Updated on 09.07.11

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Lack of Sleep Edition

Trent Hamm

Over the past week, I’ve had the worst case of insomnia I’ve had since my college years. I simply cannot get to sleep before one or two in the morning, and during the last few hours of being awake, I’m basically useless. I can’t write anything coherent and if I read, I barely remember what I’ve read.

Mostly, I’ve been filling those hours with mindless household tasks and some simple gameplaying (leveling up characters in RPGs, mostly). I’ve also left some notes for future ideas, but most of those are incoherent.

Insomnia, when will you go away?

How to Stop Reading and Start Doing I often struggle with this. I read a great deal and I often stumble across amazing ideas. The challenge is actually transitioning to executing those great ideas. (@ pick the brain)

How to Raise Your Children to Be Generous This is one of the traits I focus on with my own children. The best method I’ve found is to be generous myself. (@ christian pf)

Three Reasons to Stop Living in the Past The rules of the past are different than the rules of today. If you live by the rules of the world from 1970 or 1980, you’re not going to be able to succeed today. (@ hope to prosper)

Get What You Want When You Want It You can do this if you have your wants under control and you have your finances in a good place. If you can’t say that those things are true, you need to fix those things first. (@ money cactus)

Culinary Odds & Ends: How Eating Leftovers Saves Me $1400 Annually I eat leftovers pretty much every single day for lunch. (@ len penzo)

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  1. Mary Kay says:

    I fall asleep easily at night, but by 4:00 am I just can’t get back to sleep if I wake up. I’m tired but I’m too awake to sleep. It’s been a couple of weeks for me and it’s getting old (and I’m tired).

  2. Maureen says:

    Stop using the computer or watching TV for a couple of hours before you try to go to sleep. Try reading or listening to relaxing music. Your body should be winding down before bedtime.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    For insomnia, I’ve heard that one needs to shut off electronics usage – tv, computers, ereaders, smartphones, etc. an hour or so before bed.

    What works for me (and for years now I share Mary Kay’s problem more than Trent’s), is to stay in (or go to) bed, with the room dark, and refuse to look at a clock before the sun comes up (I set the alarm too). When unable to sleep, 99% of the time I practice deep breathing/relaxation and repeat a soothing mantra – even if I don’t go back to sleep, I at least get a lot of relaxation & meditating done!. The other 1% of the time I finally give up & get up & read.

  4. Adam P says:

    I finally broke down and got prescription sleeping pills. Insomnia sucks. I am wary of addiction/depedence so my rule is only to take half of one, and never 2 nights in a row. I got 30 pills with 3 refills back in April, and I’ve still got over a dozen left. I am very glad to have them though; my mind just will NOT shut off some nights when I start stressing about work or the recent illness in my family…

  5. Adam P says:

    *sorry meant to add to that I haven’t used any refills yet.

    Trent you say leveling up characters in RPGs, that implies (perhaps incorrectly) you’re up playing video games instead of sleeping? I hope not MMORPGS! ;-) I say what the others say, probably not a good idea to be playing games when you can’t sleep. Better to just lay in bed awake and plot out your fantasy/sci-fi novel you want to write.

  6. Sonja says:

    Best trick for falling asleep or going back to sleep at 4:00 am: count backwards from 300 by 3’s. It is just challenging enough that you have to pay attention (I try and see the numbers in my mind’s eye) and boring enough that you fall (back) to sleep. I have been doing this for a couple years now and have only gotten to zero twice. On both those occasions I started over and fell asleep. If you catch your mind wandering, just restart and focus. It sounds dumb but it really works. And hey, it’s FREE!

  7. Josh says:

    Trent if you started playing WoW again that is going to make your insomnia worse, not better. Even if it is other RPG’s, electronic stimuli make it harder to sleep, so avoid them for at least 2 hours before bedtime (which is usually the opposite of what people who have trouble sleeping do — they normally play video games/watch tv right up until they go to bed).

  8. Gretchen says:

    We have this alarm clock that only shines on the ceiling or displays “regularly” when motion detected.

    It helps a lot. Computers and computer screens would be the exact oposite.

  9. Matt says:

    Trent – try getting some (preferably hard) exercise in late afternoon/early evening if you can. If your body feels like it’s put in some good effort it’s often easier to get to sleep.

    On a side note, I find it slightly difficult to comprehend not being able to go to sleep right now… the 2-month old and 2-year old in my house make sure I get up at least a couple times a night, we’ve had company with us recently, and I’m pretty darn exhausted! I have had trouble sleeping in the past though – usually when stressing about something. Is there something you’re (consciously or unconsciously) stressing out about?

  10. I only have a problem sleeping if something is spinning in my mind and won’t go away. Maybe, if you resolve that issue you can get some sleep.

  11. Riki says:

    I’m fortunate that I rarely have trouble sleeping. If I do, it tends to be because I’m worried about forgetting something the next morning so I find getting up to make a list fixes the problem.

    But I do recognize that I’m very lucky. I really appreciate my great ability to sleep.

  12. Tamara says:

    Sleep mask + earplugs + melatonin = lifesaver. I have a scrip for Ambien too but only take it about once a week (usually Sunday night so I can be back on track for the work week).

  13. Tracy says:

    Hot cocoa/warm (non-caffeinated tea) and a warm bath or shower (not a very hot one!) will help relax you, as well. And yes, about the worst thing you can do is watch tv or be on the computer doing anything for at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.

    The other thing that I’ve found works for me is listening to an audiobook, particularly one that I already know the story.

  14. maria says:

    #5 ADAM P
    I am just like you. HOwever, I figured I do not have a sleeping problem I have a turning my brain off problem and finally broke down and got RX xanax… the lowest dose and I only take 1/2 a pill about once or twice a week. I greatly prefer the xanax over a sleeping pill and my dr. said xanax is a bit safer than sleeping pills. The sleeping pills just seem to knock me out cold, while the xanax just relaxes me and I fall asleep naturally.. well as naturally as possible after taking a xanax.

  15. AnnJo says:

    Trent, although stress and/or anxiety are the most likely causes, given your recent shift to a vegan diet you might make sure you’re getting enough niacin and B-12. The best food sources for those are the foods that are usually omitted from a vegan diet. A multi-vitamin every few days would take care of that.

  16. Diane says:

    I’m experiencing this for the first time in my life and man, does it stink, I’ve tried a few of the tricks above, but the 300 backward by 3’s trick has been added to my list. Since this is such a recent problem, I am loathe to use Rx drugs. What has helped for me is the following: Take ONE Benadryl (or its cheap generic equivalent) at about 8:00 pm and then stay awake, doing easy, non-stressful tasks until at least 10:00pm. So far, it’s worked for me with no groggy “hangover” in the morning. The time I tried two, it took until noon to come out of the fog. so stick with one to start. Good luck!

  17. Dan W. says:

    Free-running sleep’s a lifesaver. It does make a lot of sense if you’re insomniac and don’t maintain a 9-5 schedule.

  18. MARY S says:

    Re; #16
    Just to let you know, diphenhydramine (Benadryl,Tylenol PM)is not recommended for persons over 65 yrs of age. Regular use can cause decreased cognition and may increase falls in the elderly. As a pharmacist, I can’t help but cringe everytime I hear people extol the virtues of Benadryl as a sleep aid. It’s OK for younger people but don’t recommend it for grandma!

  19. Lilly says:

    My solution to end insomnia forever? Quit caffeine in all of its forms, including coffee, tea, chocolate, soda (colas and 7-Up), diet pills, migraine medication, yes, even decaffeinated coffee. It has 1% caffeine. If you honestly give those up and still have insomnia, try a glass or two of wine before bedtime and see if that doesn’t knock you out. Good luck!

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