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I Suffer from Insomnia Caused by Stress – and How I’m Managing It

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while will know that I suffer from insomnia caused by stress.

Having trouble sleeping at night has been one my biggest struggles for as long as I remember.

From a young age, I remember not being tired at night and staying up for hours reading or listening to music.

Then there were times when I fought sleep – some kind of FOMO I think. I felt like I didn’t want the day to be over because there was more I wanted to do or no.

Then, as I became an adult, my insomnia symptoms and causes changed and it just got worse.

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My Struggle with Insomnia

A stressful job – although I loved it – led to my mind never shutting off.

I spent so much time thinking about everything I needed to do and remember, and there was a great sense of urgency about everything – I had to do things quickly before my competition got in first.

Then, new ideas were always buzzing around my mind – still are! And whilst it’s wonderful to feel so inspired about work, it’s also very difficult to relax and shut off my mind.

Do you ever feel the same?

I’ve spent hours googling “How to cure insomnia” and most recently “How to treat insomnia due to anxiety”. Because the anxiety is real.

Why I still have Insomnia, even though I love my job.

I adore my job – and it isn’t stressful. But I have post-cancer anxiety. And I have being-a-mum-anxiety. And my mind never stops.

It’s active with worry, excitement, ideas and anticipation.

But there are a few things I’ve been doing that are helping. I researched how to treat insomnia naturally without medication and spoke to my GP. Because I’ve tried sleeping pills and they just made me feel groggy the next day.

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The Natural Remedies for Insomnia that are helping me

1. Meditating at bedtime

I love the Calm app – have you tried it? You can download it here. It is packed with different meditation exercises to help you relax feel less anxious, sleep and many more conditions.

I’ve realised that I hold my breath a lot – I need to breathe more. Even on the nights when I don’t meditate, I breathe in and out really deeply and find it often really relaxes my body enough to drift off.

When I wake in the night (which I do, numerous times a night, every night), I deeply breathe myself back to sleep.

2. Turning my phone away.

I’m not going to pretend that I turn my phone off or put it in a different room – because I don’t.

I’ve tried that in the past and it only added to my anxiety. Although I do appreciate that turning it off is widely known to be one of the best things to help you sleep.

YES, I know it’s bad to have a phone nearby and be on a device near to bedtime. So, I turn it face down and put it on silent. If a notification comes up, I don’t see the light or near the beep. It helps me.

iPhone

3. Helping ease my anxiety

As you know, I’m seeing a Psychologist for PTSD after cancer. It’s REALLY helping me to have someone to talk to and who will listen to me ramble about myself for an hour.

Having that opportunity to unload is helping to clear my mind. She doesn’t judge me, she just listens and helps.

The thing with having insomnia due to anxiety is that the insomnia causes me anxiety too! I have anxiety about sleeping causing insomnia to get worse. It doesn’t help so I’m working on that.

4. Better “Sleep Hygiene” habits

A bit of a weird phrase I know, but basically, I’ve tried to set up my bed-time routine to help get to sleep quicker.

At least a couple of nights a week, I try to avoid watching TV or being on my phone too late – wow, it’s hard though! Netflix is tempting – as I social media.

Sometimes it helps to go to bed early, after I’ve put the kids to bed. I’ll read for a bit or listen to an eBook and spend some time in the peace and quiet. Even if I don’t get to sleep early, the rest helps. (as does a night sans wine!).

A couple of glasses of wine help me get to sleep but it’s probably one of the reasons for sleepless nights – waking up a lot.

5. Writing everything down

When I started to use a paper planner, my anxiety levels decreased. The feeling of being organised and knowing what my plans are a week in advance helps me sleep at night too.

Also, blogging helps as it provides therapy in a similar way to a journal.

I bet the stress out of my head and on to paper.

Paper Planner on Desk - Love from Mim

6. Setting up our bedroom

I’ve tried to clear most of the clutter from our bedroom and decorated minimally. It’s a calm space that I now feel like I can relax in.

A comfortable mattress and base was a game-changer for me too and we invested in a great mattress a couple of years ago.

I’ve heard that Tempur mattresses contour and adapt to your body, keeping you supported throughout the night by redistributing pressure, so you can relax into your most comfortable sleeping position.

I hadn’t really appreciated that some of my issues with difficulty sleeping at night may have been because I simply wasn’t comfortable enough.

Bedroom

There are many causes of insomnia in adults. I asked Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith, for her advice on the reasons for not sleeping at night and how to help insomnia:

“Keeping our busy lives in check is difficult but being mindful of the importance of sleep in general wellbeing is an important step in avoiding the development of chronic insomnia, depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. Kathryn has treated insomnia for over 10 years, and she says seeking help from a health professional before sleeplessness becomes a chronic problem is a smart move, as early intervention can prevent the downward spiral of mental and physical health.

Ms Smith says “Understanding that a lot of the tiredness in insomnia is not from lack of sleep, but from worry about not sleeping or too much ‘nervous energy’, is an important concept and can shift the focus on to strategies that work, rather than continuing to get more anxious and focused on sleep”.

If you have problems sleeping at night and you know any treatment for insomnia in adults – let me know?

At this point, I’m only interested in natural cures for insomnia rather than medication to help sleep or any over the counter sleep aid.

I’ve tried the sleeping pills when I cannot sleep at night and, in the end, I started fighting their effects – psychologically I just didn’t want to sleep I think. I was battling with myself.

FOMO really does have a lot to answer for! I just have this feeling sometimes that, despite being exhausted, I’m not ‘done’ with the day.

I wish I had the cure on how to prevent insomnia, but these things are helping at least. Let me know what works for you?

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If you're looking for natural ways to help insomnia caused by stress or insomnia from anxiety, I'm sharing the six ways I personally help myself. These natural sleeping methods help when I cannot get to sleep or lie awake - I hope they help you too! Love from Mim

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6 Comments

  1. Jordana Hodgetts
    / 12:44 pm

    Great tips!
    My 7month old still wakes up every hour at night to feed, I find it so hard to get back to sleep even though I am so exhausted. I use my phone whilst I’m feeding her to keep myself awake but I’m so sure it is also the thing preventing me from going back to sleep eeek!

    • Mim
      Author
      / 2:49 pm

      Oh I know – phones aren’t helpful but what else can we do! x

  2. Cate Brickell (@CateBrickell)
    / 12:29 pm

    my 11yo has struggled with anxiety-induced insomnia for the last 18 months, it’s been a long journey to help her sleep at a reasonable hour so she’s not shattered for school the next day. As we face high school next year I’m hoping we can keep it under control over the summer, because I know she’s already stressed about the transition!

    • Mim
      Author
      / 2:48 pm

      Oh bless her – I can imagine that’s so tough as school is intense. I have everything crossed it gets better for her soon x

  3. / 9:26 pm

    Across my teenage years, I used to listen to music as I went to sleep. It was so much a part of my going-to-sleep routine that it’s still a very strong sleep cue for me now, years later., and it’s the first and usually last thing I try when I’m struggling to switch off at night. Having said that, I’m very lucky in that I generally don’t have much trouble sleeping. When I’m stressed and/or anxious, I’m more likely to get nightmares rather than insomnia, which I combat with a calm-down rhyme – as child therapy-esque as it sounds, it works really well, because the rhyming aspect of it makes it easier for my panicked brain to remember it, and gives me a rhythm to re-set to.
    My husband went through a period of difficulty sleeping right after we got married – I think it was a combination of getting used to sharing a bed, and processing what he’d taken on – the wonderful but also flawed me! We tried melatonin and lavender essential oils, but didn’t have much success (although I know they can be really helpfl for others). For him, things just naturally got better with time. But it really makes you realise what an impact sleep/not enough sleep can have on one’s general health and wellbeing and ability to think clearly.

    • Mim
      Author
      / 1:15 pm

      I love the idea of the rhyme – I need to try that :) And yes, when I’m stressed I also get the nightmares sometimes too. Thank you so much for this lovely x

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.