I’ve been an insomniac since childhood. I remember nights of sitting up in bed and staring at the moon from as far back as three years old. I would wander around the house, play with toys, read a book and then fall asleep sometime around 3AM only to have Mom wake me early in the morning.
Over the years, it’s only gotten worse. I go through blissful spells where I forget I even have trouble sleeping. And then, I go through periods like now, where I can’t remember the last time blissful sleep came easily. Almost all of this year, I’ve had to manipulate my sleep schedule in one way or another to get some shut-eye.
This article covers the six main things I tried. Note that even the steps that didn’t work for me might work for you. However, I’m not a health professional. I’m just sharing my experiences as a night owl insomniac so someone else can benefit.
1. Work Schedule Adjustments
One of the strange things about me and my sleep schedule is that I sleep better during the day time and have a hard time going to bed at night. My Mom is the same. We’re the only two people in the family who are like this. Everyone else are morning people. When we’re rolling into bed, they’re getting up for work.
In 2018, I put in my resignation for my part-time job. However, the boss still asked me to come in once per week, which was fine by me. The problem is that it required getting up early every Sunday morning, which made a mess of my sleep schedule. I eventually quit and took another one-shift-per-week overnight position with another company. All the rest of the week, I work nights from home for my business.
If you realise that you’re naturally more productive at night than during the day or vice versa, make the switch. If your boss won’t cooperate or the field you work in doesn’t allow shifts, it might be time to embark on a new career that’s more compatible with your health.
2. Non-Prescription Sleep Aids
Over the years, doctors have recommended sleep medication to cure my insomnia. As you may already know, most of these come with a high risk of addiction. From as early as my teenage years, I’ve been terrified of addiction. I saw what it did to people and wanted nothing to do with it.
So, I decided to suffer instead. Then, this summer I got sick in the middle of one of my busiest workweeks of the year. I had to complete an 80-hour workweek while battling the flu. I didn’t miss a single client deadline. Cold and flu medication helped me make it through. They also helped me sleep.
When I first bought the cold and flu medication, I noticed NyQuil sleep aids right next to it. I left it in the store. After a week or two of sleeping like a baby, I decided to try this wonderful formula. It worked like a charm and has an alleged zero addiction risk. However, after about three months, I decided I needed to find a more natural solution.
After talking to a few friends who were also long-time insomnia sufferers, they recommended melatonin. I had heard the word a few times in high school biology classes but remembered precious little about it beyond that. After a few quick Google sessions, I found that it was the hormone used to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
Most people who used it claimed that it cured their insomnia, so I checked a few reviews on Amazon. Thousands of people made the same claim there as well. I bought one of the brands with the most reviews and highest rating. Without a doubt, it helped me sleep, but I always woke up groggy the next morning and even a little disoriented.
After a few days, I stopped taking it and went back to my sleep aids. However, once again, I much preferred a more natural solution. I thought, “Maybe, the side effects were just coincidence.” After trying it one more time, it had the same effect on me again. That said, it could be the brand and not melatonin itself, but I haven’t tried it since.
4. Biphasic Sleep Schedule
Most people with insomnia struggle to go to sleep. This happens to me on occasion — such as when I try to go to bed before 3AM in the morning — but the real problem is staying asleep. I lived by myself for 10 years before moving to America. For that and other reasons, I am a very light sleeper. Once I’m awake, that’s pretty much it for the night.
To remedy this in college, and at several other times in my life, I split my sleep schedule into two. All year, I had already been sleeping two hours in the evening and then six in the morning to the afternoon. As my insomnia worsened, however, I found that I could sleep through the two hours but not the six.
So, I decided to split my sleeping schedule in half. That meant sleeping on four-hour shifts. Because I have such a flexible schedule, this was easy to do. It worked for about a week before I suddenly couldn’t sleep through my four-hour shifts anymore either. I ended up right back on my 6-hour-2-hour schedule.
Throughout my battles with sleep, one friend kept insisting that I try magnesium. She had originally recommended this at the same time as melatonin. Since melatonin didn’t work, I wasn’t keen on trying magnesium. However, nothing else was working beside the NyQuil sleep meds, so I decided to try that.
It started working from the very first night and has continued to work since. It’s been a few weeks now and I sleep like a baby. You’re supposed to take magnesium with a meal, so I usually try to eat something light about an hour or so before bed. If you’re on a diet, this may not work for you.
I fall asleep naturally and I stay asleep. If I do wake up, I don’t feel the struggle to go back to sleep. I also don’t feel groggy when I get up. This is true even if I have to be up in about two hours or so.
6. Vitamin B12
When my friend insisted on the magnesium for the millionth time, she also made an offhand comment about taking vitamin B12 for energy. I had heard a few people talk about that in the past but didn’t pay much attention. I take vitamin B12 supplements because of my diet. As far as animal protein, I only eat seafood and will skip on even that for weeks on end sometimes.
Now, I take my vitamin B12 supplements with my first meal of the day instead of with dinner. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now. A few days ago, I realised that I haven’t taken an evening nap in a long time, even when I set a six-hour alarm to get a headstart on client work.
I don’t know how long this current routine will remain effective. Still, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally sleep through the night and get my full workday with no need for an evening nap.
Do you also struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep? How bad has it gotten for you over the years? Have you tried anything that worked? Share your thoughts with me in the comments, below!