Autumn Insomnia

When you’ve lived with insomnia as long as I have, I think you often find yourself thinking about the connections, the factors, the things that maybe possibly might help you sleep or prevent you from sleeping or any number of other things related to having a sleep disorder.

I have, in depth, examined the effects of caffeine in the morning, the afternoon and evening, what I eat for dinner and at what time, my use of evening screen time, the amount of light and sound leading up to bedtime, pre-bedtime activities, supplements, medication, sleep masks, etc.

I know that modifying some of these things have been incredibly helpful to our community members - but to be honest, none of them made a huge difference in my sleep success.

Summer to fall transition

One thing I have noticed though, is that I struggle with the transition in seasons. My insomnia may be laying low for example during the summer months when there’s extra sunshine and I spend a lot of time and energy outdoors, but as we head into the fall, I find my sleep very interrupted.

While the temperatures are dropping outside and the moon comes out by late afternoon, I feel the gears shifting in my body. The often quick change to cooler temperatures makes my rheumatoid arthritis flare, and the early onset darkness brings a level of depression and exhaustion that I just don’t experience in the summer.

Despite my best effort, there's no winning

I try to go to bed earlier, I try to practice more consistent routines and better sleep hygiene, but there’s something about the change in seasons that aggravates my sleep disorder. I either fall asleep hard and fast after getting into bed and then find myself wide awake a few hours later, or I stare at the ceiling and my sleeping partner for what feels like an eternity before spending the rest of the night dozing on and off. There’s no winning, and both experiences leave me frustrated and drained when the sun rises again.

I can't prevent the triggers

Each year, it feels like it takes at least a month to adjust my sleep and find a new rhythm when the seasons change. It’s frustrating and disheartening to feel like I’m gaining ground, that I’m in a good spot, and knowing that I can’t prevent the triggers that notify my body things are again changing.

I am not sure if it’s the time of day that is light or dark, the rapid fluctuation in temperatures (I live in the midwest, so it’s all kind of...unpredictable), or something else environmentally, but I know I can’t be the only sleep disorder patient who experiences this.

Coping tips for seasonal changes

Here are my tips for coping with sleep disturbances surrounding season changes:

  1. Be patient. You can’t prevent the seasons from changing, and you might not be able to prevent your insomnia from increasing either. But, history tells you that you’re in the crux of a cycle, and it won’t last forever.
  2. Notice what is working for your sleep hygiene before the season changes - and carry as much of that through with you. Amplify any environmental, physical, or emotional things that provide you support and bring your body to a restful state.
  3. Talk with your doctor - it is possible that a short-term or as-needed medication may help your insomnia quiet during the hardest part of the transitions.

If you've found anything else to be successful for season-related insomnia flares, please comment below. I'd love to hear your recommendations!

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