söndag 16 september 2012

From insomniac to, well, to sleeping well

I made it. My whole life I had trouble falling asleep and the last 14 years I had insomnia. I used to lie sleepless for hours pretty much every night for 5-6 days, pass out day 7 - and then start over.

I didn't look for much help, a doctor wrote me prescriptions for Zolpidem drugs but they sometimes gave me hallucinations. It was actually not a bad trip most of the time but I wanted to sleep, not get high. At the age of 26, after 10 years of insomnia, I took an online CBT treatment which at least gave me some hope and a large piece of the puzzle.

Today I'm close to 33 and can fall asleep a minute after laying down in bed. I'm very proud and happy about this and would like to share the method.

At the center of the problems was a restlessness, which could turn ro near-mania at bad days. So, I had to learn to relax, which was much harder work than you'd think. I also had a total lack of focus, so staying on track was hard too. It sounds strange considering the troubles I had, some days I'd like to go back and slap myself in the back of my head.

CBT lead to the studies of meditation, which led to the study of Buddhist psychology. Buddhism itself didn't help my sleeping problems but it gave a bigger picture of the human mind - it's a different blog post, but I can say that it's surprisingly insightful.

And after experimenting with reduced tea and coffee intake, tv-watching, bed times, waking times, training, meditation and relaxation techniques, hypnosis, alcohol, Zolpidem pills, evening walks and what have you, I found my own personal recipie. In short:

  • Do "the breathing" a few times per day. Described below.
  • One cup of coffee per day, before 12 o'clock.
  • Get some exercise, a couple of walks per week is enough.
  • 2 hours before bedtime, avoid stimulance like tv and book reading. Sex is fine.
  • Don't go to bed until I've done "the breathing" enough to feel tired.
  • Once in bed, just focus on the breath. If thoughts start consuming me, get up and start over.
"The breathing" is a simple breathing exercise. For each breath, relax the whole body more and more. Every litte corner of the body should relax. But the focus should be on the breath. It can be shallow or deep, intentional or automatic, but keep away thoughts by focusing intensely on the breathing. Since I'm normally a pretty restless person, this exercise allows me to drop the energy and become tired. It took a lot of practice though, we're talking years.

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