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How I Learned to Stop Being an Insomniac

January 20, 2011

Just ask any of the many, many people I have slept with – I SUCK at sleeping.

(I may have exaggerated a little there. I haven’t slept with a lot of people. I usually went home right after. Ba DUM bum).
New bedroom curtains

No one in their right mind would want to sleep with me. I toss, I turn, I get up, I remove the pillowcases in my sleep. Really. It is a fairly common occurrence for me to wake up in the morning and find the pillowcases, sheets and blankets on the floor.

It used to be worse. I would routinely wake up about 2 a.m. and stay awake until 4 or 5. Most of the time I wouldn’t get up or read or do anything. I would just lie there and worry.

Worry about what? ANYTHING. It really didn’t matter. One time it was raining and I started thinking “What if it never stopped raining, ever?” That’s how sick my brain is at 3 a.m.

Now I sleep, mostly. I usually wake up to put eyedrops in a couple times, and sometimes I’m awake for 15 minutes or so, but it’s never like it was before. So I have some pieces of advice:

1) Get dark curtains. I bought the dark blue fabric shown above (because I have this whole tropical theme going on) and had my friend Laura make me some lined curtains (the lining is solid dark blue). I never realized how much sleeping in a dark room really helps with sleep.

2) Quit drinking (mostly). I think I used to always go to sleep a little buzzed, and when the alcohol wore off, THEN I’d wake up. San Pellegrino water never has that effect.

3) Be single (sorry, married people. I hope the divorce goes smoothly). My sleeping problems were always compounded times 10 when I had to put up with someone else and their annoying sleeping habits as well as my own. My ex-BF loved to snuggle. I do not snuggle. I don’t want to be touched while I’m sleeping, because then I’m not sleeping. It seems obvious to me, but he could never get it through his head, so we would spend all night with him scooting closer to me and me moving away. I remember lying right on the edge of the mattress, trying like mad to get some peaceful sleep, away from his touchy touchiness.

4) Confront your inner worrier. Now when I am tempted to do the middle-of-the-night panic attack thing, I tell myself “Hey, this is just the 2 am worrying. It isn’t a real problem.” Or if it is a legitimate problem “You can worry about this tomorrow. You’ll be wide awake and ready to do something about it.”

5) When all else fails, I chant Hare Krishna. It’s not a religious thing. I don’t know why it works. A couple rounds of
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

and I am asleep. I almost never make it to five founds. Thanks, Krishna. If you object to Hindu gods, maybe a prayer or a chant or an affirmation would work for you. For me, I think having something I’m not emotionally attached to helps me.

6) Smooth out your sheets. I found that I always sleep best on clean sheets. I’m too lazy and cheap to have a new set of sheets for every day of the week, but it is almost as good if I completely make the bed as if I have new sheets on – pulling the corners tight, all Army-like, and re-doing the blankets to be perfect. Some of you freaks probably do this every day anyway, but I never did, so this is a revelation. Instant better sleep.

Ok, go, sleep. You’ll feel better if you do.

  1. January 21, 2011 06:49

    I’m a bad sleeper too. Thanks for the good advice! I don’t see any signs of #3 happening, but I do like to retreat to the guest room where I can toss and turn in peace.

  2. January 21, 2011 08:38

    I used to be a bad sleeper and a late riser, but in the last few years I’ve become a super-early riser and am dead to the world by 10:30 PM. As long as I don’t do something dumb like drink a Coke right before bed, I can sleep all the way through, but if not, I’ve gotten pretty good at getting up and going to the bathroom without fully waking up. The key is to not turn on a light. If you turn on a light, you’re screwed.

    • January 21, 2011 11:51

      True. Especially in hotels, with the 1000 watt bathroom light bulb and the roaring fan.

  3. January 21, 2011 09:55

    I’m not a bad sleeper, but light and temperature are the two things that will disturb my sleep the most. I do have dark curtains, but I also use a sleep mask sometimes. It takes a little while to get used to a sleep mask, but nothing works better for blocking out light. I had to learn to sleep with one my first summer in Alaska, when the sun never went down.

    I wake up if I am too hot or too cold, and I absolutely cannot fall asleep if my feet are cold. I go to bed with socks on every night except for the hottest nights in the summer. I usually kick them off a few hours later. The bottom of my bed is a lost sock graveyard. My husband and I share a top sheet and a lightweight, down-alternative comforter but, other than that, we have separate blankets so we can adjust our own temperatures.

    • January 21, 2011 11:33

      Smart with the separate blankets!

  4. January 21, 2011 10:16

    Sharing a bed with a cuddler is the worst! I firmly believe that one of the reasons Mark and I have lasted so long is that we are both very firmly on the side of “DON’T TOUCH ME WHILE I’M SLEEPING!”

    • January 21, 2011 11:32

      Thank goodness. It usually seems that opposites attract – cuddlers with non-touchers, hot people with cold people, late-night people with early risers.

  5. January 21, 2011 19:00

    We have heavy weight navy blue curtains. When I first hung them my husband thought I was nuts and complained it felt like we were sleeping in a tomb. NOW he’s quite happy with our ridiculously dark bedroom.

  6. January 22, 2011 10:10

    I love your advice. We use Norwegian “dyne,” which are basically comfortors with their own sheets, meaning each person in bed gets his or her own. For 20 years now, I’ve never had anyone yank the sheets or blankets off me. That helps a lot. I’m still working in the inner worrier, though.😉

    • January 23, 2011 00:15

      Those Norwegians are smart that way.

  7. January 22, 2011 16:37

    What wakes me up is when the dog hogs the bed. Also, when S wants to cuddle. I need to be left alone to sleep, too. Part of the reason why I go to bed earlier.

    • January 23, 2011 00:15

      I have 99 problems, but the dog ain’t one…she won’t sleep with me. Why? Because I toss and turn too much. It bothers her.

  8. January 22, 2011 18:34

    “What if it never stopped raining, ever.”

    God that made me laugh. I’m a major insomniac with many, MANY tricks:

    1. Blackout curtains
    2. Must be no hotter than 68 degrees in the bedroom, 67 works better
    3. sound machine on white noise
    4. earplugs
    5. eye mask
    6. 2 unisom. EVERY night one hour before I want to be asleep

    An eye mask forces you to keep your eyes closed, somehow this works and eliminates the need to stare at the ceiling waiting for spiders to plunge down on you. I used to take 1 unisom but sometimes I’d worry (GAH!!!) it wouldn’t be enough so I’d lie there DEBATING if it was going to do the trick and now I just say fuck it and take 2.

    I’ll try the Hare Krishna too. Other things that work for me, breathing in and out and actually concentrating on the breath going in and out. They tell you to do that in meditation but I didn’t realize there was an actual reason for it. It slows the heart rate.

    I sometimes also recite to myself what I’m grateful for.

    All in all, it’s a fucking nightmare, the insomnia.

    • January 23, 2011 00:14

      Agreed about the fucking nightmare. “the spiders to plunge down” LOL

  9. January 22, 2011 23:50


    i’m basically exactly the opposite. if i make it under the covers before i fall asleep, it’s a good day. and i sleep like the dead – making the bed in the morning consists of flipping the covers back where i moved them to get up. and i can sleep anywhere – chair, floor, couch – with no problem or ill effects.

    but, i have 11 alarm clocks and still have a hard time getting up.

    • January 23, 2011 00:16

      Hm. I don’t know which is worse – not sleeping or not waking up?

  10. KAZZ (YOU KNOW WHO I AM) permalink
    January 23, 2011 01:58


  11. January 23, 2011 17:07

    “Somewhere between 5 minutes and all night, that’s your problem.” I’m firmly on the 5 minutes, max, side of that equation. Which isn’t a problem anymore.:/

    I can’t hang curtains in my stupid apartment. I tried. They fell out of the wall. I have blinds but they don’t do much. Thankfully my room is on the darker side of the building. Earplugs definitely help, too, since I live in the ghetto and it’s noisy here. Mostly I just lie there, though, waiting for sleep to come. I’ll have to try the chanting thing. Maybe it will help.

    • January 24, 2011 21:31

      This neighborhood is pretty ghetto, but at least I have the advantage of having a free-standing house, so no sharing walls or floors. I do, however, have the Subwoofer Dude. He seems to have no knowledge that his giant booming, wall-shaking bass may be disturbing anyone.

  12. January 23, 2011 23:25

    Very nice to read this at 2:25 am while wide awake. The problem started when I worried about changing the date of something on my calendar, then realized I was overheated. I shall try chantiing. Thanks for the tips!

  13. January 23, 2011 23:37

    I have thick blockout roman blinds (made ’em myself specially), but Mr G is a little volcano & I need to stay away from him – also, he usually sleeps like the dead, but if he does move, ping, I’m awake. Also, the regular 2.30pm bladder call doesn’t help. I use a relaxation technique which starts by relaxing all the muscles in your feet & working upwards. I’m usually asleep before the knees. But then… here comes the bladder!

    I will admit to sleeping better at Kazz’s house than at my own house, which I put down to ‘being a guest’ and therefore not having anything to worry about except getting up in time for breakfast.

    • January 24, 2011 21:27

      As someone who is older than dirt, I have to warn you that the bladder thing does not improve with age.

  14. January 31, 2011 09:15

    After 35 year of zero sleep, I have finally found the Holy Grail – Xanax and Trazadone. We’ll forget for a moment that I will probably have to do this for the rest of my life.

    A king size bed and separate blankets have saved Dan and I. I wanted twin beds pushed together (actually, I wanted my own room, lol) but he was really hurt by the notion of sleeping apart. I tried to explain that it had nothing to do with love and everything to do with “OMG you snore like a freight train and hog the blankets and TOUCH me and I might kill you,” but this didn’t help. Oddly, having the dog up my butt all night doesn’t bother me one bit…

    • February 1, 2011 05:47

      My BF never got it, either. I couldn’t figure out why he was so hurt.

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