Desperately seeking sleep! How I beat insomnia

Until recently sleep and I had always had a great relationship. Sure there was the odd occasion where we wouldn’t get to spend as many blissful hours in bed together as I would have liked but, in general, sleep was dependable and reliable. If sleep was a guy he would have been a dream boyfriend (pun intended).

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However, a few months ago that all changed dramatically. My boyfriend sleep suddenly did a complete 180. It took me by complete surprise and knocked me for a six. Sleep went from being my faithful partner to the type of flaky boyfriend who bails on you at the last minute. Who keeps you awake at night stressing and wondering when (or if) he’s ever going to show up.

That old cliché about not appreciating what you’ve got until it is gone certainly was the case with me and sleep. Somehow I fell into a seriously messed up pattern where I would lie in bed for hours most nights willing myself to fall asleep, only to wake up again around 3am and not be able to get back to sleep for hours. I went from being an eight hours girl to someone who was averaging around four hours a night. Not fun.

The result? Well, aside from shadows under my eyes so dark that my mineral make-up couldn’t even begin to cover them, I found myself feeling seriously seedy most days and struggling to concentrate. We’re talking head-pounding, tummy-churning stuff to rival even the worst hangover. Kind of ironic given I rarely drink these days as the thought of wasting my weekends being hungover holds zero appeal!

I’ve always known what an integral part sleep plays in our wellbeing. However, I never fully comprehended just how debilitating insomnia can be until it happened to me. But the truth is insomnia can strike any of us, especially when we’re super busy or going through a really hectic time.

Fast forward a few months and I’m happy to report that my sleeping patterns are now back to normal. Here are the six steps I took to get my relationship with sleep back on track.

·         I started taking sleep-boosting supplements

After I told our amazing wholefood dietician Larina Robinson about my insomnia she suggested I try taking magnesium and B vitamins. Larina also recommended a handful of cherries before bed to boost my melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone which regulates your sleep cycles. I found BioCeuticals Ultra Muscleze Night, worked for me. It’s a powdered supplement which contains a number of sleep-promoting ingredients including magnesium and sour cherry extract.

·         I started eating more protein

Prana mat

Did you know that what you have for dinner can have an impact on your sleep? And no, I’m not referring to stuffing your face so much that you fall into a food coma! Seriously though, I had no idea not eating enough protein could contribute to disturbed sleep until Larina told me. “It’s important to ensure you’re eating enough protein around dinner time as protein gives the brain a source of tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin which helps regulate sleep,” she explained.

·         I stopped looking at my iPhone in bed

Not only does checking emails and scrolling through Instagram make it hard to switch off and relax, but the artificial light from an iPhone or laptop can also confuse our brains into thinking it is daytime. Which means they won’t release sleep promoting hormones. So make your bedroom tech-free zone before bed!

·         I started lying on a Pranamat

My friend Sam recommended the Pranamat to help me sleep and now I’m totally hooked. It’s basically a mat covered in tiny plastic spikes which works like acupuncture to relax your nervous system.

·         I created a calming little bedtime routine

My pre-bed routine involves filling my bedroom with the smell of sleep-promoting essential oils like lavender, having a calming cup of camomile tea and doing the legs up the wall yoga pose before bed.

·         I started meditating

Sarah meditating

This has been the most recent change and is probably the one which has had the greatest impact. As I mentioned in my last Stylish Wellbeing post. I recently learnt the technique of Vedic meditation with the incredible Jacqui Lewis from The Broad Place. Learning to meditate properly has calmed my mind and been the last missing piece in my sleeping puzzle. It’s helped me get back to being an eight hours girl. After months feeling like an iPhone operating on 40% battery (not low enough to be in the red zone but definitely a lot less than optimum) I’m now fully recharged again. And it feels seriously awesome!

Sare x

Image credit from top to bottom: Thinkstock and Heidi Boardman Photography