So a little bit about my Insomnia before I carry on:
I used to suffer from chronic insomnia triggered by chronic stress, which I didn’t know I had, as well as social anxiety. This insomnia was present during my school years and it became worse during exam times or when a big project was due. I would lie up all night worrying about what I would do the next day or run the course of the next day through my head, which would stop me from sleeping at all.
I now suffer from acute insomnia, which only lasts for a few nights or a few weeks. It is caused by:
- Significant life stress like death, divorce, moving etc.
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Environmental factors like noise, light, and temperatures
- Some medication
- Or disturbances in sleep patterns like jet lag
My need for this lifestyle change:
My insomnia causes me to be sleepy during the course of the day and I often take naps because I end up being that tired. It also causes me to become very irritable. Small things that a family member does during the later course of the day ends up causing me to react negatively towards them. And recently it has started affecting my memory. I seem to forget things more often these days – things that used to be so easy for me to remember.
I am tired (pun intended) of not sleeping. It’s great extra time to get things done, but it can be very frustrating watching your significant other sleeping peacefully next to you while you cannot even close your eyes, and knowing that your body is exhausted but your mind is like a hamster wheel with a hamster that has had too many nuts and seeds.
Social media has been found as one of the reasons in modern society that people are finding it harder to fall asleep. When I am struggling to fall asleep, I end up scrolling through a social media platform, liking things, and commenting on interesting posts. Social media has been found to be very stimulating for the mind and it’s the thing I run to when I can’t sleep. So I have come to the conclusion that social media needs to be cut from my day after working day hours, along with a few other changes that I have decided to make in my nightly routine.
You can watch my YouTube video before I started this challenge here, and the video I made 2 months after starting this challenge here.
Ways I am actively tying to deal with my insomnia:
- I am trying to sleep at a similar time every night. We usually jump into bed at around 8:00pm and I will attempt to fall asleep by around 9:30pm
- I’m trying to wake myself at the same time every morning regardless of the day of the week. My old sleeping patterns were great during the week but I would ruin it by sleeping in on a Saturday and a Sunday and so we are trying to get up earlier over the weekend. During the week, I will get up at around 6:00am and over the weekend I will try get up at around 7 or 7:30am. At least that way I am still giving my self a slight sleep in.
- I’m trying to avoid caffeine. I don’t usually drink caffeine as it dehydrates me very quickly and I end up with an awful headache. I normally stick to decaffeinated coffee or caffeine-free tea, but if I do end up having anything with caffeine in it - like an energy drink of some sorts - then I make sure that I stay away from it in the afternoon.
- I am making sure that I get regular exercise. That means 3-4 times a week for at least an hour in the morning. Based on the fact that I have trouble sleeping, I cannot gym in the evening as the activity wakes me up for the rest of the evening. If I gym in the morning, my body has enough time to get rid of any excess energy by the evening.
- I don’t eat a heavy meal before bedtime and try to avoid taking unhealthy snacks to bed. An apple or yoghurt is sufficient before going to bed instead of a packet of crisps, and a glass of water rather than a can of cold drink.
- I have made sure that our bedroom is warm, comfortable and inviting. When the lights are out it is dark, and the bedding holds in just enough heat for us to be comfortable at night in summer pajamas.
- I have tried to eliminate as much irritating noise as humanly possible. Our dog for one, snores like a chainsaw and so we have changed his bed in order to keep him from snoring and when he does we move him into the lounge. Our phones go onto silent so that if anyone messages us late at night the sound won’t disturb us, and on top of that we turn the phones onto their faces so that the light from charging or from a received message at night does not disturb us.
- We have created a routine to help us relax when we get into bed. I have stopped all social media activity after 6:00pm. So instead of scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, I read my book and write in my diary before turning out my bedside light.
- We avoid using our bedroom for anything more than what it is intended. Our social time is spent out of the room to keep the bedroom as a relaxing haven.
- I make a to-do list on nights before a big day to help me get all of the thoughts out of my head. I keep a pen and notepad next to my bed for nights where a thought keeps me awake so that I can jot it down and get some peace of mind and not worry that I won’t remember the thought the following morning.
- If I can’t sleep, I get up and read a book. I try to avoid things that are over stimulating.
It was a struggle to change the routine in the first couple weeks. It was very difficult to resist the temptation of just picking up my cellphone and scrolling through a social media platform when I couldn’t sleep as I had done so before.
I had a number of sleepless nights in the first week due to some significant life stress. This made the temptation that much more difficult. I had a slip here and there in the first week and ended up on Instagram at around midnight twice in the first week, but I managed to stop late night social media by the second week. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make the cut immediately so I do think that only twice in the first week was a really great effort.
By the second week, instead of playing around on social media, I managed to find myself a small reading light to attached to my book and I would sit and read in the middle of the night. Although I am still only falling asleep at the same time as when I was playing on social media, I am waking up feeling more refreshed – as if I have had a great night sleep.
By the third week, I was getting into bed at around 20:00 and reading for about an hour. By that time I was tired enough to put the book down, turn the light out and go to sleep comfortably. I was also managing to wake up at around 07:00 each morning, which meant that I would get my started earlier.
By the fourth week, it had all become a habit for me. I had started a new book at the beginning of the first week, and I managed to finish the book by the end of the third week, and so I had to start a new one.
During my second month trying out this no social media thing, I travelled up to Johannesburg and to Sun City for a small holiday with my friends and family. With all the late nights and change of routine that this trip brought along with it, I ended up on social media in the middle of the night again. I managed to go home and quickly get myself back into my newly developed routine of no social media during the evenings. I at least know now that even if I have a small relapse or a small change in my routine that I can get back on track in no time at all.
I now do absolutely no social media after 18:00 and have managed to stop playing games entirely after around 20:00. I read a lot faster than what I used to, and have managed to finish 2 books within the space of 2 months.
How has this all helped my life?
I seem to be remembering things a lot easier, even though I am writing out a to do list in the evenings I tend not to use it the following day and refer back to it the following evening and I am able to tick off almost all of what I had written on it.
My sleeping patterns have become more regular. I tend to fall asleep faster as compared to times where I sit on social media all night long. I don’t spend time running through my thoughts or the course of the next day. When my eyes close, my body seems to relax more.
Noises that occur at night have stopped waking me up. I used to be startled and jump awake when the dog would roll over on his bed, or the fridge would creek, or the wind would blow. Small sounds used to keep me from sleeping and now I barely notice them anymore.
I have stopped feeling tired during the daytime, because the sleep I am getting at night is sufficient to get me right through to the next evening without any naps during the day.
Staying away from social media after 18:00 and games after 20:00, and writing a detailed to do list for the day to come has kept my mind from being over stimulated in the evening, and that way I am getting better sleep at night.
I highly recommend trying this out if you are someone that struggles with being addicted to Social Media and is cannot fall asleep at night. It amazed me how well this actually worked and showed me how bad social media can actual be for you. My social media habits are now more under control and I now save a lot of money on data costs that came from scrolling through social media for hours.