Self Care October 27, 2020

Insomnia Recommendations

Chris Samiullah @ChristopherGS

I'm sure plenty of IHers get insomnia from time to time. This is to be expected given the stress and uncertainty of entrepreneurship. It hits me about once per month - usually the stress flavor which is where you wake up after a couple of hours sleep and can't get back to sleep. This is manageable but a pain because I'm very unproductive the next day.

What has worked for you?

Here's what I've tried:

  • Cut out caffeine (always)
  • Regular exercise (4 x per week and walk everyday)
  • Stop screen time 1 hr before sleeping (mostly, this one is v. important for me)
  • Invest in decent mattress (always)
  • Read fiction (not non-fiction) before sleeping (often)
  • CBD oil (occasionally)
  • Keeping the room cool
  • Decent curtains so the room is dark
  • Pescatarian diet
  • Nature sounds audio (usually waves on the beach)

One other point to note is that when it hits I've learned to just get up and do something productive and accept that the next day is going to be a bit of a write-off. I've found this quite a useful mental hack.

A lot of these ideas come from Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I also recently came across this cool resource on HN

Would really like to hear what has worked well for others.

  1. 3

    Hey Chris, the most transformative thing I have experienced is consistent routine. Bed time always 10pm, wake time always 6:15am (weekdays and weekends). I try really hard to eat at the same times of day too and engage in wind-down activities at the same time every day.

    The wind-down starts at 6pm and goes through to 10. Reading, painting, maybe some TV, walk out if it's nice but always calm and not anything to do with work.

    Different things work for different people but I hope it's helpful to share my experience.

    I built a website once for a professional sleep therapist and she was all about the routine. It seems to be all about words beginning with B. A book before bedtime. A bath before bedtime.

    However, as Scott322 says you do seem to have a lot of sleep optimisation going on and it all seems very logical. Maybe it would be appropriate to look for professional help.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Yeah consistent sleep times is a good point. I like your 4 hr wind down.

      1. 1

        no worries, my co-founder Peter struggles with sleep a lot of the time so we talk about these things often although the answer is often elusive, 4hr wind down is amazing, painted a lemon yesterday although you'd probably need telling it was a lemon and not just a yellow splodge. Despite my inadequacies as a painter, it does divert my thoughts to a calm place and this is definitely a good thing. Peter is an amazing painter, does it every Saturday.

  2. 2

    The thing that works most for me when I can't sleep is to journal. If it's 3am and I can't sleep, I'll sit down at my computer and just verbal diarrhea into my journal of everything that's on my mind. It doesn't have to be structured, just absolutely anything and everything that's on my mind. I try to really dig deep into the thoughts and ask them where they're coming from.

    I find that this somehow seems to satisfy my hyperactive brain, it gives up on its looping thoughts that kept me awake once they're recorded, even if they're appear to be complete gibberish the next morning.

  3. 2

    The most important things that work for me (besides the ones you've already mentioned) are:

    • regular intake of caffeine - I can drink tea every day, but when I don't drink it regularly and decide to have it only sometimes it's a huge problem for me to fall asleep that day, so I can either drink the same amount every day or not drink it at all
    • I don't eat after 5-6pm - I have trouble falling asleep with full stomach
    • meditation - when I can't fall asleep it's usually because my mind is too active, calming it down with a meditation or breathing exercise usually always helps me to fall asleep
    • finding my inner circadian rhythm - I usually cannot fall asleep before midnight and I don't naturally wake up before 10am, in the past I've tried to sleep less, I've tried to wake up early, because it's often promoted as a "good habit" to have, but it just doesn't work for me and now, especially after reading Why We Sleep, I try to let myself sleep as long as I want and I don't use an alarm clock - of course this is not easily doable if you have a day job or places to be early in the morning
    1. 2

      Interesting points. Yes meditation is a big one I haven't tried. Maybe it's time - I hear good things about Sam Harris's meditation app

  4. 2

    I find I often get insomnia from stress - I drift off to sleep and then bam I'm wide awake. I usually get up and journal - try to understand why I am feeling stressed or anxious, get to the route cause and unmet needs, and create a plan to combat them. Often it's just reminding myself that, at the end of the day, success or failure doesn't matter. It's about the entrepreneurial journey and if my start up fails, I'll be better positioned for my next role as a result.

    Usually that helps, if not, I just crack on with that task list. I know the next day won't be productive so I just do it that night and then get up later the next day

    1. 1

      Yes the stoic practice of imagining the worst case scenario is good advice, thanks.

  5. 2

    I've struggled with insomnia, and more recently something called "alarm clock anxiety" (where you can't sleep if you know you have to wake up early) since I was 18. I don't know what has truly helped me, because it comes and goes now and then, so there is no pattern.

    • Wake up on your time (if you can)
    • Destress as much as possible (Walking, Meditation, Tea, Yoga)
    • If you tired yourself out, and still can't sleep (that's me), there is something in your head, that you need to tackle (e.g. thoughts of tommorow).

    Looking back, the reason I couldn't sleep many nights is my inner perfectionist saying "OMG, you only have 6 hours to sleep! You're gonna look tired tommorow and not perform well". If you can identifiy with this, try living in the moment, definitely helps relax.

  6. 1

    Jesus you do all that and still can't sleep, wow. I have had bad insomnia for years. I get 4 hours sleep a night then once a month I sleep for 24 hours. I thought cutting my 5 cups of morning coffee a day would do the trick (took 6 months to kick the habit) but it did nothing actually. I can't just do 1 cup.

    Exercise is the best cure above and beyond all. I'm just too lazy to get exercise in before I sleep. Oh well, so is life.

    1. 2

      5 cups is way too much, even for people who sleep perfectly. Try at least to water it down until it becomes at most 2 cups of "real" coffee.

      1. 1

        5 cups is too much YES, I knew that I was drinking it. It's like telling a smoker that a pack a day is too much. Issue is that you live for the moment. I'd much rather be addicted to green tea but hey.

    2. 1

      Learning about the "half-life" of caffeine was very eye opening for me: 6 hrs.

  7. 1

    I've struggled with insomnia since I was a kid in the 1990s and screen time wasn't as much of an issue. The thing that worked best for me was accepting my natural sleep cycle is different than what is commonly accepted. 9 am is the earliest I wake up, not when work starts. The only time I get insomnia now is if I try to sleep early.

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