As we wrap up the Live Happy 90 Days to a Happier You challenge, editor at large Shelley Levitt writes a final blog about the triumph of overcoming her chronic insomnia.
Here are some things I have not done in the past three months:
- Taken a nap.
- Scrolled through Facebook on my iPad after waking up at 3 a.m.
- Had a late-afternoon cup of tea.
- Complained about being tired.
Insomniac no more!
Yes, it’s true. After 90 days of coaching by sleep authority Michael Breus, Ph.D., and some changes in habits (big and small), I can say with confidence and absolute delight that I no longer consider myself an insomniac.
Not everything has changed, though. I wrote in my first blog post that I’ve never been someone who slept through the night, and that’s still true. But these awakenings no longer make me anxious. Rather, I simply note that I’m awake, go to the bathroom if I need to—trying to remember not to turn on the light, because light sends a “get alert” signal to your brain—roll over and contentedly drift back to the Land of Nod.
OK, I’ll admit, I haven’t completely stuck with the program Michael prescribed. Without getting the go-ahead from him, I extended my wake-up time to 6:30. I’ve confessed this to Michael, but what I haven’t shared with him is that I then spend an extra 30 minutes reading on my iPad before I get out of bed.
And though I specifically asked Michael if I could read in bed at night and he very clearly told me he didn’t think that was a good idea, I have gone back to reading in bed. It’s just too great a pleasure to give up. Besides, as he has pointed out, it’s being in a recumbent position that primes your body for sleep, and I’m more likely to fall asleep before my bedtime if I’m on the sofa reading Fates and Furies (a novel I very highly recommend, by the way) than if I’m reading it sitting up in bed.
Better sleep means a better me
Michael tells me that I’ve snapped back to consolidated sleep at a pretty rapid pace. (“Consolidated sleep” means efficient sleep; if you’re in bed for seven hours, you’re sleeping for most of that time. When sleep isn’t consolidated, you might be sleeping for only four of those hours and tossing and turning for the remaining three.) “If your sleep does get off-kilter again, you’ll know what you need to do to bring yourself back on board,” Michael says. “You probably have more flexibility than you would imagine.” That said, he adds, “I do not recommend that you change your wake-up time. Keeping that consistent is the anchor of good sleep.” (Clearly, I need to guard against wake-up time creep.)
I feel certain that I’ll be able to keep insomnia at bay, which is a pretty remarkable thing for me to write because I’ve suffered from poor sleep for years…make that decades. I thought I was a hopeless case.
As I’ve been saying to my best friend, who also struggles with insomnia—we’ve both lay awake in the middle of the night on countless vacations—if I can solve my sleep problems, so can you. If you’re wretchedly sleep-deprived as you read this, I say the same to you. It will take effort and a couple of miserable weeks, but you, too, can enjoy restful, restorative nights of slumber.
Listen to Shelley and other Live Happy staff discuss how the 90 Day challenge has impacted their lives on our podcast.
Shelley Levitt is an editor at large for Live Happy magazine.