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Ideas From an Insomniac

by Aaron Tanner

· Insomnia,Sleep,Coloring,Rest,Aspergers

This week was a rough one for me as I had insomnia four out of the last seven nights this week. Although I am not sure the reason for the poor sleep, perhaps it was the unusually hot and humid weather or world events or simply it was time for a cycle where it takes a while to fall asleep.

Insomnia is one of the characteristics of Aspergers. According to a study published in 2003 by the US National Library of Medicine, 90% of people with Aspergers answered in a questionnaire they had insomnia. Some of the reasons given to why sleep was interrupted included anxiety and mood disorders causing the brain to not shut down as quickly.

Trying to force yourself to fall asleep just produces more stress and makes insomnia worse. Fortunately, I found some tricks to help me fall asleep that does not involve medicine. The following are some tips I found that help me fall asleep:

1. Limit caffeine/sugar intake in the afternoon and evening

I have virtually cut out sodas in my diet. After drinking two cups of coffee in the morning, I drink water the rest of the day. This allows me to stay hydrated without being overstimulated, leading to falling asleep easier. I recommend avoiding caffeinated beverages or sugary products after 2 or 3 PM. If you can, have water instead of soda at lunch to reduce the risk of insomnia later at night and avoid energy drinks at all costs.

2. Try to do something that does not involve a screen

Staring into a display before bedtime can cause the brain to not shut down as quickly. I will admit I am bad about this and have to force myself to put down the phone an hour before I want to fall asleep. Instead, do something that does not involve staring at a smartphone or computer. If you must watch something on TV in the middle of the night, watch something that is light. I enjoy Bob's Burgers reruns on Adult Swim as the show is lighthearted and funny without being vulgar.

3. Use Adult Coloring Books

Recently I jumped aboard the adult coloring book craze as a co-worker gave a few that she had laying around her house to doodle around. What makes these books different from typical children’s coloring books is that the designs and patterns in an adult coloring book are more complex. Concentrating on trying to color in all the different lines and shapes usually reduces anxiety and causes eyes to feel at rest, decreasing the likelihood of being up all night.

4. Read something light

Instead of looking at a screen, pick up a physical book and read. I recommend something that is light and not too controversial, such as a political book, so that the brain does not become too wired. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I recommended Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. Due to this year being an active hurricane season, I recently began reading The Beach, The History of Paradise on Earth by Lena Lencek about why people are drawn to the beach in the first place. Reading the tiny print on those pages causes the eyes to strain and close, leading to one falling asleep.

5. Take a Hot Shower

When all else fails, take a hot shower. The warm water causes the muscles to feel less tense and more relaxed. I often fall asleep after taking a shower.

These are tips I have found that have helped me fall asleep when dealing with insomnia. It is important not to get worked up and anxious when you cannot sleep as that will only prolong insomnia. Instead, get your mind off sleep so you can rest peacefully.

What steps do you take to fall asleep more quickly? Comment in the section below.

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