Are you not able to sleep?
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? Ernest Hemingway
We all go through periods of time when we struggle with insomnia.
I’ve had my own fair share of those times. A while ago, during a period of intense stress in my life, I found myself staying awake when I knew I needed the sleep. Knowing I needed the sleep made the insomnia all the more maddening!
I sleep well now, but I know that many of you may struggle with insomnia as well.
Here are some tips that can help you sleep better:
- Get Sunlight. Light and darkness regulate our body’s sleep cycle. If you are indoors a lot of the time, make sure that you get outside for at least a half hour or an hour.
- Wake Up At the Same Time Every Day. Your body is habitual, so when you get up at the same time every day, you’re teaching yourself to fall asleep and stay asleep. I personally cannot get up at the same time every day because of my work schedule, so I’ve decided to at least go to bed at the same time every night.
- Power Nap. Limit your nap to 30 minutes or less. I personally try to get a 10 to 15 minute nap on days when I have 6 or less hours of sleep due to my variable work schedule.
- Check Your Bedding and Your Clothing. I mention this specifically for individuals on the autism spectrum because of sensory sensitivity. If you are a parent, you’ll want to consider a weighted blanket or a specific type of fabric that your child prefers. If you’re an adult, you may also want to consider the weighted blanket and pay attention to what you feel most comfortable sleeping in.
- Use A Visual Schedule. This is a tip for parents who are helping their Asperger’s child sleep better. However, I could see this working for me, and I’m an adult NT! The visual schedule helps reinforce a bedtime routine that will help your child slow down, relax, and become ready for sleep.
Create a Bedtime Routine. Both adults and children need routines. I personally have been lax with my routines, but researching this article has me changing my ways! It’s best to wind down out of bed, instead of in bed. Your body should associate bed with darkness and sleep only. So all that reading in bed, reading my iPhone, playing games on my iPhone, checking Facebook on my iPhone…it’s all going out the window (figuratively) tonight. Here are some possible routines you may want to consider:
- Read a book or magazine by a soft light
- Take a warm bath
- Do some easy stretches
- Work on a relaxing hobby
- Listen to books on tape or podcasts
- Make simple preparations for the next day
- Eat Nutritious Meals and Get Regular Exercise. It’s better to exercise in the morning. The experts advise us to avoid strenuous exercise right before bed.
- Avoid Eating a Big Meal At Night. The bigger the meal, the harder your digestive system has to work, and the more likely you’ll be kept up.
- Stop Smoking! Okay, I know this is way easier said than done. But nicotine is a stimulant. It works against sleep, not for it.
- Avoid Alcohol After 5 pm. Many insomniacs will tell you that alcohol helps them fall asleep. The problem with alcohol is that a) it interferes with deep, restful sleep; and b) many times you’ll end up waking up in the middle of the night.
- Avoid Caffeine After Lunch. I was surprised to discover this tip. I love my afternoon coffee, but I’m now going to shoot for herbal or decaf tea. The benefits are that I’ll be avoiding caffeine, and getting some great antioxidants into my system.
- If You Wake Up During The Night… don’t lie there for more than 20 minutes. Get up and do some light reading or writing. Relax as much as possible. Then, when you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
- Deal With Anxiety, Worry, and Depression. Depression and worry are some of the most common reasons for insomnia. Psychology tools offers some tremendous free worksheets to help you deal with a variety of life problems. Two free worksheets to help you with sleep are The Calming Technique and Postpone Your Worry. If you feel overwhelmed by your anxiety and depression, I encourage you to find a local psychotherapist who understands both sleep techniques and autism to coach you through some strategies to treat your mood and improve your sleep.
- Go for A Regular Physical. How long has it been since your last physical checkup? Oftentimes there might be a medical issue that’s interfering with your sleep. It’s best to rule out physical causes for insomnia.
- Consider Seeing A Specialist If You Have A Sleep Disorder. Sleep specialists are most often doctors who diagnose and treat sleeping disorders. Here’s a very helpful guide from Web MD on sleep disorders and their treatment.