bed and alarm clock
Fitness,  Grad School,  Health

I Fixed My Insomnia After YEARS of Having a Terrible Sleep Schedule

I’m not sure that I will never deal with insomnia again, but I can say it’s been months, at least 8 months if not longer that I have had a good and consistent sleep schedule. This has never happened before and I just feel very confident that my sleep schedule will stay consistent. I have struggled with insomnia for years, as far back as middle school. I was never fully rested as a teenager, and as an adult it got crazy.

I have mostly worked night shift jobs in the medical, entertainment, and restaurant industry. This somewhat allowed me to function under the radar, but I was always trying to hide my poor sleep schedule. It was out of my control most of the time. I didn’t want to sleep until 2 pm, roll out of bed, and rush to work. I didn’t want to show up to brunch with 3 hours of sleep or miss important meetings because I could not wake up. But it happened.

If you sleep too late, people think you are lazy. You must be. But I was crazy creative and productive at night. I did my best work, studying, and workouts at 2 a.m. And yes, I have Google searched if humans can be nocturnal; it’s not possible.

To be honest, now with a better sleep schedule, I don’t get that same energy, hyperfocus, or hit those same highs. But I think it’s okay, I get to wake up at a better time and go to sleep without fighting it. I can wake up and have a decently normal routine.

It felt like my sleep schedule changed slowly over time until I couldn’t force myself to stay awake past 1 a.m. anymore. I couldn’t get school work done at midnight and I just thought, well I guess it is for the best. But, now reflecting back, I know there are things that correlated with what changed my sleep schedule. Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention journaling or meditating (though not against it).

So, let’s talk about it.

  • I stopped caring about people judging my sleep schedule. I stopped worrying about sleeping into the afternoon. So I stopped feeling shame surrounding my “bad” sleep schedule.
  • I stopped making plans for times I knew would be rough for me to wake up or picking up early morning work shifts.
  • I stopped staying up late to finish homework and chose to communicate with my professors so I could turn in things late when I needed to (my professors are luckily SO understanding and supportive).
  • I stopped working out late at night. Instead I started going to the gym around noon.
  • I stopped trying to be super productive at night and instead started allowing myself to stop working, and just relax.
  • I stopped feeling the need to force myself to stay awake…aka revenge procrastination. I think this is correlated with just not needing to be productive at night anymore.
  • I stopped using blackout curtains. THIS I think was a huge game-changer. Cortisol is released in response to sunlight, giving your body more energy/wake-up cues, so I like to let sunlight into my bedroom to wake me up.
  • I go outside every morning or early afternoon for a walk in the sun.
  • I set a daily alarm at noon months ago on my echo dot that is in my living room. It is loud, but not annoying and not easily snoozed. Over time, my body got used to being woken up at that time at the latest. Now I am usually awake by 9 or 10 am. I think this kind of sleep trained me.
  • I no longer use an all-or-nothing mentality regarding my sleep schedule. Waking up consistently at 7 or 8 am does not work for me. So I stopped trying to wake up early, I could never keep it up for more than a week or two. I am lucky enough that I can instead wake up around 10 am most days and go to sleep around 2 am every night. This is easily sustainable for me and feels natural.

I know that these adjustments will not work for everyone, work, class, and kids’ schedules are going to play a huge role. BUT I do think a good start is to stop feeling bad about your sleep schedule and insomnia. It does not make you a bad or lazy person. Let go of what you think your sleep schedule should look like, and see what would actually work for you.

-Ashley

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