I used to be a champion sleeper. Every night, I would set my alarm, hit the sack and snooze blissfully for eight hours. Accepting my dream job on a part-time basis last January meant splitting my time between lecture halls and cubicles. I was exhausted—and, for the first time ever, I had trouble staying asleep. I became a different person. I struggled to complete basic tasks and experienced dramatic mood swings. Weight gain, breakouts and dark undereye circles soon followed. Every night, I would wake up around 2 a.m. and watch the clock, begging my hyperactive brain to slow down. Eventually, I turned to over-the-counter sleep meds, which left me bleary-eyed and hungover—not to mention the fact that I quickly developed a tolerance for them. One night, about a month into my bout with insomnia, I woke my boyfriend and asked him to punch me in the head. “Just knock me out,” I begged tearfully. “You won’t get in trouble, I promise!” (He refused.) It seemed that the more I worried about sleeping, the less I slept.
I decided that it was time to slay my sleep demons for good. Here’s how I lulled myself back to sleep.
Rx Binaural beats.
How they work Tones of different frequencies are played through headphones to lull your brain into a peaceful state. “Problem sleepers need strategies that have a calming effect in the middle of the night,” advises James MacFarlane, director of education at the MedSleep network of sleep clinics. “It’s important to focus on something other than the fact that you can’t sleep.”
Verdict I downloaded the Sleep Machine binauralbeats app to my iPod and, while it doesn’t put me to sleep, its hypnotizing sounds still my racing mind.
Rx Self-help books.
How they work “Self-help books are a way to help people get over their sleep problems with minimal use of medications,” says MacFarlane. “At the clinic, we recommend
No More Sleepless Nights by Peter Hauri.”
Verdict Four in the morning can be the loneliest time when it seems like your only friend is the ShamWow guy. But after reading
Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia by Patricia Morrisroe, I didn’t feel so alone, which made me feel less anxious and more in control.
Rx Yoga Nidra.
How it works “When the body experiences stress, the sympathetic nervous system kick-starts its fight-orflight response,” explains Sadie Nardini, host of a series of YouTube yoga videos. “Yoga Nidra works to balance the central nervous system. It helps people who suffer from mental fatigue, anxiety and insomnia by calming the mind through poses and breathing exercises.”
Verdict When I wake up in the middle of the night, I do one of Nardini’s four-minute videos and the calming effects are almost immediate—I usually doze off within half an hour.
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