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  • Writer's pictureLauren

Is sleep your nemesis?

Are you tossing and turning every night?

Are you struggling with racing thoughts and worries in the dead of night?

Are you dragging yourself to work every morning with black bags under your eyes?

Have you made secret enemies with anyone who comments that you look a little tired?

Is there simply never enough coffee in the world?

Night time can feel like a battlefield. On one side, you. You’ve read all the latest sleep advice on the internet. Your weapons of choice are comfy pjs, warm milk, screens safely turned off, a pitch black room, and a decent time of night.

On the other side, sleep. You can see it, you know how to get it, you’ve got all the right tools at your disposal. 8 hours of deep, dreamless, REM-perfected unconsciousness.

Once united, all that lies ahead is you springing joyfully out of bed as your alarm awakens you in the morning. Birds singing, sun streaming in, a glorious stretch as you jump right into your day.

You want to smack me, right?

Don't worry, I would too. The problem with so-called sleep hygiene (I can't stand that phrase), is that in theory, it should work. You should be able to limit your caffeine, turn off all your devices, turn off all the lights, and beat sleep right into submission.

In reality, if you're reading this because you are struggling, none of these things are reeeeeeally going to work. Yes they make sense and no they don't cause things to get worse, but if you are in the grip of insomnia and at your wits end with exhaustion, turning your phone off an hour before bed isn't going to change much.

I remember once, when I hadn't got to sleep until 5am one morning, someone helpfully suggested I have a bath before bed to relax. I wanted to scream. What works for one person, doesn't work for another. What happens if you are told not to look at your phone if you wake up in the night, but your intrusive thoughts are causing you so much anxiety you need a distraction? Thoughts are so much harder to control in the night when it's still and silent around you. Sometimes you need something to ground yourself and calm your anxious breathing, and I'm definitely not going to judge what you use in order to achieve that. So although so-called sleep hygiene may sound good in theory, take it with a pinch of salt and ignore whichever aspects you don't think will help you.

The great thing is, that there ARE ways to survive debilitating sleep issues, and I'm here to let you into the secret.

Stop googling, stop obsessing, and in fact even when it comes to trying to sleep, just STOP.

Have you ever laid down, even once in your life, and said "right I'll go to sleep now" and magically turned yourself off with a switch? No. Can you ever remember the exact time you fell asleep? No. That's because ultimately we are not in control of when and if we sleep. Amazingly, the body is great at this, so we don't have to worry about it. Some things, the body is actually pretty rubbish at regulating. Take dehydration for example. The body can't magically hydrate itself without a little help. If you have a dry mouth and a headache, the body just hangs around helplessly until you grab a drink and rectify the situation. However, when it coms to sleep, this is where the body does its job. It regulates sleep for us. What does that mean? It means when our body needs sleep, eventually it WILL sleep. Stop panicking that you won't, because you will. It's the way its designed. We may sometimes be pushed to the limit, and we sometimes we may feel like we will literally never feel rested again, but at some point, your body will give in, and it will happen.

This is my absolute best advice I will ever give when it comes to not being able to sleep, so if you haven't bothered to read the rest, read this next part!

In the same way that a baby who hasn't napped in the day gets more wound up and then can't sleep that night either (I thought it would make them more tired!) you will sleep less the more stressed about it you are. Don't make sleep a "thing." The more attention you give it, the more you feed the anxiety you hold about it, the more sleep will become a huge battle, a daily war, a mortal enemy. You will dread nighttime, you will tense up and expect to be wide awake, and you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. So my absolute best advice when it comes to sleep is to get on with your life as much as you possibly can, remember you won't die of it no matter how exhausted you become, and simply wait for it to pass. One day, you will have a better night's sleep and you may not even notice because it's not something you've been focusing on. Sleep will no longer be your nemesis. It would be lovely to have a decent night, but it isn't the end of the world if you don't.

Lauren x


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