Saturday, 13 August 2016

Things to do when you can't sleep

I've had issues with sleeping for years now. As a teenager I'd lie awake reading or writing into the small hours of the morning. This was pre-internet so when you hit the end of a project or book there was no one to share that moment with.

Nowadays I don't really have any trouble falling asleep. It's the staying asleep that I struggle with. For the last couple of months I've fallen into a pattern of waking somewhere in the region of 2am and then falling asleep anywhere from two to four hours later.

For the most part, I'm okay with this (if slightly put out that this time it's just plain old insomnia and not pregnancy insomnia like last year). I might feel a little bit sleepy the following day, it just means I fall asleep sooner when I go to bed. Actually, if I stop up as late as possible, I'll often sleep until a more respectable time the following morning.

So here are some of the things I'm doing with this time, along with some photos of a sleepy labrador, since there aren't any photos of me sleeping!

I like to read. You may have noticed that.

It's easier to read at night if I'm reading on my Kindle, since I don't need to put the light on or fumble around with a torch in order to see my page. In the past we didn't have curtains which block the light out so this wasn't as much of an issue in the summer; now, ebooks are handy for early morning reading sessions.

Reading is a good strategy since it relaxes you and I always find it makes my eyes tired. Plus there are certain books (and authors) that are like literary sleeping pills.

Listening to music
Sometimes my eyes are tired and I don't feel like reading, but I'm still frustratingly awake. Now we've got internet access I can pull up playlights on Spotify which match my mood. Something gentle or relaxing is good.

Or you can try a touch of reverse psychology on yourself. Play something upbeat and jazzy, try and sing along to it (quietly if you're sharing your room or bed with someone else). A mini disco might not send you to sleep, but it'll keep you occupied.

Listening to white noise
I only tried this for the first time last night and I can't really say whether it helped. I downloaded one called 'Nature Sounds' last night, well, this morning, around 5am. The idea is you're given a selection of scenarios which you can select. They're things like 'Relaxing Ocean' and 'Waterfall' which play sounds you might expect to hear in that place. Mine gives you the option to add addition effects, like the wind blowing or a campfire crackling, depending on the one you pick.

Honestly, I'm not really sold on it. It took me a couple of goes to find one which didn't irritate the hell out of me. I thought the 'Calm Night' one would suit but there was some damn owl which kept hooting. In the end of went for something like 'Summer Forest'.

It gives you the option to set a timer so it automatically turns itself off once you've fallen asleep. I listened to it for about ten minutes in total but didn't feel any more relaxed or sleepy. But I did fall asleep about fifteen/twenty minutes after listening to it. I'm going to try this one again and report back.

Colouring In
I'm yet to try this one either. I'm a big fan of my colour book collection and I do find colouring in incredibly relaxing. The downside is that this would require me to leave my nice cosy bed and relocate to the living room in order to spread out all my books and pencils.

Of course, getting out of bed seems sort of counterproductive, after all, you need to be in bed to actually sleep. But sometimes I do wonder if getting out of bed would stop me from trying to sleep and so allow my body to relax or something. I feel like this is one to try at the weekends, rather than on a 'school night' so that if I need to crawl back into bed at 6am after creating a masterpiece, I don't have to worry about dozing off at my desk.

This is a technique I've used to get to sleep for as long as I can remember and it ties into my lucid dreaming as well. Put simply, I tell myself stories as I lie there in the darkness.

As a child these were usually linked to whatever book or film I'd read or seen that day. Nowadays I'll play around with scenarios and characters in stories I'm working on. Going back twenty-three years it was like an early form of fan fiction; now it's like a way of playing around with different scenarios without committing to anything on paper.

I think this sends me to sleep simply because I've used it as a way of winding down in my sleep routine for so long. There are certain 'stories' which seem to send me to sleep quicker than others. The problem is, it gets a little boring going over the same things and often when I mix them up, they stop sending me to sleep because my tired little brain wants to know what's going to happen next in the story.

Just getting up
As with the colouring in scenario, this would require me to unsnuggle myself from the bed and get up. But again, it's an option.

If, like me, you live with someone else, you're kind of limited on just how much you can do if you decide to get up in the middle of the night. Mr Click's a fairly heavy sleeper, but if I decided to do some vacuuming or, I don't know, start doing woodwork or something, I think he'd probably notice. Watching a film on my laptop, blogging or taking the dog for a walk (if it's light enough) are all options.

Reading online I found a couple of sites that suggested that people often wake up between 2am and 4am because of a drop in blood sugar. And I thought this might be my reason for waking. So I have gotten out of bed to grab a snack (actually, I've taken to just keeping a pack of digestive biscuits on my side of the bed). I can't honestly say this has helped though, I like to fall asleep with the taste of toothpaste in my mouth; eating a digestive biscuit just means all I can taste is biscuit and it puts me off.

Sometimes I think that the reason I'm awake is simply because I'm done sleeping. Especially if I've gone to bed pretty early. Historically people used to wake and go out before returning to bed for their 'second sleep'. Maybe I should take a leaf out of their books and just go with the flow.

What do you do when you can't sleep?


  1. I was going to say something about the second sleep thing. Perhaps you should just make it a habit to get up at that time.

    1. I think on non-work nights I'm going to try it and see if I need a nap in the afternoon or something.


Let me know what you think. :-)