Sleep is so so important and vital to our health and well-being yet, over 50 million people around the world have a sleep disorder or struggle to get the recommended 7-8 hours every night. The amount of sleeping pill prescriptions are skyrocketing as well as people remain desperate for a restful night of sleep.
I was one of these people….
Insomnia has been an on and off struggle for me for a few years and let me tell ya, not getting enough sleep and trying to get good grades in university is quite the rollercoaster. It effected my relationships with friends and family, my mood, my well-being, basically every aspect of my life.
My insomnia started smack dab in the middle of my anxiety disorder which made everything so much worse because I had no mental or physical energy to do things that would make me feel better like cooking healthy meals, going out with friends, exercising, etc. I remember it like it was yesterday when the insomnia demon entered into my life. I remember vividly having a really shitty night of sleep because I was having an anxiety episode and just couldn’t shut my mind off. I don’t think I got any sleep, maybe an hour or so? My heart was racing, I was sweating, I could not relax for the life of me making sleep fucking impossible. At this point I had no idea what insomnia even was, I was more worried about my anxiety coming back full force because before this I was doing a little better but the fear of dealing with anxiety attacks still lingered.
Anyways, basically the whole next day after this awful, anxiety filled, sleepless night, I remember thinking alllll day omg I cant wait to sleep, Im going to sleep so soooo good because I didn’t last night, I’m going to fall asleep within 10 seconds, etc, etc. I just was obsessing over my sleep all day long thats all I could think about. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fall asleep all day, it was just a continuous buildup. So when the time came where I was in bed ready to sleep….you guessed it! I found myself laying there awake again unable to fall asleep. In an already poor mental state, this sky rocketed my anxiety to the maaaxxxx.
My thoughts went something like this: “What the hell, why am I not asleep already? Why is it taking me this long? I should be asleep by now because I did not get any the night before! This is insane, why am I not getting any sleep. Omg what if I don’t sleep tonight either…etc, etc.” So naturally….this fuelled the anxiety fire which moved me further and further from my goal of falling asleep within 10 seconds. So I didn’t sleep one wink that night… AGAIN. Which made it 2 completely sleepless nights with a load of anxiety. The longer I was awake the more anxious I was, and the harder I tried to force myself to sleep which moved sleep further away, then I got anxious again and so on. It was a vicious cycle. Not pretty and not something I would wish upon anyone. If you are an insomnia sufferer you understand how awful this feeling is. Being soooo tired, desperate for some shut eye, trying anything in the book, googling everything that says will fix your insomnia but the last thing you can do is fall asleep.
Now, this cycle continued for 5 whole days. 5 DAMN DAYS of not one wink of sleep. I would lay awake all night in a constant state of anxiety and fear of not sleeping. This made me fall into a really deep depression and I wanted so desperately for even just a tiny bit of sleep. Like literally, I was desperate for 5 minutes of some rest. My body felt like It was going to collapse any second and my mind was just foggy, anxious and also exhausted. You could’ve asked my what 1 + 1 is and I would second guess myself. It was so awful. I would fantasize about someone punching me and knocking me out so I could get some rest, like could you imagine? I truly could not understand why sleep would not happen, I tried EVERYTHING (so I thought). I spent so much money on teas, supplements, herbs, essential oils, online programs/workshops, which all left me sleepless and more frustrated. Being a university student I didn’t have money to spend on stuff like this but I did not even care. In the end all of this stuff did NOT work for me. Maybe it does for some people but man it just made me feel worse. The harder I tried, the more sleep slipped away from me.
After 5 days of no sleep, and pumping all the melatonin, lemon balm, sleepy teas, into my system without any success my mom told me “Look Raquel, you need to go see your doctor because your health could be in serious danger if this acts up.” This scared me and I really did not want to go to a doctor for sleeping pills because I am the type of person who is against medications and I always try my best to take the natural remedy route. But at this point I needed something to knock me out. I was in such a desperate situation guys, like I was legit a zombie. I had no ambition to even live my life at this point which is not okay. This was an emergency. I was very very depressed and had suicidal thoughts which scared me so much. My last resort was sleeping pills and I was at rock bottom.
So I went to my doctor, explained my situation and she just shrugged and said it was common and gave me a sleeping pill prescription. For me it felt like life or death but for her it was just another person unable to sleep. I was frustrated for not really taken seriously and how it was just normal/unordinary to hand out a prescription for sleeping pills. She told me to also try winding down at the end of the day and I just did not even care. I was like NO YOU DONT UNDERSTAND I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING. This was probably the insomnia talking because I mean I’m grumpy after one bad nights sleep, can you imagine 5 whole days? Nuh uh, I wasn’t taking any shit from no one, I was like give me a god damn tranquilizer like seriously!!!
I remember she also said to only take half of the pill cause its really strong and will leave me feeling groggy the next day. Like yeah okay lady, there was no way after 5 days of 0 sleep and trying every herb, supplement, tea there is, that i was gunna take half that pill. I took the whole damn thing, I contemplated taking two cause I was so scared they were not going to work. But….it did knock me the hell out FINALLY.
I woke up the next morning feeling relieved, and gave me back hope that I was able to sleep. But also I felt really discouraged that I was not able to sleep naturally on my own without medication, especially since Ive been doing it my whole life before this incident. So after that night of sleep, I was thinking more clear and decided I was not going to take any more sleeping pills. I dove into my research and bought books on how to treat insomnia naturally and read everything on the internet about insomnia, what it was, why it happens, what you can do help it, etc. I was 100% determined to find a way to sleep normally once again pill free.
When I was going through my research, something I read really hit me square in the face, and I had an ah hah moment. Something said, “the more you try to sleep, and force sleep to happen, the further away you are from sleeping.” and “sleep is like a cat, the more you try and force it to come to you or control it, the more it will rebel and turn away.” When I read that I was like ooooh that makes sense, no wonder I haven’t been able to sleep, I have been trying way to dang hard! I was not even giving my body the chance to relax because I was trying to control my sleep which is obviously something thats not naturally in your control. All the herbs and teas and audiobooks and music, all the tools I was using to TRY and get to sleep were not working because I was trying and controlling.
It all clicked when I started thinking back to when I could sleep normally, and thought about the things I did before I fell asleep naturally. And then it occurred to me, and a light bulb went off in my head… I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing. I didn’t have pills, I didnt have a wind down routine, didn’t drink tea, take melatonin or anything else, I just got into bed, relaxed, and I would always sleep without thinking about it. Compared to my insomnia episode, I was OBSESSED with getting to sleep and thats all I would think about.
I read a few good articles that said something like “sleep is like playing tug of war with someone. The harder you pull, they pull back.” The harder you try and sleep, sleep is gonna tug back and it’s not going to happen. Sleep is a NATURAL mechanism thats built into your body to rejuvenate, rest your cells, muscles, etc to repair properly, fight diseases and do what your bodies meant to do. Its something that cannot be forced or learned, your ability to sleep is always there. It never goes away, you just have to learn how to let go of all those worries, anxious thoughts and ALLOW your body get to sleep the normal, natural way instead of obsessing over it.
Sure there is definitely things you can do to improve sleep quality and develop habits. Like going to bed and waking up at a consistent time everyday, turning off electronics an hour before bed, meditation, exercise and proper nutrition, only using your bed for sex and sleep not work or anything else, tea, things that relax you and signal your brain its time to sleep. But these things cannot FIX your insomnia. They sure did not fix mine anyways.
I have learned this the hardest way possible, but now I don’t struggle with my sleep at all. After that awful 5 day no sleep episode, I struggled with it a bit on and off for a couple years and I would fear it coming back again leading to a couple rough nights of sleep. But from that, I learned to never force it. Don’t obsess over it, don’t panic or freak out about your insomnia coming back again because like I mentioned before, the more you think and stress about sleep, the lower your chances of falling asleep. Having bad nights of sleep is just part of life, you can’t let it scare you which is hard if you’ve been an insomniac before, but it takes practice. Practice letting go of those fears and just allowing life to be as it is. Allow sleep to come instead of fighting to control it. Trust me.
I also read this somewhere which really stuck with me: “Ask an insomniac what they do before bed, and they will name you a million things whether thats a youtube video, a bath, meditation, breathing exercises, chamomile or another sleepy tea, lemon balm or chamomile tablets. If you ask a good sleeper what they do before bed, they will say “idk nothing”. Sleep is such a paradox. The harder you try the worse your sleep will be. To heal from insomnia you need to let go of trying to control your sleep so much and just let your body do what its built to do. Sleep doesn’t need your help.
Also, I’m not a doctor or sleep specialist, this is just what I learned and what works for me! So I felt the need to share it with you guys since I know how many people struggle with sleep on a daily basis and I know how shitty that feeling is. If I could help just one person then its worth sharing. If your having difficulty sleeping you should still go to your doctor just in case theres another underlying issue to your sleep problems!!
If you are like me, and everything I have just written relates to you, I really hope this helps and you are able to heal from insomnia naturally, and get some healthy shut-eye real soon!
P.S. Give it time, this did NOT happen overnight for me. It took a while for my sleep to restore to a healthy rhythm because I was letting my body do what it needs to do. Don’t fight it, don’t control it, let go and sleep will return I promise you that.