It’s an axiom of the modern world that you most likely just dont sleep enough, and while this alone can be an issue, for some like myself, it can go far beyond simply not getting enough sleep into full blown insomnia. This can have a major detrimental impact on your life, whether it be work related, socially related, or just your overall mood and happiness. I’ve fought with my sleeping issues for most of my life, and about four years ago I finally got a decent handle on them until a new job had me up and functioning much later then I was used to, keeping my brain wound up and going into all hours of the night.
This coupled with the anxiety induced insomnia that I inhered from my mother’s side of the family and the ingrained stimulus driven ADD of my generation has helped created a perfect storm of sleeping issues that cumulated into a 48 hour stretch without sleep that put me into a very steep nose dive.
I’m sure I’m not the only one dealing with sleeplessness and I’d like to share what I’ve done to help myself. Now please note, I’m not a doctor, these are simply anecodotral answers that I came up with that helped myself, and will hopefully help some others.
I’ve praised melatonin for years. I mentioned earlier that I handled the insomnia that affected me in my teen years a while back, and the major cure for it was melatonin. I had tried many other sleep aides, prescription and OTC, and I either had terrible side effects, they simply did not work, or they worked so well that they carried far into the next day leaving me just as groggy and drowsy as if I hadn’t taken them in the first place. Melatonin was the holy grail for me.
It helped put me to sleep without the Mike Tyson like knockout that left me feeling almost hungover upon waking the day after, it had no side effects, and its carried in most grocery and drug stores for about $10 a bottle, so it was cheap and easy to get a hold of. For years it helped me until just a few months ago when I started the new job I spoke of. With my schedule turned on its ear, going from rising at 4am to be done at 3pm, to going into work at 11am to leave around 11pm.
This hard shift in my schedule and sleeping patterns made the melatonin much more ineffective, though not useless. After many nights laying awake for hours even after having taken the little white pill that was supposed to help put me to sleep I stopped taking it, seeing it as a waste of money, this lead up to my 48 hour stretch of sleeplessness.
Best I can tell, melatonin acts like a multiplier of your natural ability to sleep, meaning if you’re in a place where sleep is imminent, it helps much more then if you aren’t physically and mentally prepared to sleep.
With my new job and schedule I wake up around 9:30am with just enough time to get ready, run an errand or two and get to work. Part of this is due to the fact that many nights I get off around 10pm at the earliest, many times closer to 11pm. Once home I would spend another hour or so doing chores and more errands, showering, and then unwinding, at this point its right around 1-2am, meaning 7 to 8 hours of sleep puts me back up around 9am.
Now that doesnt leave me a lot of time for myself. Once home and cleaned up I’d want to write for you fine people, watch a little TV, indulge in some vidya games, or any number of happy brain numbing tasks. The problem begin to arise when I’d have more I wanted to do then I had time to do it. This would cause my entertainment (read: stimulus) to spill over into the time I should be sleeping.
Now the pitfall here is that with my shiny smartphone I could watch YouTube, check Twitter, play silly games, all from the comfort of my bed. This meant that even though I was in bed on-time that my brain was not being allowed to begin the shutdown sequence necessary for the melatonin to take effect and to put me to sleep. It came to a point where now I have to simply step away form the computer, put down the smartphone (sorta, more on this below) and just get to sleep.
Something I also discovered a few years ago, just after I begin taking melatonin was the ASMR community on YouTube. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR is:
“a neologism for a recently-described perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli.”
Which for most people translates to “fuzzy feeling that makes you very comfortable” and for most helps them relax and/or fall asleep. For me it was the new white noise. I slept with a fan running most of my childhood but as my generational ADD bloomed into full force the simply low humming of a box fan was no longer enough to keep my ever active brain in check. ASMR gave me something to focus on that upon focusing on it, helped me sleep.
Interestingly enough I dont actually have ASMR, I dont get that tingly feeling that some do, but nevertheless the videos, often characterized by a softly speaking or whispering narrator or “actor” sometimes supplemented by soft noises such as crinkling of a bag, dull tapping, or brushing and light scrapping, do a lot to help put me to sleep.
Now the ASMR community on YouTube, which is comprised of a few dozen major (and many minor) channels that specialize in the matter, have a very wide gambit and I’ve tried introducing ASMR to others with sleep issues and I’m usually met with odd looks and hesitation. For many ASMR videos are weird. Most are females who roleplay as nurses, optometrists, or simply as a “caring individual” who lavishes the listener with almost aggressive levels of doting kind words.
For me these kinds of videos simply do not work. They’re just to… strange. They’re to invasive and I like the conviction to really submit to the roleplaying and let it do its thing. For me the most effective ASMR videos are of the “random facts” genre. Basically your narrator will read from one of the many long lists of random bits of trivia throughout the internet in the same soft near whisper that has become the keystone of what an ASMR video is.
For me these work the best simply because there’s no narrative for my brain to grab onto and being paying attention to, as well as no odd roleplay that requires I overlook the absurdity of it all in order to being to relax and sleep. There are ASMR content creators from all over the globe, so if you’re like me and find strong foreign accents to be oddly calming, a quick search will help you find something that fits you. Lastly, if you find the whole “someone whispering in my ear” just a little to strange look for what are being called “soundscapes” which are usually the aforementioned soft sounds like tapping and bag rustling with no spoken words.