How to overcome insomnia
Updated: Jan 5, 2021
(Updated 3 am Sunday morning 11/10/20)
"Hey there Gary,
I've been having a bit of Insomnia for the past week with struggling to get the body to sleep.
I've covered good sleep hygiene like not being on phone before bed, cool room etc with not much luck."
I do not sleep well most nights. It has gotten worse with age. We had family over last night for dinner. I ate too much, I had too much on my mind and I could not sleep as a consequence, so I decided to get up and make good use of all of this mental energy by updating this article about insomnia.
Put that mental energy to good use, rather than lie there and get all worked up about not being able to sleep
So, here I am, sitting here in my office. It is 3.14 am Sunday morning. I have the big cyclocross race series finals later in the morning. I'm currently in 5th place overall in the series placings which is pretty sensational given my age. Am I worried about not being able to sleep the night before such an important and intense competition? Not at all. I've done heaps of racing over the last 50 years and few things to do with athletic competition ever phase me these days. Besides, to quote my sister, Lorraine, Olympian and the rest: "Nobody ever fell asleep during a race". Wise words, indeed and very true. I'll turn up at the race several hours from now and put in my best performance. I'm not sweating it over the lack of sleep.
I must qualify what I'm writing about here by saying that I am in a rather privileged position nowadays. I have a lot of control over my hours of work. I'm "retired", I do not have to work but I choose to. For long hours. Retirement for me is doing the work I love while discarding what I don't enjoy. I do not have to drive a long way to work. I work from an office at home. I do not have to sit at a desk watching the clock for 8-10 hours. I do not have children at home any more. If I have to, I can take a nap during the day. My daily productivity is at its highest ever despite the poor sleep.
One good thing that has come out of this COVID Pandemic is many workers now have more flexible working conditions, including being able to work from home, or to work remotely from the office. Is there any reason why you can't polish off that project submission at three in the morning, then have a nap later on during the day?
The worst thing we can ever do is be "struggling" to get to sleep at night. It is partly a matter of changing one's mindset.
"Nobody ever fell asleep during a race" (Lorraine Moller)
Focus on your productivity the following day
The first thing is to focus on how well you function during the following day. If you manage to get in a good day's work then not being able to sleep well the night before is not a big issue. The next thing, when lying awake in bed, is to not worry about getting to sleep. This is counterproductive. Think about relaxing your body. Even if you can't fall asleep, you are at least resting physically.
Compare down - not up
I learned this from my son-in-law, Dr Paul Wood: when times are hard, such as when tossing and turning during the middle of the night, think of those who are much worse off than you. In the case of sleeplessness, I find it helpful to be thankful that I'm not incarcerated in a North Korean Interrogation bunker, having my fingernails pulled while under glaring lights and screeching noise, sleepless for weeks on end.
Here is Paul's article on the concept of comparing down: