Sleep Hygiene Practices for Insomnia Aren't an Exact Science
I am sure most of you reading this have heard the term “sleep hygiene” before. In case you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to habits and routines that are generally practiced daily in order to ensure a good night's sleep.
Some examples of sleep hygiene practices include:
- Eliminating screen time before bed.
- Only using your bedroom for sleep and sex.
- Listening to a bedtime meditation or soothing music while trying to fall asleep.
- Enjoying a soothing beverage (like tea) as a way to end the day.
- Taking a sleep aid (such as melatonin, over-the-counter medications, or a prescription medication) prior to climbing into bed.
There are obviously a lot more on this list but today I want to talk about the importance of doing the right thing for YOU.
I viewed sleep hygiene as an absolute
The first 5 years or so that I dealt with insomnia, I looked at sleep hygiene practices as an absolute. Meaning, I felt like if I wanted to get the rest I needed, I couldn’t do the opposite of what experts recommended. Example, napping.
For years, I was consistently told how detrimental napping was to my sleep cycle. While I personally cannot sleep during the daytime, there have been many times when I would force myself to do things to avoid potentially closing my eyes. Every time I would research insomnia, I would see “avoid napping” on the list of things to do to help improve quality of sleep. So, I just assumed it wasn’t in my best interest to try to shut my eyes if I could.
Taking a different approach to napping
It wasn’t until I saw a sleep specialist who told me that I should take advantage of any time I felt like I could get some rest that I changed how I looked at this a bit. I loved hearing my doctor’s thoughts on napping because in the back of my mind, I always felt like it made sense FOR ME.
Given I would have tons of completely sleepless nights, I couldn’t imagine that trying to catch a little sleep during the day would impact my sleep cycle that much. I mean, it couldn’t really be any worse.
This made sense to me since avoiding it for years didn’t do anything to improve my insomnia. Since I had such a difficult time sleeping at night (regardless if I napped or not), I decided to stop focusing on what other people said about insomnia and think about how sleep deprivation truly impacted me.
Doing what's best for me
Given everyone’s insomnia is unique to them, I have found it to be particularly helpful to analyze what exactly I have tried, what has worked, what didn’t seem to make a difference, and what made sense for me to try as a next step. As someone who has suffered with insomnia for decades (gosh, I am old!), I do know myself well.
I am sure that is the case for most of you reading this too. While it has certainly taken some time to adjust my thinking, over the past few years I have tried to put what everyone else says out of my mind and do what I think is best for me.
Allowing myself to get whatever rest I need
For example, another common recommendation for insomnia is to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. While I completely understand the reasoning behind this, I realize now that following those “rules” didn’t really work for me.
There would be nights when I would feel like I could sleep at 8 p.m., and other nights when I wouldn’t feel tired until 10 or 11 p.m. Unless I have somewhere to be in the morning, I now allow myself to get whatever rest I need, regardless of what time it is.
Everyone's insomnia is unique
I wanted to share this with you as a reminder that your situation is unique to you. Many people who live with insomnia also have other health challenges. Insomnia, in general, is an extremely complicated medical condition. So it makes sense that we all have to do our own trial and error with different sleep hygiene practices to see what works for us as individuals.
While we can always learn from experts in the field and fellow insomniacs, please remember nothing anyone says is an exact science.
Do you practice sleep hygiene? Share in the comments below.
Do you find your sleep is impacted by the change of seasons?