We’ve all had those nights — the ones where we lie awake, looking at the clock, watching the shadows shift on the wall, flipping over and over, feeling like sleep will never come.
Perhaps we are anxious or excited for an upcoming event, or still reeling from some occurrence earlier in the day, and unable to quiet our mind. Maybe we ate or drank something that is keeping our body up — caffeine or sugar, or something else completely.
Or it’s possible that our regular sleep schedule has been disrupted — travel and time change, a long nap in the middle of the day, a lack of exercise.
Whatever the reason, HOPEFULLY these sleepless nights don’t strike you too often.
But what about when they do?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “insomnia is a persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or both, despite the opportunity for adequate sleep.”
The Sleep Foundation explains that insomnia is characterized by duration — acute insomnia is brief and attributed to life circumstance (like those listed above) whereas chronic insomnia is “disrupted sleep that occurs over at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months.”
I never imagined that my propensity for waking up at 2:45 a.m. every night and being unable to return to sleep for an hour would be categorized as insomnia. But there you go. Apparently, I am one of the 30 percent of Americans that struggle with the condition.
So, what lessons have I learned as an insomniac?
1) Get up! Move and stretch!
Sometimes, lying in bed and attempting to sleep before my mind or body is ready only makes me more restless or antsy. When I get the jitters in bed, sometimes a little physical activity is enough to jog me out of whatever mode is keeping me awake.
I like to get up and do a couple active but calming movements. I choose stretches or exercises that activate my muscles and require some mind-body connectivity, but that won't increase my heart rate greatly.
“Diseases and Conditions: Insomnia” Mayo Clinic. Website Accessed 3/26/16.
“Insomnia”. National Sleep Foundation. Website Accessed 3/26/16.
“Sleep Scientists Discount Sheep”. New Scientist. Website Accessed 3/28/16.
“Getting Enough Sleep?” Centers for Disease Control and Preventions. Website Accessed 3/27/16.