When I was a little girl, I used to wake during the night. My solution was to pad into my parents' room, climb into their bed and secure in their presence, I'd fall asleep again at once. Trouble is, they didn't. Eventually they explained, 'Sarah, honey, you'll have to learn to get yourself back to sleep,' so from then on when I woke I would turn my light on and read until I felt tired again. I got through a lot of books (which might explain why I'm a writer now).
Today is my fourth blog using the letters of A.N.X.I.E.T.Y. as inspiration to mark Mental Health Awareness week – 'I' for insomnia – and I appreciate what a nightmare the wide-awake club can be. Replaying past events, worrying about the future, feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities – I've done them all, even though I know mulling only revs up the mind and makes matters worse. After a few hours, the panic at the prospect of getting no sleep feeds on itself, creating a vicious circle.
These days we tend to view sleep as our 'due', but perhaps we have false expectations. The ancients didn't suffer from anxiety about insomnia because they never took sleep for granted. Even as recently as the 18th century, it was the norm for people to sleep in two-parts. Sleeping for eight hours at a stretch is a modern phenomenon and I find it helpful to see my own patterns in this broader context, so you might too.
If you find it hard to sleep, why not try the following today?
• Avoid caffeine after 1pm
• Avoid heavy meals after 8pm
• Avoid alcohol and cigarettes
• Eliminate afternoon naps
• Exercise, but not close to bedtime
• Use a fan to block noise from inside or outside the house
• Don't use a laptop or mobile phone after 9pm
And, because I'm convinced that at the root of it all is a wandering mind, I'd also suggest you practise mindfulness. When you're waiting for a lift, standing in a queue, walking up stairs, taking a bite of food, take a few seconds to reflect on where you are and how your body feels. Focus on a few breaths in and out, and get accustomed to letting go of your worries. The more you can do this, the easier it will be to bid farewell to your problems and get a good night's sleep.
A Moodscope member.
Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope are giving away a signed copy of Sarah Rayner's new novel, Another Night, Another Day which is available exclusively from Waterstones. Its focus is mental health, and it's a touching tale of people and their journey through tough times, told with humour and warmth. Today is another chance to win. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.
The Moodscope Team.