I've always considered myself a night owl, but only in recent years did I begin to suffer from insomnia.
I spend all day being really tired, and around 10 p.m., I get a huge of burst of energy that keeps me awake until 2 a.m. – 3 a.m. It's not that I'm not trying to fall asleep; I toss and turn in my bed for hours. But I have a difficult time telling my brain to shut off for the night. And when I did finally get to sleep, I wouldn't sleep well. Any noise would wake me up and I wouldn't fall into deep sleep until right before I had to wake up.
I've heard all the typical "don't use your phone," "don't spend any time in your bed besides to sleep," "don't drink water an hour before bed" BS advice, and those things only really work for some people. Sometimes insomnia isn't about changing your normal habits, but rather finding other habits that help you get to sleep. Over the last year and a half, I've found ways to combat my insomnia and get some good nights of sleep.
1. Essential oils are your best friend
I know a lot of people poke fun at the idea of essential oils, and they aren't miracle cure-all that will save you from any ailment or issue, but they will help you fall asleep. I have an essential oil defuser, and it's done wonders for me. Scents like lavender, chamomile, peppermint, rosemary and more help your body to relax and release endorphins that will help you get to sleep faster. Also, once using essential oils becomes a common habit, your mind will associate the smell of your oils with falling asleep, and it'll signal to your body it's time to fall asleep faster than before.
2. Sleep spray
If buying a defuser and all the oils sounds a little too complicated for you, there are pillow sprays to help you fall asleep, which is a lot easier to use. I received a sample of "It Works" pillow spray in my birchbox last month, and it's become my favorite thing ever. I spray a few spritzes on my pillow, and I can feel myself relax and become more ready for bed.
3. Reading a book (or something else)
Reading is a great way to focus your mind on one task so it's able to recognize you're body is tired and ready for sleep. This is why, for me, the advice of staying off your phone isn't always helpful to everyone. Most nights I fall asleep reading tweets or blog posts on my phone because it helps my mind focus on one idea, one task, one thought, so it's not racing and preventing me from falling asleep. (And when I have really bad insomnia, I sometimes read my class textbooks to fall asleep even faster).
4. ASMR is fantastic
ASMR is short for autonomous sensory meridian response, and it's basically the reaction your body has to certain sounds and movements. If you've ever gotten chills when someone whispers in your ear, that's what ASMR targets. There are big misconceptions about ASMR, but it's great for helping your mind and body relax to get you to sleep. When I can't sleep, this is the number one thing that helps me get to sleep. When I went through my really bad bought of insomnia, I could only fall asleep listening to ASMR videos on Youtube.
5. Sleep machine
If ASMR is a little much for you, a normal, noise-making sleep machine will do the trick as well. You can download an APP on your phone that makes white noise for you to fall asleep to, or you could buy a real live sleep machine. It's continuous, calming noise helps you to relax. And since it drowns out noise, it'll help you stay asleep as well.
6. Make it dark
I cannot sleep with any light around me at all. Hall lights, night lights, even when the moon is too bright through my window. I can't fall asleep or stay asleep. People who like to wake up to the sun? I can't relate. I have blinds and shades on my windows, and I live for room-darkening shades. I also sleep with a sleep mask. I can't fall asleep without it. When I crash on a friend's couch for a night, I even put the blanket or pillow over my face to drown out the light. Complete darkness helps me get to sleep faster and get a deeper sleep.
7. Body pillows are the BEST
Two years ago, I asked for a body pillow for Christmas, and it's the best gift I've ever received. (Technically, it's called a "pregnancy pillow," but you don't need to be pregnant to enjoy it!) I love being able to wrap my entire body around the pillow when I sleep. I grew up sleeping with a teddy bear, so now I need something to grasp when I sleep. I also love sleeping with one leg bent, one leg straight, so using a body pillow make me feel as comfy as possible. When I'm cozy with my pillow, it's hard to be restless or to toss and turn too much.
8. Write in a journal
Journaling is great for clearing your mind, so it removes any stress or bad thoughts before you're ready to wind down for the night. Journaling is great for compartmentalizing and getting thoughts out of your brain and onto paper. This will help your brain settle down and get to sleep quicker.
If all else fails, there is nothing wrong with taking some melatonin to get to sleep. On nights I really can't settle down, I'll take some melatonin, put on my sleep mask, and wait to feel a little sleepier. This isn't something you can do every single night to fall asleep, but when all else fails, this is a perfectly viable way to help your mind settle down and signal it's time for some beauty rest.
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.