Insomnia makes it difficult to face the day

Break the Insomnia Cycle

Are you waking up regularly and can’t get back to sleep because your mind is racing a mile a minute: today’s mistakes, tomorrow’s to do list, a fight you had with your sister 6 months ago? And no matter what you try, you just can’t make it stop? You are definitely not alone. But why does it happen? And what can we do to shut this damn thing off so we can just get back to sleep? There’s got to be a better solution than counting sheep.

Let’s figure it out.

My Story

I didn’t sleep again last night. Thankfully,  it wasn’t because of night sweats – I’ve recently started experiencing those and they are brutal! And it wasn’t my husband’s snoring for a change. 

It was actually much worse! Last night I tossed and turned from 1:00 am – 4:00 am because my mind was in a complete anxiety spiral that I couldn’t get out of.

Over and over and over again my mind fixated on some advice I’d given to my son this week. Advice that he actually took for a change (usually anything I recommend is met with a sneer and a scoff). 

At the time, I felt like it was solid advice. We both felt good about it. But that was short lived. And at 1:00 am, my subconscious (which had clearly been mulling it over for hours while I’d been peacefully asleep), decided that I’d sent my son down a really bad path and that I needed to wake up immediately to deal with it.

When I first woke it was just a tiny little niggle of a thought, “hmmm…maybe that wasn’t good advice.” Then my mind started working out why it wasn’t good advice. It started building out worse-case scenarios of what could (and inevitable would) go wrong.  In an effort to get back to sleep, I started building out solutions to these worse-case scenarios. I thought this would help to settle my mind. 

But with every solution I developed, my mind quickly spun out another scenario and another and another. Each one worse than the last.

And before I knew it, the simple advice I’d given my son had basically ruined his life.

Forget about graduating high school, going to college or university, getting married, having kids, finding a career he loved. Now, that was all over. He was destined to become a basement dwelling, video game playing, Cheeto eating slug until the end of time!

And all because of my dumb advice.

my mind won't stop racing at night

Finally, three hours later, after a double dose of melatonin, I finally fell back asleep for a few more hours.  

Now in the light of day, I can see how ridiculous all this ruminating was. It seems unimaginable that I lost three whole hours of precious sleep over this. 

So why did I let my mind spin into this anxiety spiral? And why wasn’t I able to shut this shit down? 

Women and insomnia

Despite (most of) us understanding how important sleep is for our mental and physical health, many women have a lot of trouble with sleep. In fact, a 2020 study found that women are 58% more likely than men to suffer from insomnia.* 

This can be the result of many reasons: 

– hormonal changes – ever notice it’s harder to get a good night’s sleep the week before your period?

– night sweats – like a hot flash during the night. If our sweat soaked pjs and sheets don’t wake us, the chills that follow surely will. 

– our families – we always seem to have one ear open in case one of the kids needs us. But this also means we can’t sleep through our husband’s snoring anymore.

– lifestyle habits – things like eating too close to bedtime and drinking in the evenings – these can cause major sleep disruptions.

– racing minds – my personal hell. It’s when you can’t shut off your brain before bed and you lay awake for hours. Or you wake up in the middle of the night feeling completely alert with your next day’s To Do list, or (worse) negative/anxious thoughts, on repeat. 

Whatever the reason, insomnia is the absolute worst! The most frustrating bit for me is that the harder I try to fall back asleep, the more awake I feel. And it makes coping with the daily grind of life really, really challenging.

Insomnia is a symptom of perimenopause

So what can we do? How do we tell our brains to, “Shut the f#ck up!” and let us go back to sleep?

Breaking the insomnia cycle

If your insomnia is caused by a racing mind, it’s probably because of stress and resulting cortisol levels in your body.  Cortisol is like nature’s coffee – it makes you alert and awake. So as the day draws to a close, your body remains on high alert, refusing to switch to a state of rest, making it difficult to find a moment of calm. The turmoil of a restless mind arises when our fight or flight response is constantly triggered by stress, anxiety, and a never-ending stream of worries. 

And if you’ve missed a night or two of sleep already, you’re probably becoming increasingly anxious about not being able to fix your insomnia. This only exacerbates cortisol levels, making it harder to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

When this happens to you, try one or two of these tricks to help calm your mind and get back to sleep:

1. Melatonin – nature’s sleep aid

I keep a bottle of sublingual melatonin by my bedside. I usually don’t take it at bedtime, but if I wake up at 3am and am feeling wide awake, I quickly pop one of these babies. It’s not a strong dose, so it may just be a placebo affect, but this is usually step #1 to help calm my mind.

2. Slow your breathing

This is my go to sleep aid! Slow deep breathing can be really effective in helping you get back to sleep. Not only does it help to calm you nervous system and therefore your cortisol production, it also helps promote relaxation and melatonin production. 

Many experts recommend the 4-7-8 technique – Breathe in through your nose for a count of four. Pause and hold your breath for a count of seven. Then, slowly release your breath through your mouth for a count of eight.   

3. Empty your mind 

I keep a notebook and a pen on my bedside table. When I wake up with my mind mind racing through an anxiety spiral, I grab the pen and start writing every thought down. You might want to keep a small book light by the bed, but I don’t bother. Most mornings I can’t read a single thing I wrote, but the simple act of writing it down helps to put my mind at rest. 

4. Meditate 

This is a new trick I’ve adopted. When I go to bed, I’ll plug in my earbuds and open up a free meditation podcast. So when I wake up, if my breathing and mind emptying doesn’t work, I already have a calm, peaceful meditation lined up. The bonus of this one is that even if I don’t get back to sleep, I’ve done myself a solid by taking time to meditate. 

the average woman needs 7.5 hours of sleep each night

Practicing good sleep habits

To help kick insomnia long term you definitely need to develop some good sleep habits. We’ve outlined a few in our blogs:

And if our sleep habit tips don’t work, go see your doctor. It might be time to see a sleep specialist that can monitor your sleep and provide a treatment that is right for you.

Sleep is critical to everyone’s health. It’s particularly important for women in perimenopause. You don’t have to tolerate feeling exhausted every day. You don’t have to go through life with an IV of coffee strapped to your arm. Get some help, so you can get some sleep.

My insomnia makes my mind race through an anxiety spiralinsomnia sucks!break the insomnia cycle