Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sleepin' Like a Baby

I used to have pretty bad insomnia! It was exhausting after a long day to lay awake all or most of the night. I didn't sleep while I was in the MTC for the first couple of weeks. They told me that they wouldn't send me to Croatia while I didn't sleep, I might fall apart, so they wanted to keep me in the States so I could get medical attention when I started to get sick. Sleep is essential to good health! Without sleep I couldn't think, speaking was hard to think of the right words when you're always so tired! If I couldn't speak English, try learning another language! Also, I felt SO tired all the time, it was hard to get up the energy to do things. Everything was overwhelming. In fact, I pushed my body so hard ("Do not run faster than ye are able" is something I need to remember often) that I caused myself mono toward the end of my mission.
So while in the MTC, I knew that nothing was impossible to God and that he knew where I was and my situation. I knew that sometimes the trial is taken away by our faith and sometimes it is not taken away and it is there for some reason for it to be there and something we need to learn from it. I had been praying to sleep, but nothing was working. There are 2 scriptures that meant a lot to me in the MTC: "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" Matthew 17:21 and speaking of the same occurrence Mark says in 9:29 "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting". I remember getting to the point that I was so exhausted all the time and not knowing what to do that I prayed for a couple of hours and Finally fell asleep.
After talking to the psychologist at the MTC, I was able to realize that pushing myself too hard was not helping anyone. When I push myself and am never happy with the results, it not only wears me out so that I am less able to do things, but it hurts those I interact with too. They see that I am never satisfied with my best, so they always question whether their best is good enough. It's exhausting being around someone that always pushes you too hard. He said, "The best reason I can give you for not being so hard on yourself is your future husband and your future kids. If you're hard on yourself, you will be hard on them and not know it". I started from there to pray to not be so hard on myself, and the sleep came. I believe it was a special blessing to be able to sleep for the 1st year of my mission. The last 5 months I slipped back into insomnia and didn't sleep well again until I was pregnant and then nursing.
***This was a huge revelation to me that I'm a perfectionist: I used to think "just look at my house and you'll know that I'm not a perfectionist." I'm not a great housekeeper. But I realized that for me to do something, I like it done completely. Like to vacuum, I would vacuum under everything and move everything, but I only really need to do that occasionally and vacuum the middles. Because I would make it such a big deal, and was always so tired and overwhelmed, it wouldn't get done because it would have to be done perfectly. Then it got to be a huge overwhelming project because I didn't just take it one step at a time. Or let's say the kitchen or the bathroom, for me to clean it all has to be clean and sparking, so it's overwhelming because it takes so long because it has to be perfect. I have recently learned that there is no one right way to do it and if I do a little at a time and regularly, I don't need to do it perfectly.
*I sleep better in a clean room (again not spotless, but clean) If you do a little every day, it stays good instead of having to do a huge overwhelming marathon.
After I finished nursing River, I slipped back into insomnia again until I was pregnant with Silver. So, it's an ongoing roller coaster for me, but over the years it is getting better. I rarely go the whole night anymore without sleeping, and mainly its just hard falling asleep. Here are some of the things I have found to be very helpful for me to sleep:
*I find that I lay there and think, think, think. Colt says "you can't do any good worrying about this tonight, so lay it down tonight and pick it back up in the morning" I found that this is true. If I worry about it all night, it doesn't get me any closer to a solution and then I'm so tired the next day that I'm less able to deal with it without getting easily overwhelmed. My dad says "If there is a solution, it will be found, if not, all the worry in the world won't make a difference"
*I have a pad of paper and pen in my nightstand. When I start thinking and find myself staying up from this, I write down my things to do tomorrow so I don't have to think about them, then they're written down and I don't need to keep worrying that I'll forget to do it. If I'm worried about something or uptight, I'll get out my pad and write down all my feelings about it. I'll write and write until it's out and I feel better about it. Then it's all on paper and I don't need to hold onto it any more.
*One of the best things for me, again because I think about things all night, is to read in bed. (I find that if I don't do this, like when we're away from our bed for the night, I can't sleep well and it takes me a long time to fall asleep). I read something with short articles in it, Readers Digest is my favorite, it has a variety of things that are short articles that I just read and get my mind off my day and things going on. Also, nature books about animals are good for me too. I can't read novels or I get wrapped up in the story and end up thinking about the characters all night. Sometimes I only need to read a paragraph and I'm out, or sometimes it's a couple of pages, but it gets me out of the day.
*Habits: A reason why reading works for me is it is something that I do every night, so it tells my body that I'm ready to sleep. I don't read in bed at any time other than to sleep so my body doesn't get used to just reading while I'm laying down, but really trying to stay awake.
*Another habit I got my body in is praying right before laying down to read. Praying is like a switch to fall asleep. Because I always do it right before going to sleep, it has the effect of knocking me out. I can hardly keep my eyes open afterwards.
*Everything I've read about insomnia says to get into bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. I know this would help - if I did it :) The books also say to not lay in bed if you're not sleeping. I don't do this because at least I'm resting with my eyes closed, but it might help. It's all about getting to know your body and what your body needs. The books say not to sleep less than you need (around 8 hours for an adult) or not to sleep more than you need -- I know that Colt needs 9+ hours to function his best, but for me I think that is too long for my body and actually sleeping too long gets me into the insomnia cycle.
*There was a time that I couldn't watch movies very late. If I tried to watch a movie and then go to bed afterward, it was like my body was still pumping adrenaline, and it didn't work for me.
*No Naps! I fall so deep asleep during my naps that I feel drugged for hours after I get up. I know for some people 20 min power naps are the answer and they feel fabulous afterwards. My body doesn't do well with it because I get in the cycle of sleeping deeply during a nap and then not being able to fall asleep for quite a while after I get into bed. I finally am able to sleep and then end up sleeping in. Then I'm quite fatigued in the afternoon and have to nap again which makes it harder to fall asleep at night. Now it's all about listening to your body - I caused myself mono because I pushed it too hard. If your body needs naps, then take them. Pushing your body too hard results in fatigue and getting sick. If you need to nap, by all means don't push it too hard. For me, I find that it's better to put up my feet and read a book for 15 minutes than to take a nap and then get into bed early.
*The better I eat, the better I sleep. (Eating well also helps my energy around 1:00 when the house is quiet so I don't have to nap.) If I eat 3 meals a day, I sleep better at night. I think this is why I feel so good when I am pregnant and nursing: I eat good, I don't over-commit myself to things and I take better care of myself. Hhhhmmm, I better figure out how to sleep without being pregnant or nursing, or we may have 20 kids :)

Remembering God and reading his word helps me to rest. I like to do a scripture study when I have difficulties on sleep and rest and peace. Alma 13:29 (in fact all of Alma 13 talks of rest: "Enter into the rest of the Lord their God" I have found that sleep and rest to me are: peace, comfort, and calmness: D&C 101:16 "All flesh is in my hands, Be still and know that I am God". When I count my blessings (especially that Colt doesn't snore and will hold me in the middle of the night) and focus on what is going well and good instead of worrying about what may happen or what others may think or what I did wrong, or ........a million other things, when I focus on the good, I can rest. Even if I don't sleep (again, I still struggle with this, and just because you may not be able to sleep doesn't mean that you don't have enough faith, it may just be something you need to struggle with at this time) if I do the above things, I am filled with faith and not fear and can have rest if not sleep!

1 comment:

  1. Karin, I never knew you had trouble sleeping or that you are a perfectionist! I loved all your advice and I want to follow it!