I was going to blog about how I’ve used meditation to help me to deal with my depression, but I have a few books that I’ve used as meditation resources that I want to include, and I need to root out those books first. So I’m going to write about my sleep routine instead.
One of my biggest issues is sleep. I’m really struggling with my sleep at the moment and I know this is in part my fault, and in part due to my depression. I am naturally a night owl. I’ve always been a ‘stay up late, get up late’ type of person. However, when I’m feeling down or stressed or anxious, staying up late can make the next day tough to deal with. Night time is when I can get totally caught up in my head and I get worked up over things I can control. My thoughts spiral out of control.
So I’ve found that routine helps to control this.
I’ll start at 9pm with a hot bath. I’ll put Epsom salts into it, as relaxed muscles help to relax the mind. I light a lightly scented candle – something with lavender or any other relaxing herbal scent, switch off the bathroom light, close the door and relax. I have a Max Benjamin candle, which my mum bought for me, but they’re quite expensive, so any natural candle – avoid Yankee candles as they have all sorts of chemicals that won’t help with the sleep process….I try to read a relaxing book – one that I’ve read several times before that doesn’t require me to challenge myself and doesn’t ask me to use my brain or evoke any negative or powerful emotions in my. Personally, this means reading science fiction children’s books such as Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series.
Once I’ve had enough of the bath – when I feel sufficiently relaxed – I’ll bring my scented candle into my bedroom, dim the lights and get straight into my pajamas. I’ll make myself a cup of ‘sleepy tea’ or hot milk and snuggle into bed. Usually, I’ll do some meditation for 10 minutes while I’m waiting for my tea or milk to cool. Once my tea/milk has been drunk, I’ll either turn on Harry Potter (read by Stephen Fry) or I’ll put on my Sleep Cycle alarm clock and lie down to sleep. This is an iPhone/Android app that can be tailored so it plays soothing noises as you fall to sleep. It monitors your sleep pattern and will wake you up gradually when you’re in your shallowest sleep. I found that this helped me immensely as I wasn’t waking up so groggy, as well as helping me to get to sleep.
My rules are: no internet or TV/laptop after 9pm. I also have a little mantra that helps me when I’m struggling to sleep. My mother (who’s a GP) always used to say that simply lying in bed and relaxing is better than nothing at all. So when I can’t get to sleep, rather than fret about it, I remind myself that at least I’m lying down and relaxing. It’s at times like this that I’ll listen to Harry Potter. The familiar story helps me to get to sleep. Obviously, any podcast works, as long as it’s something relaxing to listen to. I avoid music at times like this because it evokes too many emotions in me.
This is what works for me. Everyone’s different, but I find that having the bath before bed routine is comforting and helps me to relax. The best sleepy tea I’ve found is the Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea. There’s also Sleepytime Extra, which has valerian in it – I find that this gives me really weird dreams, so I prefer the original version.
Others I use are Pukka Night Time tea and any variation on chamomile tea, as I don’t like how chamomile tastes on its own, such as Twining’s Chamomile and Spearmint.
Finally, I’ve often been frustrated by how comfortable and warm my bed feels first thing in the morning, yet it never feels that way at night. All I ever want to do in the morning is turn over and go straight back to sleep. So I’ve found that if I try to remember how this feels when I’m lying in bed awake at night, and try to make myself feel this way, I’ll fall asleep much more easily. It’s a little bit of visualisation/mind over matter, and it doesn’t always come easily, especially when I’m stressed, but it does help me to drop off more easily when I manage it.
Oh, and one other thing. I take 40mg Citalopram at the moment, and I will only take it first thing in the morning, as it disrupts my sleep too much if I take it in the evening. I’ve also found that each time my dose was increased, I found it harder to sleep for a few weeks, so I’m trying to keep this in mind.