When I was a kid, I used to have terrible nightmares. Frequently. I was fully convinced that my room was haunted. I was the youngest, so I got stuck with both no choice in the room I had and of course, I had the smallest room. But that didn’t bother me so much as the feeling that someone was literally always watching me. Just being in the room felt unsettling, for some reason. My bedroom door faced the foot of the stairs, so I would easily see if someone was coming up and I would be the first thing they saw. Guys, that freaked me the hell. Out. I’d lie in my bed with my light on, eyes wide open, staring at that damn staircase. When I got a little older I started closing my door, although that scared me too – if someone was coming, with the door closed I’d be taken completely by surprise. I’d sleep with my light on, often waking up in the morning with a book on my face; I’d fight sleep until I literally passed out. In between all of this were the bouts of sleepwalking, which I don’t remember but my sister pointed out to me a while back. So needless to say, I had a lot of anxiety and issues surrounding sleeping. I’d play ocean sound CDs on low volume in an attempt to soothe me and help me relax into sleep, but really it only made me stay awake: I was listening even harder for sounds of impending doom.
When I was about 13 or 14 we moved across town. I had none of the weird vibes in my new house that I’d felt in the old one. The night we’d moved in, I was able to sleep with the light off for the first time. I still closed my door, out of old habits, but I felt safe.
Eventually, though, I started having problems there too. I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was years of me forcing myself to stay awake, my hypervigilance to sense any danger, but nope. Sleep just didn’t come to me. There were other things, too – noise started to bother me. I couldn’t sleep unless it was absolutely quiet. I couldn’t sleep if it wasn’t absolutely dark. And even then I would spend most nights wide awake, frustrated that I couldn’t sleep, and stressed out about going to school on no sleep. The sleepwalking had stopped, I guess on account of not sleeping. But I found myself constantly zoning out at school. People would try to have a conversation with me and I’d completely space out.
It’s irritating sometimes speaking to people about issues with sleeping; they give you run of the mill “remedies”, like drinking a cup of warm milk or walking around and then getting back into bed. Those may help with occasional bouts of sleeplessness, but it’s not gonna touch someone who has been struggling with insomnia.
What I’ve found does help: getting up at a consistent time every morning, even if I didn’t sleep much or at all the night before; sleep aids, both over the counter and prescription (but always check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking if you’re on other medications, like SSRIs); using earplugs and a sleep mask; avoiding caffeine after lunchtime. Doing these things ensures I can have at least a couple of nights of good sleep a week.
What are your tips and tricks to get to sleep? Do you struggle with racing thoughts, anxiety, restlessness or all of the above?