion and can kind of write good.
If you’re having trouble sleeping for a prolonged period of time (longer than a week), quit dicking around and make a doctor’s appointment. I personally hate hospitals and I have a general disdain for doctors. However if there’s something keeping me from sleeping that may be “internal” you better damn well believe I’m making the appointment.
If you can’t bring yourself to do that, here is a short list of things that have worked for me in the past. (Maybe something herein will work for you too).
- Ear plugs and an eye covering of some sort. Yes, it’s a very thin line that separates you from a bird in a bird cage when you use these tools but sensory deprivation fucking works. I don’t use ear plugs often because they get irritating after a while, but I do make it a habit to cover my head. No light = better sleep.
- Daily physical activity (a.k.a keep yourself so busy through the course of the day that you have no choice but to go to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow). Think of it this way: you’re earning your right to sleep at the end of the night.
- Writing and meditation. Both are very effective means of helping you shut your brain off. I use the writing because I live with four different and dynamic people. Sometimes they do shit and behave in a way that makes me want to squeeze their heads so hard that their brains shoot out of their assholes. Instead of doing that, I write about the stupid shit they do that pisses me off. In doing so, I’m able to strike an understanding of said behavior and come to a middle ground without entertaining the idea of exactly how much Comet I would need in order to clean up feces and grey matter. The meditation has helped in the past because sometimes you just need to sit down and breathe. The only problem with that is that you need to make yourself do it consistently so it becomes a habit. Here are the apps that I use: Stop, Think, and Breathe, Meditation Studio by Gaiam.
- Alternate methods and drugs. As far as the ‘alternative methods’ are concerned, they’re pretty simple. The first one that I started using was to have a cup of ‘sleepy’ tea. Lame sounding, but it works. Lately I have been partial to Sleepytime Celestial Seasonings with Echinacea. It’s fucking delicious and is just as good as a traditional ‘night cap’. Sure, I have to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss, but it’s a small price to pay for quality sleep. My recent addition to my sleep regimen has been leaving one of my feet uncovered. I read an article on Mental Floss that explains the science behind it and guess what? It fucking works. I get to sleep faster. My last method I don’t do as often as I should: it’s taking a cold shower before bed. Doing this is the real life equivalent of getting hit over the head with a sledge hammer. I first came across this when Tim Ferriss included it in his book, The 4 Hour Body and came across it again when AOM did a post on it as well. It works. And yes, you get used to the blast of cold water on your bits rather quickly. With respect to taking pills to go to sleep, I haven’t taken any that require a prescription (yet). When it comes to over the counter drugs like Benadryl and Melatonin, I highly suggest that you tread lightly and do your own research. Speaking for myself, both drugs have consistently left me sleep drunk (I need to take a nap shortly after getting up in order for the fog of drugs to dissipate). This may not be the case with you. Again, tread lightly.
Have a sleep ritual or trick you’d like to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments!