Dillan DiGiovanni

coach | writer | speaker

6 Tips For Less Sleepless Nights

Health and WellnessDillan DiGiovanniComment

It's that time of year, apparently. People are complaining about sleepless nights. I can relate because I experienced some intense, situational insomnia two times in my life.

Before 2008, I had never really known the experience of insomnia. That year was painful. I had moved from an apartment I loved to one nearer to someone I was dating because she complained of the commute to see me. I don't recommend doing this.

This new apartment was located on an extremely busy (read: TOTALLY CLOGGED) main street in Downtown Boston about a half-mile from one of the biggest hospitals in the city. Ambulances roared past my window on a consistent basis, sirens blaring. My room was on the street-level and I paid over $1100 a month on my rent. To share the apartment. My roommate paid the same amount for her bedroom.Oh, the things I could have done with that money...!

That year, I barely slept through the night. It was a year filled with chronic illness, countless sick days and general, constant fatigue, lethargy and depression. Not fun.

The second time I experience insomnia was a year and a half ago. About 6-8 months before making the choice to medically transition to male. There was this restless, unrelenting anxiety inside and it manifested as general anxiety during the day and sleepless night. Like the kind I fell asleep at 10:30pm and was up at 1am, 3am, 4am and then finally, when I was about to fall asleep at 6am, it was time to get up.

That kind.

The freakin' worst.

This lasted for months.

Lately, my sleep is rock solid *knocks wood*.

Here are 6 tips for less sleepless nights:

1) Look at your nutrition. If you're overeating or undereating during the day and/or eating later in evening, your sleep will suffer. Your body is really smart and you will feel the effects of everything you do (or don't) eat during the day. Track the meals you've eaten during the day. Are you eating enough protein, fat and complex carbs? Are you eating greens? They are good for your brains and mood. If you eat late at night, your body will be so focused on digesting that it will take away from the internal clock stuff that happens to put you into a deep, super slumber. Likewise, if you're depriving yourself of essential nutrients and sufficient calories during the day, your body sort of has every right to be poking and prodding you during the night to get what it needs. This is science. I'm not making it up. And since I've been my own test subject for years, I speak from personal experience.

2) Take extra vitamin D. Or not. Some folks attribute restless nights with insufficient Vitamin D levels. Depending on where you live in the U.S. or around the world, this may or may not be true for you. Those living in places where there is less sunlight right now (Boston, MA for example) aren't getting much Vitamin D because their bodies are bundled up in winter(ish) clothing and warm buildings. We get something like 10,000 units from 30 minutes in the sun. If we aren't in the sun, this doesn't happen. Do you can get some extra D lovin' from egg yolks or fatty fish. If you're a vegan or vegetarian, there are some algaes that provide vitamin D, and you can buy them in health food stores. I seem to be getting what I need from my diet, despite less intense sun exposure, so I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

3) Don't drink before bed. I know a lot of my restless nights were caused by getting up and peeing during the night. It messed with me because I thought I was doing the right thing by drinking so much water to be hydrated. Little did I realize that I was causing my own insomnia by drinking right before bed. I work to get my fluids in early in the day and then cruising into the evening with less and less drinks.

4) Assess your surroundings. It may sound overly simple but is your living situation conducive to getting good sleep? Where is your dwelling located--in a quiet or busy location? Your bed--is it comfortable? Is your room cluttered and messy or tidy and organized--it may affect your subconscious. Is the temperature at night too cold or too hot for your needs and what can you do to change this?

5) Solve your stuff. It's possible your sleeplessness is being caused by a major stressor in your life. A job-related issue. Some relationship stuff, maybe even around your family. Questioning an aspect of your personal identity. Bigger picture problems. Guess what? Everyone has this stuff. You're not broken, weird or wrong to be struggling with something, or a few things. The extent to which you address this stuff and seek to solve it will affect your ability to relax and drift away to slumberland. Again, I speak from experience on this one. Even when I thought I was doing everything I could to manifest peaceful sleep, there were still things I wasn't doing to make it better. I strived until I solved it.

6) Wrap-up and wind-down. Each day will be filled with endless tasks, thoughts and responsibilities. But at some point, you have to be able to say, "this day is over. Plenty of time to tackle it tomorrow." Saying this out loud may help, because you may still think staying up is the solution. It might be, if getting more work done is your goal. If more sleep is what you're seeking, staying up late working on projects or doing things won't get you there. You will always find something to work on or something that needs to be completed. Wrap up whatever you're doing and intentionally wind-down, preferably without electronics nearby because all that motion and stimulation can mess with your brainwaves. Or something. Try reading or meditating. Seriously. How many people fall asleep while meditating? (wait, is that only me...?)