I have suffered from sleep problems on and off throughout my adult life, but the worst episode I had started 3 years ago and went on until last year. It is so debilitating and exhausting when you can’t sleep and trying to explain that weird ‘trapped’ feeling when your staring at the ceiling at 4am waiting for the sun to come up is impossible. 

Personally, I have decided to stay away from medication and try self care remedies.  I have managed to overcome my sleeping issues myself and although I know these steps won’t work for everyone they really helped me and now I can get off to sleep quickly almost every night. Here are a few simple tips and lifestyle changes that I have made which have really worked for me.

Go to bed earlier.

This may sound strange but this is the thing which has helped me the most I think. My acupuncturist told me that at 11pm we (humans) get a burst of energy and endorphins (this is where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ comes from and why many artists and writers insist they do their best work in the middle of the night!).  We can avoid getting this burst if we are already asleep by 11pm! It might sound like the opposite of what you want to do if you have trouble dropping off but simply changing my regular bedtime to 10.30pm has made a really big difference to my routine.

Sorry, no lie ins!

Everyone’s insomnia is different and I know a lot of people can’t sleep in at all, but with me if I had a day off or late shift the next day I would often lie in until 10 or even 11am trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep. By forcing myself to get up at 6am every weekday for a workout and 8am on the weekends I have established a kick ass routine and by the time the evening comes around I’m shattered from getting up so early so fall asleep easier! You know when parents pack their kids’ weekends full of activities to ‘wear them out’ – well it works for us adults too!

A little bit of exercise every day.

I know it’s so easy to say but doing some exercise everyday has helped me to become a fitter, more active person and has definitely improved my sleeping, and my well being in general.

Stop trying too hard.

On the occasions I do go to bed and I can’t drop off I don’t stress about it like I used to. I leave the room (nothing worse than a deep-sleeping partner’s heavy breathing when you can’t drop off!) and usually have a bath or read a book. It doesn’t take long to start getting heavy eyelids.

ASMR.

This is a new one for me, but in someways has made the biggest difference. Sometimes there are some nights when I just can’t shut my brain off and when I close my eyes my head is buzzing with thoughts and stresses. This is when I get out my Ipad (on low brightness), plug in and listen to some ASMR videos on Youtube. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m no expert but ASMR ‘artists’ create videos using special microphones and sounds to create a sense of deep relaxation, and it really works! It’s sooooo relaxing. These videos have really helped me when all else fails and they have me drifting off in no time.

You can read more about ASMR here.

I do understand that these won’t work for everyone but I really hope that this might help someone – because I know how frustrating it can be! In our busy lives sleep is often the first thing to go and more and more doctors and researchers are proving just how important it is to our physical and mental health. If you are really struggling make sure you ease the burden by chatting it through with someone you are close to or your doctor.

Have you guys found any self-help methods for sleeping that really help you?

I used to eat and drink A LOT of dairy products. I mean, more than normal. Yes, everyone likes cheese, but I would have a huge bowl of cereal with milk every morning, cheese sandwiches almost daily, pasta piled high with cheese and yogurt. Also (and this is embarrassing to admit but it was in a bid to beat insomnia okay) I used to take a mug of warm milk to bed with me every night. 

In January this year me and my husband embarked on a mission to get fit, healthy and slim for our wedding. We gave up all junk food, took up exercise and sort of threw in going dairy free on a bit of a whim to just see what happened. And I’m not exaggerating. It’s changed our lives! Here’s how:

  1. I’ve got more energy. I get up much much easier in the morning and don’t get that slump in the mid afternoon either.
  2. I don’t get bloated anymore. I think we all know that an excess of dairy products can cause bloating and tummy troubles – for me this has been non existent since I gave it up.
  3. I sleep better. Truth be told I can’t tell if this is the dairy free or the healthy lifestyle in general as the two have coincided. Nevertheless, since I quit I’ve found one been sleeping much better. 
  4. I’m less emotional. Now, whether you believe me or not I swear this is true! I’ve heard that diary (especially milk) contains a lot of hormones and, don’t quote me on the science, this can in turn effect ones emotions and (ahem) levels of… shall we say calmness. I will be the first to admit that I used to be neurotic on a good day and shit crazy on a bad one. Ask my husband! Since quitting dairy I seem to have – shall we say – mellowed a bit. And I tend to cry a bit less at nothing. Works for me!
  5. Weight loss! I cut out sugar and most fatty foods as well so the dairy is just a part of my weight loss journey but there is no denying that dairy products do contain fat and are calorific. All in all I have lost 2 1/2 stone this year and I’m sure going dairy free has contributed to this.
  6. My skin has improved. This has got to be connected to the hormones too right?? I’ve noticed a huge inrpovement in my skin from it being overall clearer and more glowy to less breakouts and reduced redness in my cheeks.
  7. It’s improved my psoriasis. I am lucky in the sense that my psoriasis is mild and I only really get it in hidden places like my hairline and neck. However, it skill bugs me and isuncomfortable. Since I stopped consuming dairy I have found that it has improved a lot and practically gone away. I have done a bit of research and found that going dairy free is often recommended for reducing skin conditions like eczema, and since they are similar I guess it would be the same for psoraosis.
  8. Bye bye migraines! Now I’m not going to pretend that they’ve completed gone – I do still get the occasional migraine. But I used to really suffer from bad ones at least once a month. Dairy is a well known trigger for migraines and I’ve had way less since I quit. In fact, since I went dairy free in January I’ve probably only had 2 migraines which is a significant  improvement.

These are benefits that I, personally, have found and by no means are scientifically proven or designed to persuade you to quit dairy! But if anyone is considering it for health reasons or otherwise then the above might be useful. I wouldn’t go back to dairy now because it’s had such profound effects of my health and wellbeing – even though I will miss that cheese board at chistmas!!

Have you given up dairy? How are you finding it?


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