TW: Mental Health, Insomnia
By Robyn Banks
Insomnia is a bitch. It plagued me during my time at university, and many of my friends too. Although I had always had problems sleeping, the long grind of the school day would often wear me out enough to see me getting a few good hours each night. Not so at university – days with only one or even no lectures stretched out endlessly, and with nobody phoning home if I didn’t turn up to lectures, gone was the motivating fear that got me out of bed each morning in the past. The prospect of managing my own time, which had seemed like heaven in my first term, had become a living hell. Bedtimes got later, and mornings became later, until I was essentially nocturnal- living whole months at a time in the miserable dark, unable to access any daytime facilities. Sound familiar?
The NHS mental health system may be in tatters, but if the doctor can’t help you like they couldn’t help me, here are a few tricks to bust your insomnia and get the good night’s sleep you need.
This very simple website is the first step to making sure you get enough sleep. It uses average human sleep cycles to suggest when you should get up if you go to bed at a certain time, and vice versa. It’s super quick, which was a big win for me when I blearily fell in to bed at some ridiculous hour and calculated through the fog that I would probably have to set some kind of alarm. Tap the ‘I’m going to sleep button’ and up comes a list of alarm times which should see you waking up during REM sleep, instead of that sinking sand of deep sleep which is so hard to pull yourself out of. With one simple site you can hugely reduce your chances of accidentally oversleeping. No more morning (or afternoon) tears!
This app, available for iPhone and Android, will track your sleep patterns overnight by recording audio and detecting your movement. The next morning you can see how long you slept, when you were in REM and when you were in deep sleep. It even comes with a handy ‘smart alarm’ which will wake you up when it detects enough sound and movement to conclude you’re in REM. Over time it will track the average amount of hours you sleep at night, and if you’re a sleep talker the audio recording feature can be a simple source of amusement. My favourite feature of this app, however, is the button you hit each night that says ‘going to sleep’. The background changes to a deep purple, and if you use your phone again after hitting the button the app will call you out on it. Something about saying goodnight to your tech in this way is innately soothing.
This browser add-on has been a favourite of students trying to complete papers for years. After a time of having insomnia, bed came to seem like a bad place to me. A place full of misery, stress and tossing and turning. Here to help me with my not-going-to-bed were sites like facebook, twitter and imgur, which could hook me in for long hours at a time. Leechblock will prevent you from accessing certain websites within certain time periods, and it helps beat procrastination whether you’re avoiding an assignment or avoiding bed time. If you know when you want to go to bed but have problems sticking to it, there’s nothing like being blocked from most of the internet to give you a kick
We’re often told to put away our tech a good hour before we sleep, as the blue light from phones and computer screens can trigger a similar reaction in our brains as blaring sunlight and leave us wired all night. In today’s world, putting away our computers and picking up a dusty old hardback isn’t always that easy. Flux will automatically dim your computer screen and increase the warmer colour tones while reducing the blue tones between sunset and sunrise, combatting the insomnia-inducing blue light effect. It’s also much easier on the eyes in a room with a bedside lamp or other dim light. The colour change can seem unusual at first, but once you’re used to it it’s the return of the glaring blue when you turn it off that seems unusual and leave you thinking “how did I ever get to sleep after this?”
5. SLEEP WITH ME PODCAST
This is my favourite insomnia busting site of all time. It’s not to everyone’s taste- my best friend swears his voice is like nails on a chalk board to her- but it’s helped me infinitely. This podcast consists of bed time stories for adults, from really boring recaps of game of thrones episodes in which Scooter, the narrator, describes how nice Daenerys’ household vases are to the superdull series about a team of superheroes waiting patiently to save the world at some unspecified time in the future. The stories are funny, silly and exactly the right amount dull- interesting enough to take your attention away from your racing insomnia thoughts, but dull enough to soothe you in to sleep. Scooter’s gravelly, dulcet tones are inherently calming and his stories have no real plotline or end, meaning whenever you fall asleep you can be sure you won’t miss anything important. For years I have been the most incurable and miserable insomniac, but since discovering this podcast bed time has become an enjoyable part of my day. Even if you can’t fall asleep, the stress and panic is subdued by the enjoyment of listening to a silly story. Every night I get in to bed, put on a podcast and focus on my breathing. I rarely make it to the end of a story.
Header image: Kristin Andrus (Creative Commons)