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I’m so glad it could help! I’ve been in the exact same situation. I basically have sucked at sleeping my whole life (like legit couldn’t sleep like a normal baby at two months old! My parents were pissed cause I wouldn’t take naps) and only recently have been starting to get things in order where I don’t feel so terrible all the time.
It’s been really interesting hearing about sleep from my sleep specialist as well as my psychiatrist (for adhd). My psych had mentioned how sleep problems are very common with adhd, insomnia especially but also my other sleep disorder (delayed sleep phase disorder) so it’s really easy to built up anxiety about sleeping because of past experience with issues about sleep. Then from my sleep doctor, he had said as well that sleep anxiety is very common and is a root cause for things like chronic insomnia.
Most of the advice my sleep doc has given has all been lifestyle change related. He couldn’t even prescribe meds to be honest. Here is the best and most concise list from his advice about creating healthy sleep patterns:
- Consistent sleep and wake times. aka no “recovering sleep” on weekends by getting up hours later or sleeping in late because you stayed up late. Get up at the same time everyday and if you’re tired, take a nap within a few hours of waking up.
- Consistent night-time routine like listen to some music, wash your face, brush your teeth, write or draw or read. Just things you do every night before bed) because it helps form an association with those activities and sleeping
- No blue light as long before bed as you can, minimum 1 hour. So don’t watch tv, go on your computer or phone without a bluelight filter or blue light glasses like these from amazon that I have and love.
- No stimulating activities an hour or more before bed. you have to know what makes you sleepy or fires you up. Like reading before bed for me is great cause it makes me tired but I can’t play video games because it’ll get me too hyped. Some people will start to read a book and keep reading until they finish it though so then that doesn’t work for them.
- Do NOTHING in bed except sleep and sex. For real, do not lay in bed to relax. Do not eat. Do not browse your phone. Don’t read. Don’t watch tv. Hell, if you’re trying to fall asleep at night and not sleeping after some time you’re not even supposed to stay in bed).
- Limit caffeine intake in general, but especially in the afternoon. So from working in a coffee shop for years, my tolerance for caffeine is wild but also so is my knowledge on the subject. Caffeine has a half life of 6-8 hours! That means if you have a cup of coffee (avg 12oz cup of coffee has about 120mg of caffeine in it), then 8 hours later, you still have 60mg of caffeine in your body. That’s just short of a shot of espresso. So know how caffeine affects you and try not to have it in the afternoon or just in smaller doses (like a cup of green tea may have 30-40mg of caffeine)
- Exercise regularly but know how it affects you. Some people become exhausted by exercising and it helps put them to sleep. Some people are left energized and it prevents them from sleeping after working out. Exercising leaves your heart rate elevated for hours afterwards. General recommendations is to be done working out at least 4 hours before bedtime. But do what suits you best.
- Don’t stay in bed if you’re not asleep. This one is HUGE for insomnia. If you can’t fall asleep, you should not let yourself stay in bed any longer than 15-20 minutes. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and out of your room and go find a non-stimulating activity to do for a while and then try again. The more you “try” to sleep, the harder it is because it increases performance anxiety! This also goes hand in hand with don’t try to sleep if you’re not tired. Trying to force yourself to sleep is literally one of the least helpful things you can do.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol before bed. Lots of people self-medicate with alcohol because it makes them tired. One drink may help act as a sedative, but more than that within a few hours of bedtime actually disrupts REM sleep so you may be falling asleep, but the quality of sleep is poor.
Also worth noting, if you have continuous problems with sleep and have taken some of most of the steps listed, you need to see a specialist. A sleep study would likely be needed for diagnosis but some sleep disorders can kill you (like sleep apnea). There are a ton of sleep disorders people have probably never heard of either so it’s good to talk to a professional if the basic steps do not work.
Best of luck fellow bed bro!