I’m an insomniac, get me out of here

Posted on January 16th, 2013

You haven’t really lived until you’ve experienced insomnia. As in, really felt the darkest, loneliest, nothingness core of existence that really only strikes around 4am when sleep eludes and sunrise is an hour away.

As in, descended to such a pit of wall-punching, stomach-clawing despair, and then risen again as the currawongs emit their forlorn caw, thoroughly aware of every fibre of yourself, the person next to you, the neighbours, and, in fact, all of humanity. Honestly, I feel closer to insomniacs than good sleepers because of the shared experience of this particular despair.

Image by Julia Fullerton-Batten

Image by Julia Fullerton-Batten

I’ve been an insomniac since I was 21. Actually, I was eight when I first became scared of the night – not of the dark, but of the task of switching gears to sleep. When I was 21 insomnia sent me mad. I was living in Santa Cruz, California, and….oh, there were things going on…and I wound up spending five months grabbing no more than 3-4 hours a night. They were the good nights.

Most nights it was a 15 minute snatch of delirium around 5am. Fifteen minutes in which I was able to give in to the night. Or, rather, the dawn. It was anyone’s – God’s? – guess as to whether I even got that snatch. I was at the mercy of…God? Fate?

This kind of vulnerability is particular to insomnia. You’re imprisoned, defenceless. You can’t control your destiny. You’re denied the freedom to “turn on sleep”. And why? A reason doesn’t seem to exist. And so it all seems so unfair.

At 4am you oscillate between anger (“This is unfair”) and grief (“I must have done something terribly wrong to deserve this”) and loneliness (“What am I missing? What handbook to life didn’t I get???”).

The extent of the madness back when I was 21 is for another story. Suffice to say at the end of the five months I no longer functioned and George, a loved one, came to collect me and take me home. I got my first auto-immune disease off the back of this, actually.

I’ve not been sleeping lately. My apartment has two elephants running up and down the hall all night. It rattles the windows and my nerves. Last week I had two nights in a row where I don’t think I even snatched 15 minutes of delirium. After two days of no sleep I had to appear on Sunrise (morning television), then go to three meetings, followed by a function that night. These days, of course, insomnia doesn’t just leave me tired, it also “eats” away at my health. The biggest trigger of autoimmune-related inflammation in my body is lack of sleep. If I don’t get enough, my body doesn’t heal the damage my autoimmune disease causes to my cells during the day, and then leads to more damage. Every night that I don’t sleep, my health goes backwards. It’s truly a tragic thing to be aware of at 4am.

And then a double bind kicks in: when my autoimmune disease flares up, it disrupts the hormones that enable sleep. And so around and around I go, wondering what egg came first.

I mean, where does any of it start? Why do some people just not sleep? How does it start? What causes it? For those of us who find sleep elusive, the far more interesting question is: HOW THE HELL DO GOOD SLEEPERS JUST…FALL ASLEEP? What is it? What kicks in? Is a clean conscience really a prerequisite? I’m willing to accept this. Really, I am. I accept that there is a reason why I’ve not been handed sleep on some kind of invisible drip, even if I don’t know what it is.

I cope really bloody well given the above… I reckon. More days than not I’m sleeping badly, and so 4-5 days out of seven, my every cell is in pain from the issues my insomnia causes. On bad-sleep days, it is very hard to move and to work and to conduct conversations and to keep sane. I have chosen, however, to not let it stop me. Slow me down, yes. And so I get up and exercise every morning. I rarely cancel plans. I show up.

Confession time: In order to get the meagre amount of sleep that I do, I revert to a very bizarre bag of tricks, including drugs.

I wear earplugs every night, and an eyemask. Have done for years. A boyfriend once told me it was like sleeping with Helen Keller (I also wore a mouth guard at the time).

I must shower before getting into bed – to raise my body temperature.

I take melatonin (the sleep hormone and precursor to seratonin) which I have to get sent from the US in a clandestine way – it invariably gets held up at customs – as it’s illegal to sell here over the counter (and expensive on prescription).

On top of this, I take various combinations of the following at various time of the night/pre-dawn: Sleep Aid, GABA, valium, and aspirin (on the days where my inflammation is roaring; aspirin calms it down).

Do I feel wrong for reverting to drugs? Hell, yes. Wrong is an understatement. I feel thoroughly poisoned. And imprisoned.

But sometimes we have to do what we have to do. And this is where I have arrived at in life, on a meta level.

As John Lennon sang, “Whatever gets you through the night, s’alright”.

Is it age? Fatigue? Defeat? Surrender? That brings you to this kind of realisation. I’m in a bind, with no easy way out. So I choose to cope. I choose not to stay bound in the cycle. I choose to surrender. And every morning, when I get up feeling inflammed and angry, I choose to not let it ruin my day. I engage in a hell of a lot of self-talk in the mornings.

Why am I sharing all this? Well, I could say it’s because I want to reach out to other insomniacs and to start a conversation that helps us all feel less alone. Or because I want to remind everyone – even good sleepers – that you do have to whatever gets your through sometimes. We all do. No one has it all sorted in advance. This is indeed part of it. But not all of it.

I also, selfishly, want understanding and a bit of leeway. Are bloggers allowed to admit this?

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  • JaneK

    I have always been a good sleeper and having babies nearly drove me insane with sleep deprivation. Living in that place would be an enormous challenge, I used to feel like I was moving in slow motion and staring at people as they spoke to me with their mouths moving but I wasn’t hearing anything!

    It’s good for others to have understanding of what life is like for us, it clears the air so we can just be, then get on with what we need to do in that state.


    Sara Reply:

    Yes, as I read this post I thought about my sleep dep. My baby is 2 and it’s better now, but not in the clear. There’s truly nothing more debilitating.

    I struggle with the lack of freedom too. To have a baby is to commit oneself to do someone elses life for them until they can do it for themselves, and it leaves no time for ones own life…unless you cut corners, which I refuse to do.


    Stephanie kotzageridis Reply:

    Hi it’s 4am as I am sitting in bed,not SLEEPING for another night again. After taking my 6mg of prescribed melatonin from compounding pharmacy ($80) 100 pills and a strong pain killer I have a bad back and a terribly expansive mattress that my husband loves and my back hates, I have tried to fall asleep from 10 pm I have to be at work by 5.30am and fully functioning. I watched T.V had a cup of warm peppermint tea hoping it will help, nothing turned T.V off at 1.30am tried to force my brain to stop thinking and my eyes to closes (husband) snoring very loudly next to me, I look at him and just want to get a stick and hit him over the head (he falls a sleep in 2 seconds every night) getting angry thinking about having to get up in a few hours still up at 3.40am turn T.V back and get a glass of water go back to bed dog Charlie follows, jumps on bed falls a sleep and starts snoring. Help Help


    Sue Bromwich Reply:

    I have had insomnia on and off since I was a child and I am now 57.

    Things that I have found that have helped are:
    – earplugs
    – eye mask
    – regular daily exercise, not straight before bed – however, some gentle stretching and yoga or meditation can help just before bed
    – my own bedroom when my husband’s snoring is stopping me from getting to sleep
    – reading before I go to bed
    – Not eating sugary stuff including alcohol (you all need to look up “Hypoglycemia” from the Hypoglycemic Health Association of Australia and read up about the condition)
    – Having a high protein snack just before going to bed – this will help stop the 1 – 2am sugar dip that wakes us up (a piece of chicken or turkey high in tryptophan)
    – My husband massaged my feet before I went to sleep for some time and this helped to really relax me
    – I did try a quick Bowen demonstration once and i slept like a baby that night, so I may try that again to see if it helps
    – Don’t drink too much fluid just before bed just in case you need to pee
    – get all of your electro-magnetic devices out of your bedroom all together
    – make sure that your bed and pillow are totally comfortable
    – don’t go to bed until you are sleepy, but as soon as you feel sleepy don’t delay….if you get a second wind you will be up for hours…
    – if i have had three bad nights in a row, I will take half a Restavit for a night or two to re-establish the sleeping pattern
    – don’t do computer work before bed, I don’t know how the Kindles will go with insomniacs….
    – definitely no caffeine at any time of the day
    – try and establish a proper sleep and wake cycle – it is important to get sun into your face as early as needed (say 7 – 8am) to let your body know this is when to start the day
    – keep lights off at night after you go to bed
    – I have battled with coeliac disease, hypoglycemia, sjogrens and ME/CFS so I do have a few autoimmune diseases – it may well be that we have some kind of damage to the little section of the brain that puts us to sleep or our bodies stop us from killing ourselves by not letting us get sleep to reduce the immune system – who knows, but I wish they would find out
    – vitamins that may help sleep include magnesium and calcium, and zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C may help your immune system
    – herbs that help you relax may also benefit you
    – if you have a lot of self talk going on in your head a meditation CD may help to stop that, I can solve a lot of problems at night because my brain just wants to keep going…
    – I have given up gluten, dairy, sugar, yeast, caffeine, alcohol and MSG so my sleeping has improved
    – last night I couldn’t get to sleep as my husband was snoring, heavy breathing and talking in his sleep (as usual) and our spare bed was taken, so I got up and read my book, ate half a large packet of corn chips and half a mango, had a cup of evening tea and went back to bed at 1.30am and slept OK after that. Today I have ensured I have access back to the spare bed and If I don’t get a good night’s sleep tonight i will plan to have a Restavit tomorrow night to get back to normal again.
    – Don’t give up the battle and don’t fear the insomnia because that will make it worse.
    – If yo are having menopausal symptoms and wake every 5 minutes cold or hot, have some tofu or soy milk (gluten and sugar free) every day
    – I will try the kiwi fruit as suggested soon…
    – Anyway good luck fellow insomniacs – I have had all the same thoughts as you at night listening to my partner snore etc but the spare bed and earplugs work well most of the time


    Karen Reply:

    Thanks for your thoughts and tips on sleep. I too, have a very similar “system” to yours – and similar remedies. I, like Sarah, feel guilty that I resort to Imrest to sleep – but at least I get a few hours in a row.

    It really helps to read other’s struggles with the elusive sleep – not nice for anyone – but sharing really does help.


    sustainablechris Reply:

    I suffered from insomnia for years when I was a youngster and into my early twenties. Even today in my thirties I still have nights where I get very little sleep. I seem to function very well with only 6hrs of sleep. Sometimes I only get 4 hrs and I am fine. But, I have found some ways to bring on sleep and still get the rest my body needs. Trick # 1 Meditation. Meditate in bed sitting up. Try to do nothing but breath and think about your breath as you meditate. I usually try to meditate for 30 minutes before sleeping and often get to drowsy too stay awake for the full 30 minutes. Guided meditations work to, connections to source, light healing, etc. Counting down from 100 hundred with your breath works well. With each breath count one number backwards until you finally reach 1. If you lose your place because you started thinking start over. Trick #2 Starting with your toes flex and tighten each muscle group in your body. Focus on a group of muscles, tighten them for 1 to 3 breaths then release. Slowly work your way up to your head and face to finish. Trick #3 Dont be afraid to exercise at night before bed, especially lifting weights. Finish with a hot shower and a good recovery meal or shake. Eating late helps me also. There is something to the old saying about it is hard to go to bed on a empty stomach. Trick #4 Just because you are not a sleep does not mean your body is not resting and repairing itself. Laying awake at 4am can be very beneficial as long as you are not stressing yourself out about losing sleep. Sleepless nights are a great time to work with mantras, affirmations, prayers and meditative exercises. Do them lying down in bed, slow your breathing down as much as you can and keep your mantras in sequence with your slow breathing. Also listening to soft classical music or other music can be helpful on nights you cannot sleep. Again keep your focus on your breath and just the music, try to feel it not just hear it. I highly recommend Bonobo’s black sands album if you want to try something other than classical. Sigur Ros is another great artist for night time. So you did not sleep or you got very little of it. At least you filled your head with beautiful sounds or affirmations and your body feels somewhat rested from a relaxing evening in bed. Do not be afraid to take that power nap in the middle of the day when you need it. Bonne Chance!!


    Eva Reply:

    Sweetheart, this is awful, please go and find a good classical homoeopath.

    I have seen symptom complexes like this and know that it could help you heaps.
    (and have suffered from it myself at times)

    Make sure you get a good one!

    Here are three questions to ask to find if they are kosher:

    * How long does a first appointment last?
    Anything less than an hour – forget it!

    * How long did you study (also, it must include Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology))?
    Should be about 4 years

    * How many remedies do you prescribe at one time?
    Should be only one usually.

    All the Best with that!


    Helen Reply:

    There is something comforting in reading the feedback here from other fellow insomniacs. It is so debilitating, so wearing and and so disappointing when you can not act in the manner that you wish to through utter tiredness, trying to string a conversation together, use your memory which has vanished – apparently crawling off into a corner of its own desperately trying to rest, I gather! Tears, damn the tears, I was an emotional wreck – would cry for no reason – none! it was pathetic.
    I am 53, I have just experienced 3 years of normal sleep – it has been bliss – and yes, I found the culprit too – but I have started sliding again and I suspect it is my age – and clearly we are ‘sensitive’ anyway, otherwise we would not be sitting writing to this blog (thank you Sarah).

    But my savior – 3 years ago – I have to share with you!! I decided on a wheat free diet to control stomach bloating and I started sleeping immediately – I was shocked! By accident I found the cure, it was heaven. Through trial and error I discovered preservatives, sugar and of course caffeine were definitely no no’s. but the big one was wheat. My sleep pattern was always to fall asleep – I could always to that, but I could not stay under, I would wake every 20 minutes or so – always.
    and for this reason, I always felt the fault was mechanical and my suspicion was justified in the end. Wheat – it is a bad guy!!
    Over decades I had tried everything I think – although now, bar bowens and meditation – and this may be a fitting way to try managing my recent sleep problem which I do think is related to my age. You have my empathy!! I understand and good luck everyone!!


    Janine Reply:

    Hi Sarah. I feel your pain absolutely. Years of insomnia and inflammation behind me. All greatly exacerbated by a husband who only has to think about going to bed and he’s asleep. I can kick him for breathing too heavily all night long and he just turns over and goes back to sleep. I can’t even begin to describe the fury that generates in me some nights…

    I only recently started to see a clinical biologist about some health issues that I was having. I was running 10km with girlfriends a year ago and then I very abruptly developed an achilles tendinopathy that no amount of expensive treatment has got rid of. Then an old hip issue flared up again – also tendinopathy related. Then more recently my knee started to hurt (all of this is the left side). You can imagine how I felt not being able to even exercise my tiredness and frustration away. Of recent times I can’t even go for an exercise walk and have had to stop climbing the 6 flights of stairs at my work. I initially swam 4 times a week but cannot even bring myself to get back in the pool now.

    Given that no amount of external therapy was working on my achilles and that I had suffered IBS for years, I decided to see this clinical biologist that a friend had recommended. She referred to him as a ‘naturopath’ and there is a whole story about how that one caught me out. I gave him the symptoms of IBS, achilles tendinopathy and painful hip to work with. I was in such a bad way with all of that, that I only remembered to throw in the insomnia at the last minute. It wasn’t high on my priority list at that point in time.

    He immediately diagnosed fructose malabsorption and pseudo coeliac (I have been tested and know that I’m not coeliac) as I reacted to a wide range of grains. He gave me a huge amount of information about how this worked with my body and started to make reference to links to mental illness and impact on brain chemistry. I had no idea of this linkage. I also hadn’t mentioned to him that I had a history of anxiety (post children) and live in a constant mental fog (which I put down to sleep deprivation). He raised all of that.

    I walked away with basically a Paleo diet to follow for 6 weeks with the first 2 weeks being fructose (in fact all sugars) free and also some drops for my liver and an old Glandular Fever virus.

    The biggest and most immediate change for me was that I started to fall asleep without the aid of drugs most nights of the week within 3 days of starting the diet and drops! I am still waking too early and not getting enough sleep but I count this as a great step forward. I’ve had some set backs as I try to work out the food and IBS relationship but my ability to fall asleep still rebounds within a few days. My achilles has actually settled and is no longer stiff in the morning (first time in nearly a year) but may have been helped along by the particularly vicious massage that a recommended Osteo gave my calves…

    So I don’t know if this is of any help to you but this was an amazing revelation for me. After a couple of weeks I’ve added some fruit back in and very small amounts of sugar. I’ve just about finished the first 6 weeks and am back to see the practitioner soon and will see where things go from here.


  • Ashley

    I completely understand your pain Sarah, I’ve been dealing with insomnia since the beginning of high school, so nearly 10 years now. Anytime I am in a new environment (hotels, staying with friends), or there’s something big and important the next day, or, you know, a Tuesday I end up wide awake all night. I try my best not to take drugs, but if I need to be lively the next day it’s a must. It’s always good to hear there are other insomniacs out there suffering in the same way… makes it a little less lonely when we can share that yes?


  • Charlotte Chance

    Have you ever tried Bowen technique, my daughter suffers with insomnia but always sleeps well after Bowen.


  • I’ve been an insomniac for as long as I can remember and I’m 48 now. My mother took me to the doctor when I was five and he said I wasn’t sleeping due to psychedelic dreams (well it was the sixties I guess).

    My husband is one of those sleepers who just shuts his eyes and wakes up 8 hours later and I often lie there at 3am and feel like putting a pillow over his face it’s so annoying.

    I read a lot through the night now – usually between 3 and 5 am then get a nap in after that. I used not to read because I felt as if I wasn’t trying hard enough to sleep but eventually realised that just lying there trying to go to sleep was never going to work anyway.

    I make myself get up and run in the mornings even though it takes an effort – definitely makes me feel bettter – well until about 2pm anyway.


  • Jo

    I too am an Insomniac! When its in full swing, I can go months without getting more than an hour or two a night. I always practice the sleep hygiene rules to try and get through and get back to some normal routine. And I always recommend the same rules for clients I work with who may be suffering too!

    I’ve also been trying a Kiwi fruit about an hour before bedtime! Some early research is indicating that some proprties in the kiwi fruit can aid sleep. Believe me, I’ll try anything to get a few good nights sleep underway.



    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    interesting one. I’ll try it!


  • Ms Jane

    Don’t feel bad Sarah about having to resort to drugs. There are some days where you just have to function no matter what. I’ve had periods of insomnia where I’ve had to take a sleeping pill cos after 5 nights with no sleep I can’t look after my kids, do my job, be nice to my husband!!! I always just try to be Buddhist about it and say to myself in the middle of the night “this isn’t permanent”. Thanks for sharing x


  • Lou

    Hi Sarah,
    Boy did that blog resonate! My auto- immune symptoms (SLE) were so much worse after poor sleep, which was often. I have always been so envious of those people whose heads hit the pillow and they are snoring in seconds. What’s with that, seriously? Seems so unfair:-) A neat little on/off switch is all I ask for. Re. Inflammation, for me I think I have finally found the main culprit… Dairy. Had tried sugar free, am vegetarian, no junk at all, but not until I cut out dairy a year ago, have I finally felt the insidious inflammation subside. Relief at last after 37 years. May you know that peace again x


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Thanks Lou. Dairy doesn’t affect me at all. Sugar and insomnia and more than a glass of wine


  • Anne

    I”ve had insomnia for 4yrs, exacerbated by my job and personality. I’m a shift worker, and an anxious person by nature – the combination being a sure-fire way to destry my body clock and ensure that good quality sleep eludes me. It’s torturous and reduces quality of life, but I soldier on too. i do take prescription melatonin (made by a compund chemist at 5 to 15 mgs) which helped but it is expensive I agree. Sometimes when I’m desperate I take a sleeping tablet in the hopes it will break the cycle and alow mw to reset. it’s a quick fix and it doesnt work for long. I crave sleep, I know how vital it is for good health. I’m interested in ways others deal with it.


  • Don’t feel guilty about the drugs. You do what you’ve got to do. There’s only so much ‘warm milk before bedtime’ that you can take before you’ve got to face up to reality and ask for a bit of chemical help.

    My question is, do the drugs help? Do you actually sleep better when you take them? If so, it’s working and no harm done.

    I remember after having my first baby, those sleepless nights nearly drove me insane – literally. Sleep is so important for physical and mental help. Look after yourself Sarah, let go of the guilt.


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    the drugs work when I’m desperate to pass out. but after about a week, the effect wears off…


    Erika Reply:

    Yeah, that’s the problem with benzos: you build up a tolerance. There are other drugs that can be taken that are dose- consistent, such as small doses of seroquel (which is about $30 for 60 tablets). It’s technically classed as a mood stabiliser (old school term- anti-psychotic), but in small doses (12.5-50mg) it is a great long term sleeping agent in most cases. Only down side is that it increases appetite.


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Erika, that’s not entirely correct.

    Seroquel (quetiapine) is about $80 for 60 tablets in Australia. You also usually need a psychiatrist to prescribe it, which generally runs about $350+ an hour (with usually half back in Medicare.)

    They don’t make a 12.5mcg pill, the lowest dosage for insomia is 25mcg (or 50mcg for the extended release, used to treat bipolar, schizophrenia, etc.) Seroquel is an atypical antipsychotic, not a mood stabiliser. While the two overlap quite a bit in which illnesses they treat, they are not the same thing.

    Seroquel has an extensive list of possible serious side effects, only one of which is an increase in appetite. It’s a wonder drug in my opinion, but it does have a lot of side effects to be wary of that should not be taken lightly.

    Sorry to nitpick. But misinformation about mental illness and mood altering medication is a pet peeve of mine. The mentally ill have it hard enough, in my opinion.

    Elle Reply:

    I have taken seroquel to sleep for about a year now but am trying to transition to melatonin because I don’t want to rely on it to sleep. Seroquel is quite amazing for sleep though especially for people with long term issues. Of course there are side effects. For me drowsiness in the morning and throughout the day is a big one and also increased appetite at night after taking it so I would eat lots and I’ve gained a few kgs. However it was completely worth it as I was in complete despair from being up all night till 8am and unable to sleep. You can be prescibed it from a GP and I have been many times. It also doesn’t cost $80 for everyone. I pay $5 for a packet of 60 tablets. It is subsidised dependent on your diagnosis.

    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    My understanding was that it wasn’t covered under the PBS for use in insomnia. Has this changed? I understand that it is subsidized for use in schizophrenia and bipolar (which a friend of mine has.) That’s also how I know it can have some serious side effects in terms of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Not everyone can take it.

    Personally I’d love if any and all medications for insomnia and depression were subsidized.

    lisa Huffaker Reply:

    Yes seroquel has side effects but you have to look at the the side effects of sleep deprivation ie weight gain dibieties not to mention the aggravation of the auto imune desease as well as driving a car which is the same as driving while intoxicated. Your relationships with others. I’ve taken it all Melatonin which here in the US i can get at the grocery store but it did not work. In the past I have taken trazadone seditive antidepressisent and seroquel. For years I could take the meds but now for some reason the way i matabolize them has changed. It use to take quite a high dosage now i can’t take anything without feeling totaly druged the next day so i definitly didn’t build a tolerance. Belive me if they still worked i would take them in a heart beat I have been awake 63 hours at a time. I have 10 year with autism who requires much patience, I have had to kick my snoring husband out of the BR and have had 2 minor accidents. Side effects?

  • Edwina

    I’ve been an insomniac since, well since as early as I can remember. I have memories of being up all night at 3-4 years of age, sitting between my parents in their bed watching their television all night. I would get in trouble for not sleeping but if you can’t sleep, you can’t sleep. *shrugs*

    I have the kind of insomnia where I can fall asleep but wake up after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep. This morning I’ve been up since around midnight and I try my best to just roll with it. I give myself a window to fall back asleep but more often than not, I get up, maybe get on the computer or watch a movie to pass the hours until morning.

    The biggest issue for me is the tired eyes. Some days they’re so bad they water constantly. And working in front of a computer all day doesn’t help.

    I have tried all kinds of things to ease the insomnia. Even went the sleeping pill route but after a couple of nights and being in a constant state of drowsiness I threw them away.

    Now, I just try and accept that this is just a part of who I am because the anxiety of trying to ‘fix’ the issue only makes it worse.

    But every few months I’ll score a couple of nights of 7-8 hours of sleep and I’m on top of the world. Seriously, I’m as grateful as can be when that happens.


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    I know what you mean. I often think: how can anyone who sleeps have any problems!!


    Stephanie Reply:

    Being an insomniac myself, I often think this too Sarah.. it’s beyond frustrating so I try not to think about it! Also suffering from major depressive disorder, I wonder whether this affects my sleep or the other way around. I have tried everything in the book and ended up resorting to drugs. I take Valdoxen (a anti-depressant which is meant to help regulate sleep) and temazepam, every night an hour before sleep. Sometimes I fall asleep easily, although wake up every hour throughout the night, then there’s night’s where I can’t get to sleep at all and fall in and out of crazy dream sleep which leaves me feeling exhausted and anxious. You’re not alone Sarah.. I am forever trying to dull my over-reactive mind that never seems to switch off. If you try any new techniques that you find helpful, please share with us fellow zombies 🙂


    angela Reply:

    Hey Edwina

    Have you tried acupuncture? Sounds silly, but I went for something else, and two other sypmtoms I had were dry eyes and waking up in the middle of the night (often being too hot). Acupuncture cured it within a couple of sessions…amazing. I just read your post and thought I would suggest it 🙂


  • Dena

    When my TSH is off, especially when it is too high, my sleep is ruined. Not sleeping well is a tell-tale sign for me to go get blood work done. Before I got my thyroid removed, about a year ago, my TSH levels were always messed up because my thyroid would sometimes not work at all, and sometimes it would have spurts of activity, so it was impossible to regulate my synthroid dosages. I know you have talked about auto-immune disease, but I dont remember, do you have Hashimoto’s? When I still had my thyroid, I was convinced that something was wrong with it and I got a ultrasound and the radiologist found a little nodule which was why I had my thyroid removed. That nodule was probably a great thing because now that I rely entirely on replacements for my TSH levels, it is easier to regulate and I feel so much better. When I was constantly on the wrong dosage, I spent so many months feeling badly that I had forgotten what feeling symptom free actually felt like. So what I am trying to say is if you have a thyroid that is screwy, maybe you could get it removed?


  • Jackie

    Is there anything more frustrating? Apparently lots of screen time before bed is exasperating the problem. So trying to read ,warm bath,hot milk etc and not using screens for a while before bed…Frustration only makes the insomnia worse so at times just roll with it and read or listen to music.
    Ive also found drinking a few white wines is keeping me awake for hours. cant remember this being a problem in the past but have just been home after time overseas where good wine is so expensive i haven’t been drinking it much. Is there something in white wine? Anyone else had this too?
    Comforting to know there’s others out there experiencing the same.


  • Michelle

    One word…Masturbation.


    Mia Reply:

    Masturbation & marijuana!


    mw Reply:

    Would that it were so simple !


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    I hear you

  • Jen

    I’ve also dealt with insomnia for a long time — since I was a child, probably also around the age of 8. At 8 it was less awful then it became during university. But at 8 there was nothing I could do about it… I was too young to know about ear plugs or melatonin, etc. Insomnia turned me into an emotional mess high school and university. Though in university I could occasionally make up the hours lost in the night by sleeping during the day. I now always sleep with ear plugs in a dark room (I can’t handle the little lights on electronics).

    Since finishing university I have become much less stressed all the time and I sleep better; but when work gets busy and I get anxious, the insomnia is back.

    What frustrates me most about my trouble sleeping is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to explain to someone who has never experienced it. And it has left me afraid of going to bed. My trouble sleeping is linked to the anxiety I have about trying to sleep (like you said, “being scared… of the task of switching gears to sleep)… in some sort of vicious circle.


  • Oh how I hear you. I was a career insomniac for the first umpteen years of my life. Nighttimes were nightmare zones where I was locked out of myself and the world. I begged, borrowed and stole (yes) anything that would knock me out. I used to say that if I were granted three wishes, the first would be to sleep ‘normally’. I also had and have major health problems. A couple of years ago I started an eating protocol (GAPS) for my digestive issues. I began, miraculously, to sleep. Almost like a normal person. It was so utterly, unexpectedly amazing. I felt like I’d joined the human race. That went on for a good 18 months and then I began again to not sleep. It was, as you said, as if I’d done something wrong that I didn’t know about, and was being punished for it. A descent into hell again. It’s better now, but I no longer feel safe. I feel it could be taken away from me at any minute. I so understand some of how you must feel going through every day without having had sleep. I think I understand why you choose not to let it stop you from living your life and at the same time I worry that not taking time out from exercising etc might be part of the vicious cycle. What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I do know some of what you go through. And yes, it IS okay to ask for understanding and leeway. Blogland’s greatest downside is its Pollyannaishness.


    Kirrilee Reply:

    ‘Pollyannaishness’ should definitely be a word!


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Oh, I understand so much!! Sometimes the fear of no sleep is worse than the days following a shitty sleep! At least when you are at rock bottom and working on an hour’s catnap it can’t get any worse, and you can just get on with it.


  • I am normally an excellent sleeper. I astound myself with the ability to fall asleep in under 5 minutes on a good night (and there are many).

    The things I find keep me up, when I can’t get to sleep:

    1. Staying up too late to begin with, after 11pm when your body clock wants you to be asleep, and invariably in front of my bright computer screen and under lights.

    2. Thinking. Seriously – whenever I have something I am actively thinking about (planning, or worrying) then my thoughts race and I can’t calm myself into sleep until the wee hours. Oddly enough, if I know I have an important thing to wake up for in the morning, I will also wake up two or three times in the middle of the night and sit bolt upright, thinking I am late.

    So when I get to bed by 10-11pm, and I read a bit, then let my thoughts drift, sleep comes within 5 minutes.

    Hope that helps>?


  • Lisa

    *this theory is completely unfounded and potentially 100% wrong*, but I can’t help drawing the link with insomnia and people who have the ability to think deeply, laterally and analytically – rapidly. Not that all super-smart people can’t sleep, but there seems to be a connection with quick-smart thinking (you!) and an inability to ‘switch off’. I’m sure you’ve tried everything, Sarah, but I wonder whether some deep meditation techniques might help you? I feel your pain, I had insomnia for 3 years, but mine just ‘went away’, so can’t offer anything except my experience; true acceptance of my Self and an allowance to fully express freely, preceded better sleep. I still have it from time to time, and it’s always when I feel overwhelmed by big thoughts and ideas about myself and my future – positive or negative. The link to healing (because really, it IS healing you need), came from a place I had never allowed myself to reach before – a place of true love for myself – in all my light and shadows.


  • Kirrilee

    I too struggle with sleep, but I can nearly always relate it to stress levels (I stop sleeping and get mouth ulcers at the same time; they’re like my signals that I’m overly stressed and need to change something).

    And at 4am, when I’m looking at the ceiling… I always think of that line from Fight Club: “With insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.”

    When my sleep goes, I guess I just accept it. Forcing it does nothing. Instead of sleep, I just aim for rest. A bit of brain calm if that makes sense.

    Nothing wrong with resorting to drugs at all… I do the same when my jobs means I need to be somewhere and doing something.


  • Peta

    I so know where your coming from after the last couple of weeks not getting to sleep before 3am. I have Fibromyalgia and so have to put up with pain and not sleeping. The worse part is when you cant sleep you start to think and then you cant turn off your brain. You end up being wired but tired 🙁


  • It was 5am for me this morning, then up to the kids and to get hubby off to work a couple of hours later 🙁 It goes on for days, but I know there’s a crash coming soon! I feel your pain x


  • Oh wow. I read this and you are me and I am you. I share your pain. I take a cocktail of supplements every night just to try to ease into sleep, Melatonin, 5htp, magnesium, valerian, cathip, hops, passionflower. At times I give up and take prescription pills just to get myself there. I hate medication so it is only in the desperate wee hours around 3am when I give up to the drugs. Fibromyalgia (or something like it) keeps me awake. I can’t crash at a friend’s place or I will not sleep for a minute without my ‘aids’ which also include ear plugs and an eye mask and an aromatherapy potion. When I am dating a guy and he asks me to stay I feel almost ashamed of the rituals I have to go through in attempt to sleep. Then there’s the huge glass of water required to take all the supplements, which means waking twice a night to pee. I wish I could sleep like a normal person.


  • I find that turning my computer off from 7.30pm helps me infinitely, as does a shower (like you do), as does my evening breath meditation.
    Sometimes I’ll do 30 minutes of just left nostril breathing to really activate my parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part of us all) – hope this helps. xx


  • grace b

    Haven’t read all of the comments but this blog post:


    Points to magnesium deficiency as a possible culprit? I’m thinking that this might be why it can take me up to two hours a night to fall asleep. Also just not having a good night-time routine–(i.e. turn off the screens 30-60 mins before bed, not eating late, reading a book, less bright lights…)has been hard for me so I applaud you Sarah for sticking to your ear plugs and eye mask!


  • Madison

    Wow Sarah. I’m so glad I got to read this.
    I am one of those people who can lay my head on a pillow and fall asleep for the whole night with out so much as a stir. But my partner on the other hand has very bad insomnia. I wake up to go to the bathroom in the night and he is always awake next to me, the only time I see him asleep is around 5-6am and then as soon as I’m up and awake, he is too and wont be able to fall back asleep.
    He doesn’t speak much about his insomnia or what goes through his mind, so I’ve had trouble understanding it but this has been really helpful and I now have an idea of what he and other insomniacs go through.
    My partner has been prescribed in the past very heavy sleeping pills as well as Valium and so far nothing has helped him get to sleep any easier.
    Some people will say TV is a stimulant and insomniac’s shouldn’t watch it before bed but I for one barely make it through a single show before crashing. So most nights my partner watches TV in bed with me asleep next to him all night.
    He is always worried about waking me up because he doesn’t understand how I can sleep so easily. He is extremely restless and can’t lay in one position longer than a few minutes.
    Thanks for sharing this Sarah. I will be showing your article to my partner and I hope that he will be able to be as positive as you have been during the bad times.
    I hope you do in the future find something that works for you and helps you get a good nights sleep, and if you do, please share 🙂
    All the best xxxx


  • I must admit that I”m one of the lucky ones, who seems to sleep quite well normally, but when I do suffer from insomnia, it seems very closely linked with my stress levels, and being anxious about whatever challenge life may be throwing my way at that particular time.

    Sarah, I know you have a meditation practice, and I wonder if you’ve noticed any difference in your insomnia when you go deeply into mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga. Both to slow the mind to help you get to sleep, and also to help you deal with the frustration and stress that arises from being unable to sleep. There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that mindfulness based activities can be quite effective for managing chronic insomnia.
    Although, I’m assuming you’ve pretty much explored everything by now.

    And yes, you’re more than able to ask for understanding and a bit of leeway, and I imagine everyone is more than happy to give it to you.

    Take care of yourself


  • Kylie

    Sarah! You poor thing. Occasionally I get insomnia for days at a time. Usually triggered by anxiety (i think) I find the only thing that gets me out of it is slowing right down and listening to my body. Funnily enough, I have found if I go to bed at the very first signs of being tired – between 8.30 and 9pm I sleep right through the night until 6am. If I go to bed any later than that, I dont sleep well at all..and the less sleep I have the more anxious I get and then the cycle begins again. Good luck finding what works for you x


    Marta Brysha Reply:

    I agree with your early and regular bed time – that makes all the difference to me with regards to both the quantity and quality of my sleep.


  • I was an insomniac from birth. in my teens I started smoking grass. I hated the smoking part (I’ve never been a cigarette smoker), but I love the fact that for the first time in my life I slept. Not just a bit, but through the night, glorious, refreshing sleep. I stopped smoking dope after a couple of years (the smoking part really got to me) and then used pre sleep meditation which did work for a while. In my early 20s I finally had my life going smoothly and I slept no worries – I think it was a deep sense of fulfilment and that I was very physically fit helped a lot. It was also a time when I quit sugar and all refined carbohydrates. A few years later I experienced a total breakdown – horrible, severe, all encompassing depression. Sleep became impossible. It has taken 10 years of medication trials to get me back on track. I have now again reverted to a sugar free low carb diet (after a few years of being so distraught that I went back to my old ways of eating) and am again sleeping well. I say that if you need valium to sleep that is fine. The occasional valium will not kill you. You might like to consider marijuana – you don’t have to smoke it, you could bake a lovely sugar free concoction and enjoy before bedtime. Worth a try I think.


  • Andrew

    I’m wondering if anyone here has tried a sleep clinic. I went to one late last year and did an overnight study (still waiting on results). It is quite a strange experience, hooked up to so many wires and devices, and I’m amazed I was able to sleep at all. Still, there were moments during the middle of the night where I’d be awake and getting more and more anxious at the prospect that the test would be meaningless because I would not sleep at all. My issues are potentially apnoea and REM sleep disorder.

    I still haven’t worked out the secret to good sleep. Recently I’ve been thinking that I may be one of those people who sleep better going to bed after midnight.


  • Lucy

    I’m very similar to Kylie, in that I experience insomnia triggered by anxiety and it is the most horrible experience.
    I find exercising during the day to be immensely helpful, as is peppermint tea before bed and a regular nighttime routine.
    I saw a psychic once who told me I was giving my mind too much power when it took control of me at nighttime. She taught me not to give my mind that power, when I feel the anxiety coming on. I find visualising that each time I feel anxious – that image of not letting my mind take over – to be very helpful.


  • Nadia

    I use Paraliminal recordings, they distract both sides of your brain at the same time making you really calm and relaxed. If you are laying there talking to yourself about being tired, and that you should sleep, they quieten down the conversation.


  • Rosie

    I share your pain Sarah (maybe not quite to the same extent) but unfortunately I can’t share any solutions (cos not much seems to work). I was wondering though how you slept while in Ikaria? I think you mentioned health wise you were going pretty good? is there anything in that routine that you could replicate here? I know its not quite the same when one is back to the grind of home and work but just thought there might’ve been something food-wise or a ritual that might help other than ritual you have now? 🙂


  • Stan

    I have been an insomniac for most of my adult life and have tried pretty much everything out there to help me sleep. Nothing really worked without side effects. I have thought long and hard about it and have decided that rather than look at it as a deficiency of sorts, there is no other way but to embrace it. Look at the positives… There is nothing better than a beach at 5 am with not a single person in sight. You get to do a lot more than an average person simply because you have more time to do it. Yes, you get tired, exhausted and frustrated, but it takes time to accept it and change your mindset. It gets a lot easier after that…


  • Meg

    I really feel for you all.
    Apparently I was a light and non good sleeper even as a baby, and I remain so now. Stress (chronic or the stress of knowing I have to get up for a particular event and be fresh) exacerbates my ability to fall asleep, and adrenal fatigue means I stress about getting enough sleep – a real double bind.
    About four years ago in a crappy relationship I got myself so anxious that I didn’t sleep hardly at all for almost a month…and then got sick with tuberculosis. I’m still dealing with the health consequences of such a serious illness, so every night I have trouble sleeping I have to tell myself loud and clear that I’m NOT going back to where I was then.
    Melatonin doesn’t seem to work for me but here are some of the things that do…

    *David Morawetz ‘sleep better without drugs’ behaviour techniques pulled me out of insomnia years ago, and I still refer back to the rules occasionally (such as no one ever died from lack of sleep!)
    *Wax earplugs are the bomb! I wear a wide stretchy headband around my eyes too.
    *Sleep hygeine helps but doesn’t do much when I am stressed and the thought has entered my brain that I may not get to sleep. Then being kind to myself is the only real answer.
    *A Pema Chodron quote that resonates when I am scared about not being able to sleep is (and I’m paraphrasing) to not only invite the demon (i.e. my fear) in, but sit him down and invite him for a cup of tea.
    *Lastly, I went to see a sleep specialist a couple of months ago and he told me that most insomniacs simply don’t need the same number of hours of sleep as the general population. Therefore, putting yourself in bed for more hours just sets you up to fail, and in the end results in broken and poor quality sleep. He has me trialling sleep restriction therapy, and for the 3 weeks up to christmas I slept for 6 hours every night from 12:30 to 6:30 cos I was so exhausted, getting to sleep straight away. The idea is that if it works for a few weeks you can add on half an hour a week until you find your optimal sleep time. His name is Darren Mansfield in Melb and my holistic GP sent me to him for those interested. Although this advice seemed contrary to info I had read about adrenal fatigue, it made sense to me, as the quality of sleep I was having was much better.

    Thankyou Sarah for instigating this dialogue xx


  • Mia Bluegirl

    Yep, I’m a non-sleeper. I’m emotional and anxious and all that shit. The best I have come up with is:

    – exercise to wear myself out
    – Melatonin (it’s like $6 in the f-ing SUPERMARKET in LA, I refuse to get a script here.)
    – Magnesium supplements (these are also miraculous for digestive issues!)
    – EFT tapping, which mostly works. Eventually.

    I find my sleep disturbances are mostly hormonal. I have PCOS as well as thryoid issues so my body doesn’t produce enough progesterone. I have had great results with the depo provera injection (progesterone-only contraceptive injection) as far as sleep, but unfprtunately too much of my hair is falling out, so I don’t think it is helping other aspects of my life as much. Sigh. Story of my life – find something that helps, then discover a new and unexpected side effect!


    Karen Reply:

    Which magnesium supps do you recommend Mia?



    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I just buy a basic one form the health food shop – Herbs Of Gold maybe? I think that’s it.

    Two things I have found out the hard way with magnesium, though. One – too much has a laxative effect. (Which can be useful, depending on your ailment!) And two, for some people magnesium before bed puts them right to sleep. For some the opposite is true, and I am one of those people – if I have it too close to bed, I can’t sleep. But if I have it about 4 hours before bed I sleep better. Hope that helps!


    Karen Reply:

    Thanks it does, I’ll experiment:)

  • Rebecca

    I really feel for you Sarah! I struggled with large bouts of insomnia from when I was about 10 until my mid 20’s. Those nights where you only get 1/2hr are like being tortured…but it always amazed me what we can endure. I’ve now been insomnia free for about 5 years. I wish there was a magic pill or treatment that I could share with you. For me, moving in with my now husband was a turning point. He would watch me with my little rituals (ear plugs, toilet trips, pill popping, etc) and would say ‘just go to sleep, it’s easy’…and I did. Simple, huh! Good luck!!


    jacinta Reply:

    I’ve too have noticed that since getting married, I fall asleep so much easier. I haven’t actually admitted that to anyone before, being a big strong independent woman an all and having been through a grand total of 6 parental marriages between my mum and dad and their new spouses(which ended in 4 divorces and 2 separations – I was totally against marriage until I met the most amazing man)

    I fall asleep most nights now, but that mysterious insomnia monster that no one quite understands has taken a different shape -I’m now waking up at 1am or 3am and staying awake. Whilst its not as lonely lying there with a beautiful man by snoozing by your side, fighting off the wriggles, tossing&turning and fidgets that come with insomnia are a different battle altogether.


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    As much as I love not sharing a bed with anyone now, I gotta admit the soundest I have ever slept was with a long-term boyfriend.

    I HATE to admit that. Damn men. 🙂


  • Jen

    Oh Sara. I relate to everything you said and really, truly feel for you. I have also come to the same realisation, that there are times when you just need to do what it takes to get through. Take care.


  • C

    I went through rough patch last year and had trouble sleeping- I found lots of laps, either at an outdoor or ocean pool in the evening & a slow walk home helped. I would feel quite soporific and calm afterwards. Swimming long distances in the evening really does tucker you out, physically, and I’d find I’d get through a lot of thinking/processing underwater. Perhaps because I’d given myself time to be in my head- so less likely to be ‘churning’ at 2 am…or 4 am.
    I’m very lucky my insomnia was short lived. It’s trite to say good luck, but I hope you find something that works.


  • Jo

    Did you used to go out with George Colambaris??


  • mw

    What I don’t like is if you are with a partner, they nod off gently and you can feel an allnighter coming on .. that knowing that you will be out of sync with that loved one .. again ..
    Sometimes I play instruments, smoke, watch movies or just lie there .. hoping for respite.
    I saw a psychologist .. she tried to help me break my circadian rhythms .. a very tiring few months. In the end we gave up. Nice chick though and we ended up talking about some other cool stuff !
    Saw your Bonk at the Health food store today. ” Community Detox ”
    You can console yourself with the fact that you make it look good !
    I love being me .. I’ve been through so much shit in my life that Drugs, Insomnia and Physical ailments are just little shadows to laugh about.
    Just don’t let Tony Abbott be the next Prime Minister or I am out of here again.


  • Melinda

    I’ve just been learning about earthing – it’s blowing my mind! My Mum has had poor disturbed sleep for a long time, but now she’s got an earthing sheet on her bed, & she says it’s a miracle!!!! She sleeps right through the night, a full 8 hours of sleep.
    Apparantly, because we hardly ever touch the earth with our bare skin, we are lacking in the constant flow negative ions that the earth is so rich in (from lightning strikes). It also provides a natural supply of anti oxidants. SO SIMPLE, yet so profound.
    It’s also anti inflammatory, & has helped people with chronic pain, inflammation, helps athletes heal & recover faster… definitely worth having in your arsenal of tricks. & you don’t have to actually do anything once it’s on your bed:)

    I’m using a smaller version with my computer, I can feel it tingling in my legs as I speak.

    It’s worth reading some of the info here!
    I will be getting earthing sheets for me & the kids, such an easy thing I can do to help them.
    I truly hope this helps someone!


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I’ve actually heard that earthing theory before. Never tried it, but a slow walk around your garden in bare feet in the evenings is also meant to help.


  • Claire

    I won’t trouble you with my insomnia story. suffice to say – I feel you. here is what has helped me (and got me to stop relying on Valium):

    * total blockout curtains. pitch black room.
    * Insomin-X by Hershell-Beck Laboratories (herbal, potent, available at pharmacies). i use this nightly for a while when i have gotten out of the rhythm/routine of sleeping, and once i am back in a rhythm i come off it (2 tablets when bad, then down to 1, then ween off to nil).
    * “NightWave” blue light thingy – it’s a fluctuating blue light that illuminates your ceiling that you sync your breath with. it sounds silly but far out it helps. and no for me doing breathwork on my own was not nearly as good as this. it’s around $60. worth a try.
    * ESSENTIAL: ABSOLUTELY NO looking at a computer screen after 6pm at the latest. and a total of less than 5 hours screen time for the whole day. i understand this may be difficult for you. but try a whole day without the computer and see if it helps? browsing on the iphone is out too.

    hope any of this helps. i know at my most desperate i would have tried anything (uh… and did!!!). good luck, you’re not alone x


  • Jazzy J

    magnesium – good quantities, 50-100mg (e.g. 1-2 swisse ones, or MagMin ones)
    lemon balm tea – strong (not large quantity, just strong)
    eating carbs at night (you don’t eat them I know…but eat most of your carb containing foods at night, not earlier)
    Vit B6 (but not others…others can cause insomnia as energy lvels go up)
    heaps of sunlight during the day…so endogenous melatonin gets produced at night
    if all else fails, a good cry works wonders
    diazepam/valium relaxes the muscles, lessens anxiety, but is not the best choice for sleep…pleaseemail me for more info if needed
    love & light x


    Mel Reply:

    Crying defo. Knocks u out like nothing else can.


  • Mel

    I suffered from insomia for years in conjunction with anorexia (surprise surprise). I took Trazodone (an SARI) for about two years in order to be semi-functional. The hangover during the day was almost as bad as not sleeping, though.

    Then I met someone who had weaned herself off insomnia meds using a natural supplement called Seredyn. She had recommended Seredyn to dozens of insomniac friends/acquaintances and she said all of them were helped by it. With her guidance, I took about two Seredyn pills every night, while still taking Trazodone. I then decreased my Trazodone dosage by about 25 mg every couple of weeks — very slowly. Sure enough, after a few months I was was able to sleep without any Trazodone.

    I have to assume there was some psychological change that accompanied the Seredyn that enabled me to start sleeping normally, but surely the Seredyn helped immensely. While I was on medication, I could not imagine being able to sleep without it again (so scary!). These days I am still insomnia-free about 98% of the time. Of course there are occasional nights when I cannot turn my brain off, but I’ve accepted that I may not ever be a perfect sleeper.

    Sarah, I’m so sorry you are going through this, and I hope you find something that helps you.

    Here’s the link for Seredyn: http://www.seredyn.com/


  • Perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping because you are eating such a low carbohydrate/low sugar diet, Sarah?

    I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s pretty typical that if liver glycogen stores are low (as they are on a low sugar/low carb diet) and blood sugars drop during the night (especially after a low carb meal in the evenings, which generally will cause hypoglycaemia a few hours later) then adrenalin kicks in to provide glucose for the body via gluconeogenesis.

    I personally had trouble sleeping until I greatly increased my carbohydrate and natural sugar intake – it was the single BEST dietary change I made after my health deteriorated on a low carb/low sugar diet. It also helped to bring my metabolism back up, cure my thyroid issues and raise my core body temperature (no more needing to have a hot shower before bed time!). This has worked for many of my clients as well.

    Hope you don’t mind me putting in my 2 cents. I’m a Nutritionist in Sydney and I see this kind of thing quite a bit so I thought I’d speak up.


    Kristin Reply:

    I’ve been experiencing my own (first) bout of what I think is insomnia in about the last few days. Coincidentally I’m on day five of IQS… I can’t help but wonder if it’s related. I’ve been chalking it up to withdrawl, but what you’re saying makes sense! My TSH recently came in & I’m close to hyperthyroidism and also desperate to warm up more often than I should be.

    Maybe I’ll give it a few more days & see before I call it quits on the program

    I’m also a nutritionist, practicing in Prince George, BC, Canada.


    Kate (Nutrition by Nature) Reply:

    Hey Kristin, nice to hear from another Nutritionist. I’d be extremely wary of going low sugar – it’s our body’s preferred fuel and in the absence of sugar and adequate glycogen stores stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) skyrocket. Trouble sleeping is just one consequence of this (impaired metabolic rate, weight gain and accelerated tissue ageing are others).


    seeker Reply:

    i have to say i have had this experience –
    i dont have sleep problems per se, while i am a light sleeper and easily woken, i have noticed that if i eat sugar and carbs, i sleep like a log – like i wake up in the same position i fell asleep in?!!
    however, i still choose to eat low sugar and carbs in a general kinda way, as the sleep is good mostly.
    interesting that you brought it up though kate …
    very interesting
    and thanks!


  • Cassie

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m also a Nutritionist in Sydney and I agree wholeheartedly with Kate on this one. Everyone experiences a drop in blood sugar during the sleeping hours. In a healthy person, the body is able to access stored sugar (glycogen) in the liver to normalize blood sugar levels. But, on a low sugar diet, liver glycogen stores will invariably be empty.

    To compensate, the body increases the activity of the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). These mobilize fat and muscle protein (which is converted to sugar) for energy. Metabolism will slow (the body doesn’t want to eat itself) and core body temperature will drop. This is why you have to resort to showering (especially in summer!) to keep warm.

    High adrenaline in particular will cause insomnia (in addition to a host of other problems).

    Like Kate, I’ve been there myself. I fell into the low-sugar Paleo trap for 2 years and in the process ruined my thyroid, lost menstrual function and saw my body waste away. I had difficulty falling asleep and would lie awake every night.

    The answer is to reintroduce (natural) sugars to downregulate the stress hormones and to re-teach your liver to store glycogen. Sugars aren’t the menace current fads purport them to be.


    ash Reply:

    I completely agree with the above. If I can’t get to sleep the only thing that works is a carbohydrate snack (toast works best) I know people say you shouldn’t eat carbs right before bed but I’d rather do than than have to resort to drugs.


    pimpmybricks.wordpress.com Reply:

    I’m completely confused now! It was only when I stopped eating sugar, started eating high fats and low carbs that I began, for the first time in my life, to sleep properly. My cortisol levels had been crazy high from stress and they too began to calm down. I do have hypothyroidism, though, and that hasn’t improved. And CFS, and neither has that. I hear so many people say to eat higher carbs for adrenals and thyroids, and so many say no, eat high fat. I’m choosing to eat high fat because carbs stack weight on and then I feel depressed, but it’s hard to know what’s actually right.


    Karly Reply:

    I’ve had to stop listening. Constantly seeing and hearing ‘eat this/don’t eat this’ made me start to have guilt surrounding anything I ate. Don’t eat carbs, don’t eat sugar, full fat, no fat, etc. It started to numb my own intuition around foods. My message is eat what makes you feel good. Forget about the mind and take some time out to listen to your body, it’ll tell you what is right… for you.


    Lorna Reply:

    Sorry, late to the party. I think there are two different things we are talking about here. Sugar does effect adrenals, increases stress, and I’m sure makes insomnia worse.

    Starches are needed in moderate amounts for all sorts of thing, and if you ae eating very low carbs you will have low glycogen stores which could cause sleep problems.

    I am a trained nutritionist and all of this finally made sense to me when I started reading and doing the Perfect Health Diet. A lot of pales people are switching to this and seem to be seeing big improvements.

    I’ve just looked on their site to see the best place to start and this might be it


    Or just dig in and have a rummage.

    I’ve done every healthly dieting the block and I this one’s a keeper. And it will help you understand the difference between the carbs.

  • Sarah, I just love that you’re human. It gives me complete hope. Because if you feel the same way I do, and accomplish all that you do, then I have no excuse.


    Lisa Reply:

    NIce one, Christine.


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  • Tamara

    Acupuncture is the only treatment that really helps with my insomnia and adrenal glands which in turn helps with my auto-immune disease, inflammation and hormones.


  • Rosie

    Thanks for this. It is comforting to know that there are others awake all through the night – watching the hours lapse – feeling desperate around 2am, hardened with a grim acceptance by 4am at the day ahead and falling into a hazy, restless hypnogogic nap at around 5. I think every insomnia has their bag of tricks – drugs, breathing techniques, special pre-bed routines. I am now strict on certain things – and although it sounds petty and limited – it does work. I won’t drink any kind of tea after 11am, I won’t answer the phone after 5pm (unless it is a perfunctory call with a partner/family member), I don’t exericise after 7pm. I think that a winding down ritual can save a lot of grief – but of course there are some nights when nothing works and you’re left clock watching and trying to keep the mind was getting too black. Solidarity to all the insomniacs out there!


  • Sarah, this one is a little left of center BUT… I am currently doing a teacher training with this man: http://www.yangmian.com/

    Get in touch with him. He is based in Sydney. He does private sessions and all kinds of healing work. He’s a bloody miracle worker and I promise you that in some way, he will be able to help you with your insomnia and other health stuff, too.

    Wishing you a good night’s sleep!


  • Jane

    Sarah, are your ‘elephants’ in the apartment block small children? I live in a block of one bedroom apartments. The couple in the apartment above me have two small children- and polished floorboards. I often dread coming home- to the screaming, crying, and running up and down the length of the apartment. I appreciate some may have no choice but to raise kids in apartments- but I wish there were more appreciation and action to mitigate the impacts on people below – carpets, rugs, rules about not running inside and playing noisy games at 5am in the morning!!! It has been so detrimental to my sleep and general ability to relax at home that my partner and I are considering selling and moving.


  • I wonder after all those wonderful images of you meandering through Europe, Greek islands to Iceland, how you slept after tranquil sun filled days and gastronmic pleasurespleasures?


  • Kate

    Sarah I agree with so many of the comments posted. As someone who usuall sleeps ok but works with clients who may have sleep issues herecarecsome of my suggestions.
    The whole turning of the computer,tv and smart phone for a few hours before sleep absolutely very helpful. Numerous studies on the blue light emitted that disrupts circadian rhythm. In fact I believe therecisca program that will start dimming or changing the light emitted from your puter hours before. I can’t recall the name but my uni students love it.
    Get an awesome sleep mask to block out all light.thisbisvthe best I have found Hibermate http://www.hibermate.com/?gclid=CPXE-s7g7LQCFaRLpgod_hoAsQ
    Ignore the silly ear muffs they don’t work but the.mask is the bomb.
    Magnesium at night excellent.
    Melatonin small does only. I get mine from Mercola.com in a spray and so far customs haven’t twigged!
    I find a yoga nidra app etc is also helpful for preparing the body for sleep.
    White noise machines also may help with elephants.
    My 2 cents worth but know how physically and emotionally draining poor sleep can be


    pimpmybricks.wordpress.com Reply:

    I’d agree with Kate – when my newly found and greatly treasured ability to sleep slipped back into its old insomniac ways, someone suggested turning off the computer early and sleeping in a room with no mobile phone, no computer etc. They suggested I download F-lux for my computer. Pah, I said. Turning off computers? Downloading yellow light? That’s about as useful as the hot milk suggestions. Bring me general anaesthetic!

    But I did it anyway, and lo, I had to eat my hat, my mobile phone AND my computer. Obviously I don’t know whether it’s co-incidence or not, but I’ve stated sleeping again. Touch wood.


  • I am not an insomniac but I am a very, very light sleeper. I find it hard to sleep with another person in the bed/room, and need specific bedtime routine to sleep: pitch black, fan on, white noise machine on, eye mask on. If I am woken I never fall back to sleep, which is frustrating when my (easy, heavy sleeping) fiancé comes to bed and flops around like a fish.


  • Lauren B

    How do you sleep during the day? Since I was a child I’ve had trouble falling asleep at night. But during the daytime I have no problem. I’ve also realized I feel better when I break up my sleep into “shifts”. Instead of trying to sleep for 8 hours straight, I’ll sleep 2-3 hours, be up for awhile then sleep another 2-3 hours. Basically, I’m a natural napper. It’s not convenient with the rest of the world’s schedule. I have adrenal disease and get fatigued easily, so I have to do what works best for me. Also, being cold really helps me. I put a window a/c unit in my bedroom so I can crank it up and not waste $ running the central a/c.


  • Caroline

    Hi Sarah

    I’m reading this at 3.16 am and breaking a cardinal rule against insomnia – being on the iPad!

    My near-never-fail tricks for helping my get back to sleep are:
    – eat a banana. I know they aren’t in your no sugary thing but there is something in them that helps with sleep. This is by far my number one tip.
    – use a neti pot to clear the nasal passages. See earlier post about pranayama with a focus on left nostril clearance.
    – masturbation. Yippee!
    – some simple cat / cow stretches and slow, low impact yoga moves, targeting any areas of discomfort. E.g. Neck rolls, garudasana arms whilst sitting in virasana.
    – water. Hydration.
    – not too much wine.
    – no i-padding!

    Right, time to follow my own tips.

    Good night. Xx


  • helen

    Try the new antidepressant Valdoxan – it is melatonin based without the SSRI side effects


  • Camille

    Hey Sarah 🙂

    I read your post last night and had a few thoughts so thought I’d chip in!

    I’ve been an insomniac for probably 15 ish years… anyway a few years ago I was so desperate as my health had been slowly getting worse and worse that I ended up having ‘parts ministry’ done… I tried googling it but couldn’t find a link for you. This ministry essentially deals with the parts of you that, due to trauma or difficulties in your younger years, have taken over and continue to play a function as an adult. (Haha not sure if that sounds weird to you!) Anyway the counsellor helped me go back to being a child and discovering what these ‘parts’ are. One of the parts that came up during my session was ‘fear’, and fears role was to keep me alert at night and protect me. This made sense because I remember as a child I became hyper alert and watchful and wouldn’t let myself sleep ‘in case something hurt me’. So the counsellor got me to thank that part for playing a necessary role but that ultimately it wasn’t needed anymore. All that might sound loopy and it would have to me years ago too, but then I got to a point where I was desperate and open to things lol. It didn’t completely cure my insomnia, but improved it by at least 50%. I do believe that fear possibly lies at the heart of a lot of chronic insomniacs.

    The other thought I had was to do with natural/unnatural light. Last night out of laziness I didn’t turn any lights on after it got dark. It made me wonder, on nights where you’re desperate or really need a good nights sleep, could you try leaving all the lights off/television off/computer off (basically any unnatural source of light) when the sun starts to go down. That way your brain won’t be tricked into thinking it’s still daytime? I was able to go to bed last night at 10pm and actually sleep after doing this which never happens!

    Anyway my heart goes out to you caus insomnia suckkkssss!

    Lots of love


    Marta Brysha Reply:

    Despite the new age title of “parts ministry” what your counsellor is doing has been done by psychoanalysts for a long time and yes it does work. I’m not sure about your counsellor’s process, but the premise and outcomes are essentially the same. Sleep disturbance and its counterpart – nightmares and night terrors- are common symptoms of many mental illnesses and their roots often lie in childhood traumas.


    Pippa Reply:

    The light thing definitely works, as we’ve developed artificial light we’ve stuffed up our natural circadian rhythms. Try and get out into natural light first thing in the morning when you wake up and try and avoid light at night (use soft lamp light for example).
    Good luck!


  • My insomnia seems to be totally linked to depression and/or anxiety… it’s the key to telling me that the wheels are about to fall off. I have never wanted to take prescription drugs for my mental health so instead go with a combo of exercise, diet and some supplements to keep it at bay. I take St Johns Wort and Magnesium (along with a few other vitamins) and that seems to help all aspects, including the sleep.


    Marta Brysha Reply:

    St John’s Wort contains similar compounds to those found in prescription SSRIs, but in amounts that are only helpful for people who have very mild dysthymia at best. You would be better off to get to a good psychiatrist (preferably one who does psychoanalysis and knows what they are doing with regards to drugs). They are hard to find, but they are out there. I don’t understand why people are so reluctant to use drugs to treat depression when they would not deny a diabetic access to insulin or blood glucose lowering medications. Both are physical ailments that need to be treated. With depression, a combination of drugs and a talking cure has been proven to be more beneficial that either on its own, and definitely more effective than self treating with a conglomeration of natural therapies.


    Karly Reply:

    Hey Marta,

    I have personal reasons for wanting to stay clear of prescription medication. I’m certainly not opposed to anyone else using it. Whatever works! Different strokes for different folks.

    For me, personally, I wanted to see what other options were out there… and I must point out that I worked closely with my GP and therapist in finding alternatives. It certainly was not a case of self diagnosis and treatment. I would never recommend going it completely alone… support is imperative to mental wellness.

    All the best.


    Marta Brysha Reply:

    If you have found a regimen that works for you then well done! I’ve had a long and torturous path re depression. It has taken a lot of time, drugs and therapy to get things right. The path has not been without its traumas and anti-Ds are far from perfect drugs. First they work, then they don’t so you change. Then there’s side effects – mostly mild for me except for horrendous weight gain (I gained 63kg while eating the same amount of food – now under control, have lost half and am on track to returning to my old self). But, without these drugs and therapy I would be dead – no exaggeration. My point is that some people suffer unnecessarily because of a perception that drugs are bad. The fact is that sometimes you need them to survive. And with the right specialist eventually, you will get back to a life that is worth living.

  • Sarah Lynn

    I’ve also been suffering from insomnia for almost three years. I usually wake up somewhere between 4 and 5 am and then lay awake until the alarm goes off. And this is an improvement over a year ago.
    However in October I starting going to the TCM Center and getting acupuncture treatments from the Chinese Prof. I have a qi spleen deficiency leading to insomnia as well as exhaustion during the day.
    The best part is it is realy working. I have again slept through the whole night until the alarm goes off again! And if I have to get to go tinkle at 4 or 5 am, I even fall back asleep! It has been a lifesaver.
    My Dr. was like well your blood work is ok, get up and drink more coffee. 🙁 That’s when I decided to try alternative treatments and can only recommend having an open mind and seeing what else is available as remedies.


  • Wow, it was a relief to read this post! I have suffered with insomnia for about five years now, except for during a six-month period in which I took Avanza — except that made me gain 12 kilos in 6 months!

    I am often so wrecked during the day that I have to lie down. Weirdly, during the day, when the pressure is off, I can often drift off OK. But of course that’s not good ‘sleep hygiene’ and it makes it all the more difficult to sleep the following night.

    I have arthritis, so I’m always in pain. But I take Mersyndol in the evening primarily for the fuzzy effect of the codeine, and I usually take a benzo with it. Sometimes this combination works wonders and other times, I still lie awake for hours feeling woozy and quite ill and unable to drift off.

    I hate using drugs.

    I wish that sleep were easy. You feel so betrayed when your body can’t perform these ‘basic’ functions.

    I dread night-time because I know of the battle awaiting me. And I know that the dread has now become part of the problem. But I have no idea how to stop the vicious cycle and just sleep like a Normal Person again.

    Insomnia really screws you up.


  • Melissa

    Hi Sarah,

    I also wake between 3-4am most mornings and I’m wide awake! So frustrating. Along with a host of other symptoms, I’ve been going dr to dr to find out why I’m sleepless, yet exhausted, plus a whole host of other symptoms. I (like you I beleive) have been told I’m going through early meonpause at 33 due to results from hormone tests. This takes into account many other symptoms I’m experiencing.

    However (to cut a long story short) I just this week went to see a GP who is also Chinese Medicine trained and looks at the whole body, not just individual symptoms. She immediately heard my list of woes and said she believes I suffer from Oestrogen Dominenace Syndrome, and consequently probably low zinc, magnesium, etc. I’ve just had a raft of blood tests to check. (These are in addition to the hundreds of blood tests I’ve had to date which show I’m 100% healthy . . .though I am sure I’m not!). Apparently one of the symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance Syndrome (or the result of nutrient deficiency) is waking at about 4am. I know very little so far as it’s all new, but I plan to research and learn a whole lot more. Just thought I’d put it out there as something that you may not have looked into. Autoimmune diseases are also related to all this I understand. Or if you have looked into this, I’d love to know more from you!

    Happy to pass on results and more as I learn, if you’d like.
    Cheers, Melissa


    Jacinta Fleur Reply:

    I’ve just put up a post about waking at 3am. I hear your pain. Chinese medicine really helped me, it was slow, required lots of patience but totally worth it. Hope you manage to improve things!


  • Christine

    We’re all here to figure out what works for us best. I feel the way you feel about sleep about my digestion. Thanks for sharing Sarah.


  • Elizabeth

    Gosh – this post really resonated with me. I’m currently existing on one or two hours of sleep. I fall asleep at around 11pm and then wake up around midnight/1am and that’s it. No more sleep.

    I eat well, exercise, have fortnightly acupuncture, drink specially concocted Chinese herbal tea, go an osteopath, have massages, went to a “Sleep Retreat” at Gwinganna Health Resort and still…nothing… I thought it was work stress but I just had two weeks break and still nothing. Herbal sleeping tablets, nighttime flu tablets, antihistamines that knock you out, melatonin – I’ve tried them all and they somehow seem to make me ever more awake!

    I’m yet to try sleeping pills as I’m kinda scared I might get addicted to them.

    But somehow I cope. My partner sleeps 8 hours straight and then in the morning, tells me he’s tired cos he didn’t sleep well. And I’m like “yes you did, I was awake all night listening to you sleeping!”

    Interestingly, my mum tells me my grandma never slept. Mum remembers waking up and hearing her baking cakes and vacuuming the house…Makes me wonder if there’s some genetic thing going on…


  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing. I hear ya sista! Insomnia is a living nightmare. I’m hopefully reaching the (touch wood) end of an insomnia stint (10months and counting) where I wake at 3am with fire in my belly and an overwhelming sense of grrrrrrr and startling anxiety. And I just don’t oo back to sleep either. At the peak of it, I’d wake at 1am and stay awake for the rest of the night and morning and day. I was getting a little sleep, 3 to 4 hours a night, but after months of it… I was a walking space cadet. My words came out mumbled. I’d fall over in the street.

    I’ve never been good at sleeping, always light, always sketchy, – but this waking up business was the pits. It was like being robbed.

    I’m still working towards getting to a full week of sleep, hopefully I’m close. But looking back, and after a very patient kind acupunturist / TCM / come counsellor spent a lot of time with me, week after week, until she was able to convince me that my emotional issues, as well as incredible stress that I was under, were at the core of my sleep problems. We worked on building up my vegetarian diet to include fish and eggs and more protein – ‘make your blood strong it keeps you asleep’, I guzzled bitter herbs, I stopped going to the gym, discovered yoga (which i had always snubbed my nose at, and now – wow, what a blessing yoga is!) and rested when I was tired (which freaked me out, I always go for a run in times of stress or just power through a to do list, no matter how exhausted), I poured out all my deep hurty upsets to the kind acupunturist / TCM / come counsellor person, it didn’t come cheap either- but as my sleep (touch wood) improves, I am realising that insomnia is giving me a lesson. One I needed. It has been a journey of kindness towards myself – more self care than I really care for – which I think has been the key towards getting my sleep back. I had two big big big hurts in 2011, one of which broke my heart in ways I’m still discovering. Back in 2011 I was pushing myself so hard despite the back breaking load.

    After the storm of 2011 died down… all that swirling stress that I had been soaking in, well it came back to haunt me, with a kick in the guts at 3am called insomnia.

    I’m now grateful for the insomnia, it has taught me to listen to my body and to be far more gentle with myself than my over achieving head thinks possible.

    I’ve also realised what a control freak I am – and situations where I don’t have control, particularly in the workplace – usually have me waking at night.


  • Kristen

    I hear you!

    And this is where I’ve struggled with giving up sugar.. I stopped having caffeine years ago in an effort to help my sleep (I find even an early morning cup of coffee can leave me twitching late at night!) and so on the days when I just have to get up and soldier on the only thing I can turn to to get me through, without causing even more sleeplessness, is sugar!

    However when I did quit sugar completely for a few weeks i found I was sleeping much better.. it’s just trying to get to that point without needing it in the meanwhile.

    I see 5am most nights, and the stress of it just makes it worse I think. Definitely not alone!


  • jan

    I just have to share again what worked for me…I had the same problem, I tried melatonin, stilnox and other prescribed tablets, every type of herbal sleeping remedy I could find, aromatherapy, hops, valerian, and still struggled. As you say, Sarah, it is the worst thing, especially at 4.00am. I finally stumbled across Brenda Doherty and her sleep easy treatment. It totally changed my life….I can SLEEP! It feels so amazing not to struggle anymore. I just love Brenda, she has a varied background in yoga, meditation, even working with Mother Teresa, travelling through India, spending a year in a silent meditation retreat. After solving her own sleep problems she developed her program. She runs workshops such as this one coming up in February:
    http://www.weasydney.com.au/index.php?action=course&course_action=detail&code=31WK201 and also does one on one clinics (which is what I did). I am just passing this on because I am so grateful; it worked for me, and it could be beneficial for someone else out there.



  • Sally

    Some people are blessed with an ability to sleep deeply for 8hours, and many are not. If you consider how humans evolved; communal living, hard floors, sleeping with children and proximity of animals and predators, then it’s odds on that quite alot of us got by on less than a perfect night’s sleep. And there is plenty of evidence that sleep requirements are both individual and evident quite early in life. If you can rule out physical and psychological distress, then maybe it’s not something you can change. So what to do? Tip #1: Have a quiet wee dark hours “special activity” that involves little or no illumination such as listening to something (music, radio, aural story) or having a pleasant sensual experience such as hot chocolate, a bath or passive relaxation. Remember your frontal lobe is not functioning well at that time, so your thoughts are not worth the contemplation. Tip #2: If you are an irregular sleeper, then plan your week to allow for a couple of lie-downs, siestas, nanna-naps or lazy-overs. Around 1-2pm, put on an alarm to ensure you get back up in an hour or so, then lie down and relax. Even if you don’t sleep, you will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which is good for your immune system. Let guilty thoughts drift away like clouds. It’s health-giving and helps make-up for what you lose at night.


  • Bridget

    Being kinder to yourself, as a few commenters have said, I think that’s very important. I’m one of those who believe that all illnesses are a manifestation of something within one’s self that requires healing. It’s a matter of getting to the root of the problem, but that involves a bit of work which is not always pleasant. Getting to the root cause of one’s fears, worries, anxieties? No thanks!! But sometimes that may be the only way – it could be very difficult at first but the rewards could be so worth it. Seeking professional help in this area may help quite a bit.

    Meditating as much as possible, even while being quite conscious and doing everyday things – meditate on why you do the things that you do and maybe this will give you an idea of some patterns of behaviour that are not so beneficial to you so that you can do something about changing them or fixing them.

    I agree with others who say that stress also plays a big role. Can you eliminate the factors that cause you stress in your life? I guess it’s a case of acknowledging what’s most important to you. For me it’s like, what’s the point of having a full and active life when you feel like crap most of the time and get no sleep? I’d say take care of the sleep problem first because how can we be of use to anyone else if we don’t look after ourselves first? I mean it’s possible, but what a horrible way to live! Sorry but you’ve got to have quality of life.

    Doesn’t being tired make you sleepy? Why not hit the sack as soon as you feel tired, instead of ignoring this? I also agree with the person who commented that they changed their sleep patterns to cope with their insomnia by taking short naps throughout the day. That makes a lot of sense to me. Who says that we have to do the 8 hour sleep thing if it doesn’t work? Sleep when you’re tired. Or how about doing the things that make you feel bored? Why don’t you try to do that when you want to get some sleep? I find that doing my accounts never fails to give me the yawns and pretty soon I’m nodding off even when I don’t mean to! It sounds silly but we may have to trick ourselves as sometimes our minds are our own worst enemy!

    I guess what I’m trying to say is maybe get back to nature’s way of telling you when you need some sleep, Sarah and the sleepless ones (hey that’s not a bad name for a band). And this time, try to pay attention to it and act on it! I can pretty much guarantee that when you start getting enough sleep in your life, most if not all of your other health problems will disappear as well. Sometimes it IS as simple as getting 40 winks. But it’s not so simple at all, and sleep is so very vital to one’s health and well-being.

    It goes back to what I said earlier, deciding what’s the most important thing and being kinder to yourself. You’re so fabulous now, imagine what you’d be like if you were at the peak of your health? Totally unstoppable! 🙂


    jacinta Reply:

    I like your thoughts. I’m starting to suspect that early in my life, in my teens, I pushed myself so hard in my HSC that I broke the “tired button” in my head. And as a consequence the only tired I can feel is bat-shit-burnt-out-over-tired-exhausted-point — at which I’m completely shagged and can’t sleep.

    I think for me, the question is “how to be so gentle, so as to be able to hear that feather of a tired voice”. It must be in there somewhere, in fact, I know it’s there because it works when I’m on a long overseas holiday. When I’m on a long holiday I sleep.

    I haven’t found many online resources talking about insomnia that have been as helpful as this blog post. So apologies for stalking everyones opinions. I Quit Insomnia book yes please.


    Bridget Reply:

    Sometimes it’s all about just being able to let go. It’s all right, you’ll be fine, nothing bad will happen! In fact things will only get better, because you’ll feel better! So just let go and give in and ignore the voice that says no, are you nuts, you’ve got work to do, you don’t deserve that or sleep is for wimps. I’d personally tell it to STFU. You’ve suffered enough. Who’s going to take care of you if not you? I wish you all the best and may you rest and sleep long and well and be healed!!!


  • Jess


    This blog has had me thinking for the last few days and I realized it’s bc my friends and I have down loaded a sleep monitoring app on sleep patterns. we email the graph competing with each other on how much deep sleep we get.

    It probably pains anyone who suffers from insomnia to read this and for that I apologize.

    I have no advice but I wish you all the best. I won’t take for granted and will stop showing off about sleep. It’s easy to forget what comes naturally for some can be a struggle for others.



  • Karen

    My insomnia was occassional rather than chronic, but since I’ve started having network chiropractic I’ve noticed a real difference to the quality of my sleep. Some nights are now so deep I’ve termed it a ‘death sleep’! This is because my nervous system can properly relax now. I recommend anyone to try network care, its improved my life in so many ways, not just sleep.


  • carey

    Sarah, thank you for opening up about your sleep problem. I read it hungrily the other day as it is very much what I go through too. As I lay awake last night for more hours than I slept I found comfort in the fact that I knew there were many others in the same boat. For 20 years I have experienced episodes of chronic sleep problems intermingled with ok sleep. It has cost me enormously in terms of career, relationships and experiences in general through sheer tiredness and irritability or me trying to avoid stress which exacerbates the problem. I take drugs to stop the beginning of a cycle of really bad sleep as I tend to think lack of sleep is as detrimental to my body as the drug. I also took very low doses of an antidepressant for a while and it helped enormously. Maybe it was able to quell the anxiety I felt?
    I envy those whose heads hit the pillow and are off in the land of nod. I sit in my car in the morning and look at people in the other cars and wonder if they had 8 hours sleep!
    good luck and remember, you are not alone.


  • Feliss

    I have also suffered from insomnia for years and have attacked in on a number of fronts. At the moment, I am sleeping blessedly well and I don’t take it for granted for one minute!

    Here are the things that work for me:

    * strenuous exercise at least once a day
    * a valerian tablet before bed when necessary (rarely these days)
    * meditation and getting my anxiety/stress under control
    * getting my magnesium levels up (I see a naturopath)
    * not drinking alcohol or having only a single glass of wine occasionally
    * not eating within 4 hours of going to bed
    * giving up coffee or only having a single cup before noon on some days

    All this is on the advice of my wonderful naturopath, an old school friend who gave up a high-flying corporate career when her health started to suffer.


  • Elizabeth

    It was so nice reading this morning… as i too need to share
    Had one of those bad bad nights last night
    I dont drink coffee or tea at all

    Went to bed at 10pm to try and get a few more hours ….
    so took some magnesium tablets, sprayed mag oil on legs on feet to amply effect
    used lavender oessential oils
    read a little to unwind
    then took endep(antidepressive I need to use to treat chronic nerve pain), imovane(sleeping tab)and some valdoxen(melatonin)
    applied all my sleep hygiene tricks
    listened to relaxation music
    listened to sleep tapes
    got up had a glass of warm milk
    sent work an email that I would be in late
    at 5.30am took another imovane
    bliss – finally 5 hrs sleep

    Why is it when everyone is waking up and exercising and living – that these hours between 5-8am are the ones I always sleep the deepest and best?

    I wake up at 10.30am and feel like crap – I ache all over, my inflammation and pain levels are high
    my weight goes up
    I feel nauseas and it feel like I have a constant hangover
    and all I want to do is eat sugar and carbs
    and retreat from the world

    What I really hate is that it really stops me from wanting to engage in life – I need sleep and until I can catch up I slow down and keep to myself


  • Susan

    I’ve done time as an insomniac in the past. Mostly due to hormones so out of wack I couldn’t sleep no matter what I took. Hormones are mostly controlled now through bioidenticals but my acupuncturist put me on something called glycine powder which is just an amino acid. Works like a charm! There is nothing that will make you feel as good as a good healing night’s sleep.


  • kim

    It can sometimes be hidden food intolerances which can be hard to identify as sometimes they don’t cause symptoms until two days after the food is ingested. For me regular dairy always results in insomnia. A lot of dairy can also cause a magnesium deficiency/imbalance too as dairy contains a lot of calcium but not magnesium in the 2:1 cal/mag ratio we need it in. Magnesium at night and calcium too if needed at night can often help, taken with Vit D to help absorption.


  • Ronniie

    I get stretches of insomnia of an on, it has been on for the last few days unfortunately and I have been feeling exhausted, grumpy and out of sorts (my poor family).

    Anyway, please give this a go as it has worked for me when I have used it:


    It is a natural herbal and nutritional compound sleep aid.


  • Pippa

    I’ve had insomnia for about ten years now, it started during my teen years (have no idea exactly when) and finally went to a sleep psychologist last year.
    I’m so envious of the members in my family who can just close their eyes and sleep – I can’t remember the last time I was able to do that – nor can I remember the last time I was effectively able to nap.
    One thing that I have learned that I recommend to everyone – if you can’t sleep after 15 minutes or so GET OUT OF BED! I know it sounds mad, but the longer you are in bed and awake the more your mind associates your bed with being awake which is the opposite of what you want to achieve. Go somewhere that is dark and just do something relaxing that won’t stimulate your mind too much (I read magazines) and then try again. It can be painful getting up several times a night, but it does have a strong effect once you’ve been doing it for a while.
    Also, have a bedtime routine (yes go back to your childhood days) also gets your body into the mindset of getting to sleep.
    One final thing, I can’t tell you how much light affects your sleep. When you wake up – get up and go outside as soon as you can to get the melatonin to shut off. At night try not to have too much overhead light – if you can dim overhead lights do that or use lamplight so that your body can start to generate melatonin.
    Good luck!


  • Hey all, As a student of Chinese Medicine (TCM), I want to offer what we learn about insomnia. How we look at it, is in a few ways;

    a) distrubed Shen (spirit) – overthinking etc
    b) heart heat – emotional much?
    c) blood or Yin deficiency – as women we loose blood monthly, or our digestion is not up to speed and can’t absorb nutrients/fluids from food
    d) phelgm – comes down to diet/digestion, inactivity
    e) food retained in the Stomach – poor digestion/Spleen Qi deficiency
    f) the time of night you seem to frequently wake, as this will correspond to a particular organ 11 – 1 Gallbladder, 1 – 3 Liver, 3 – 7 Small intestine

    Or a combination of the above. How TCM looks at any pathology is highly individual, which I find empowering and comforting knowing that we aren’t attacked at random (although conditions can get complicated). That there’s steps we can take to get better.

    Get reccommendations from friends of a pratitioner (herbs and acupuncture) near you and work with them for a while to shift whatever is your condition causing insomnia.
    Love to you all xx


  • I have been a poor sleeper for about 15 years, waking up 2am, getting tea,reading a magazine and going back to sleep. Then I had insomnia about 2 years ago, wide awake every night to the point I am using the time for housework, exercising and working. When I went three nights in a row without sleep. I tried everything, baths, meditation, melatonin, valerian, tylonal pm, magnesium, nothing worked. My dr prescribed ambien and I became addicted. So weird that you bring this up this week. After 2 weeks of excruciating migraines I was able to get off this damaging drug. This week I did some things that worked!
    1. Switched from running and weightlifting workout to yoga, and as a beginner I can say its a great work out
    2. I spend 20-30 min before bedtime listening to relaxing music and read a book about relaxing and slowing down.
    3. I bought some pretty pillows for my bed to make sleep time a treat.
    4. I use 3 remedy relief sleep remedy liquid melts, http://www.bachflower.com/bach-rescue-sleep/ each night

    It’s working and I am so happy. My dr was going to send me to a neurologist. Good luck Sarah!


  • Geraldine

    Shiza, how the hell do you achieve what you do Sarah? Insomnia
    on top of the A.I?!!
    I’m sorry to hear this, I have no issue with sleep, thank god I’ve
    ‘excelled’ in one area of my health. I have a friend who laughs her
    head off still at the memory of seeing me fall dead asleep sitting
    whilst in the upright position watching a late night movie.
    Back to my opening point, you really amaze me, I know how I hurt
    when I’ve had little sleep let alone insomnia..


  • Danijela

    Haha, oh god this post made me laugh.
    I’m similiar to you Sara, busy girl + lots of opportunities led me to a crash a few years back with a A.I condition. So I’ve been forced to tackle all aspect of myself health wise. However sleep is one thing I cannot for the life of me fix, I have been an insominac my whole life, and the WORST kind of an insominac. The one where you get into bed at 9pm and FIVE HOURS LATER YOUR STILL AWAKE. Sometimes it literally drives me mad especially when I’m sharing a room with someone (earplugs always when Im sharing, because snorers literally make me want to shoot myself in the head esp in the tender hours of 2am), and its like “HOW ARE YOU DOING THAT SLEEP THING?!?!?! WHAT IS YOUR SECRET?”. Haha like really I am so envious.
    A.I and insomniac? Not fair girl! But I hear ya. Keep trudging through.


  • Krystyn

    If you find melatonin effective, did you know that it actually available on the Australian PBS now? The trade name is Circadin and there is decent scientific evidence to back it. Currently being used in attempt to temper the benzodiazepine culture that afflicts old and young (in different ways). See your GP. Anecdotally, I am a resident doctor and have sometimes used it to reset my circadian (namesake) rhythm when my shifts change. I find it a very gentle aid to sleep, and seem to have a ‘natural’ sleep experience including dreams and refreshement upon waking. Just a bit of FYI.


  • Krystyn

    Also, props to the program ‘Sleep Better Without Drugs’ by Morawetz. He coined the ‘surfing the sleep wave’ idea which makes physiological sense. You learn to detect when your body chemistry is inclined to sleep (not sure how deranged this may be in the case of insomnia or AID causing metabolic derangement), and then you use techniques to let sleep come to you.


  • Virginia

    Hello, tip passed on yesterday by an acupuncturist and esoteric colleague.
    Apparently the Japanese recommend the following
    Soak feet in warm water above the ankles for 7 minutes before bedtime.
    Take both feet out of the water after the 7 minutes, and identify the colder of the two feet. Put the colder foot back in the water for another 3 minutes.
    Do this before bed.
    Ps I tried it last night, and I had a very satisfying sleep. I did however wake up at 3am, but went back to sleep again.
    I found my mind calmed down and the madness of my constant thoughts slowed down.
    Maybe worth a try for all insomniacs.


  • Lilian

    Thank you for your beautifully clear and resonating post. I have never had a problem of the 4am awakening until recently. I have also been experiencing the impossibility of going to bed before 3am. There is just too much to do! I am sure Chinese Medicine would comment with something along the lines of Liver Time or Kidney Time. Your many readers have reminded me about Magnesium and its muscle relaxing properties that I picked up from some of the posts. I have tried Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) in a bath n the past and it completely knocks me out. I am almost asleep in the bath in a very deep sort of snooze. In case you have not got a bath, you can buy Magnesium in liquid form that can be applied straight onto the skin as well as Liquid Magnesium by Floradix/Salus Haus taken orally. Though with your low sugar diet (unlike mine) I would have thought your magnesium was very good going on research that says that minerals like Magnesium get excreted and removed from the system the higher the sugar intake in an individual. Either way Magnesium is a lovely addition to any diet as very often very low apparently now in soil and food either naturally or due to agricultural methods of farming.


  • Salt loading = sleep! My insomnia normally ebbs & flows for no obvious reason other than 4 x AI’s. I do GAPs diet, acupuncture, herbs, qi gong etc. For the past 6 months it has been relentless. In the past month I have twice tried the salt loading protocol & both nights slept beautifully. This past week I was wondering if it was the salt I needed not the flushing effect. I already use sea salt liberally. So the past 4 days throughout the day I have drunk salty drinks, getting 1 tsp celtic sea salt in to me. I have slept like a log each night & had 2 hour naps each day. Hopefully it lasts – it is divine.


  • Adriana

    Thank you, Sarah and everyone for your honesty and suggestions. I’m not the only one!


  • Diane

    Hi Sarah, I was keen on taking melatonin but the label says don’t take if you have an autoimmune disease. Interested to know people’s thoughts on this.

    I’ve had sleep issues since I was a kid, worse during times when stressed or just over-thinking. After having glandular, I had post viral and adrenal stress (& the onset of Sjogrens syndrome), so I could feel my body start to whirr at night. That got better thankfully, but I’m used to having nights in which I simply don’t sleep. I know I can get through a day without sleep and usually then I’d sleep the next night.

    The only thing I’ve noticed with people I know who sleep well is that they don’t ever fight sleep. They don’t stay up to complete their work or finish reading that book. I think we think that we can do whatever we want, but there are always consequences where sleep is concerned. A long swim works well, turning off the lights early, listening to the stillness, but I know also that these are things that work when you are not unwell. When you’re ill, when your body’s out of balance, then you just have to surrender till you get better, and try and find a way back during daylight hours.


    Gracie Reply:

    Diane, I was warned against taking melatonin for that very reason as well as its interactive effect on the drugs that were prescribed to me. This, as well as other very good reasons, is why the substance is not sold over the counter in this country.


  • Ania

    Hi Sarah it is so good to share this I felt like that from the time when I was yourng teenager to my my 30’s.
    I was on everything under sun to get me to sleep. I was addicted to over the counter sleeping pills I couldn’t care less as they gave me – hours of sleep which I crave so much.
    I took Melatonin, was a good girl and my sleeping hygiene was by the book, I did all the right thing but still couldn’t sleep after drugs I was like stunned mullet at work, without them I was performing but I was irritable and grampy.
    In 2010 I have decide to go for 10 days of vipassana meditation in blue mountains, it was the harder thing I did, I wanted to quit after few days but was encourage to stay. This change my life – I started to sleep normal. It was the best gift I could give myself sleep without perscription pills, without anything – I do wear ear plugs and mask but I don’t have to take anything every night. Also if I see that I am more anxious my quality of sleep is getting down I get back to meditation and use homeopathy.
    I believe that for every problem there is solution for me this hard core 10 day did the trick along with homeopathy.
    I am sure you can find something for yourself.


  • Hi Sarah

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing this post with us, and it’s been incredible reading some of the replies. So many of us are in this together!

    (Is it too weird to take comfort that Sarah Wilson – one of my latest inspirations and health guru – suffers from insomnia just like me?)

    A lesson I have learned in the past year is that we are all different. And we all respond differently to whatever new product or diet or lifestyle or therapy we choose. There’s no ‘one fix fits all’. I’ve tried a few mentioned above with varying degrees of success or failure.

    I have significantly reduced insomnia with diet changes – switching to organic wholefoods, cutting sugar/fat intake, more fresh fruit/veg, and I am a huge advocate of Miessence Vitality Pack (http://jaidorganics.miessence.com/products/productDetail.jsf?item=19601) for general improvement of health & wellbeing.

    And, like others have posted above, it’s great to create a personal nightly ritual – mine includes a regular bedtime, the warm shower just before bed, turn off electronics and lights(shower by candlelight with an open window, very relaxing).

    But the biggest struggle for me personally, the one thing that continues to haunt me is stress. Like Sarah so eloquently described above, stress keeps me laying awake till th early hours of the morning, mind in turmoil, raising anxiety and frustration. But how do we stop this?

    I’d never consciously thought of it the way you said, Sarah. So thank you for pointing out such a great coping mechanism – just choose to cope with it! I have been unconsciously doing this of late. So what if I am not asleep? I’m in bed, my room is dark and comfortable, and if this is the rest I get tonight, so be it. The sun will still rise, I still have a fantastic busy day ahead. Just go with it!

    And tomorrow night or the next night or the next, I will sleep well 🙂


  • Elle

    I have struggled with sleeping since childhood. It is incredibly frustrating !! After years of persisting without drugs I started taking a small dose of serequel (antipsychotic) about 6 months ago which enabled me to fall asleep more easily. however it isn’t great and causes difficulty waking in the morning and weight gain. I now alternate it with melatonin but will take serequel if I am still struggling to sleep after many hours or have an early start. I was so anti sleep medication before but after many sleepless nights and 8am delirium, frustration and despair I wanted sleep and was willing to take whatever helped! I know routine is really important, winding down, not using computer etc at night but I can do all that and still not sleep. Plus I get frustrated by having to put in so much effort. I’m so envious of those who can fall asleep instantly no matter the time or their mood.


  • Gracie

    It seems we have something in common. I used to be an insomniac and it did drive me mad actually. Having suffered from it for years, I finally ended up spending seven weeks in a psychiatric unit when I took myself to a hospital dripping in sweat and terrified of what my sleep deprived mind was doing to me. It took a monumental effort to do that as I went against all the pre-conceived ideas I had about psychiatry, mental health services, mental illnesses et al.

    Best thing that happened to me. Actually, best thing I have ever done for myself.

    While an inpatient, I learned that psychiatrists and the drugs they prescribe can actually be of help. I was taught techniques to aid sleep and alter bad habits, the responsible use of anti-psychotic* medication (which I am now off and have not taken for quite some time as they have served their purpose) and ways to source the root of the problem. Often people call themselves an insomniac and leave it at that. I know I did. I just thought it was something I had to deal with. And I was wrong. There is always an underlying reason for your sleeplessness from which disease emerges and not the other way around.

    (*Anti-psychotic medication does not imply that you are psychotic to begin with as I thought as did lots of other people I came into contact with. This stuff assists in switching off your thoughts so that you can enact techniques and/or allow other drugs to act. I was on a very, very, very low dose and the results were profound).

    In my case, it was discovered I had an hormonal imbalance and an anxiety disorder which, again, was treated by an endocrinologist for the first and a psychiatrist by the second. Old habits as a result of sleeplessness were addressed, eradicated or tweaked such as learning how to switch off, what to do during a panic episode, how to get back to sleep, how to approach the dark, why I was doing these things, how to move forward from all of this as well as the labels I had given myself etc etc and I am happy to say that my life has COMPLETELY changed.

    After nearly 20 years, you shouldn’t be still suffering like this, Sarah.


  • Gracie

    I would like to add that I’m not prescribing a cure, just outlining my experience with insomnia. I am very anti drug in everything but admit that the responsible use of prescribed medication along with support did assist me in getting where I am today.

    I would also like to mention (as I forgot earlier) that getting off coffee as well as sugar in my diet was absolutely, without doubt a key factor in my success.

    Thank you for trying to bring the disadvantages of using sugar into the public arena, Sarah. May 2013 be the year you get a twelve hour stretch 🙂


    Georgia Reply:

    Very well said Gracie.

    Thanks also Sarah your great work – everyone needs to know the effects of sugar on their health. Keep up the wonderful work!


  • Evie

    I’ve been thinking about your post for days and days. I think the person who mentioned fear being at the heart of sleep problems was on to something. Lately when I’ve had insomnia, I’ve meditated for long periods, sitting up on my meditation cushion in bed , just feeling fear, experiencing it and found this helps. Also I often also do tonglen meditation , where you take in all the fear or frustration or anxiety of all those experiencing insomnia, including myself, and send out joy, peace or relaxation. It’s a really good way to both feel your doing something with your own pain by increasing your compassion for others in the same boat and also not feeling so alone with your own suffering. Thanks sarah for all you do, so grateful.


  • Georgia

    Hi Sarah,

    I have just found your blog and site – its great by the way.

    Was just reading about your insomnia, and it sounds really debilitating – i have had this on and off over the years but not to the extent to which you and some others write here.

    Your’s and Gracie’s story (above) prompted me to write as i feel it is everyones right to a decent nights sleep.

    Most of the hormones in our bodies are produced in tune with the cycle of the sun. The body’s natural circadian rhythm is designed to slow/wind down at dusk with sleep occurring around 10pm (at latest) – this is when the body repairs itself – and coming awake again at dawn or 6am. For an insomniac this is going to be tricky and there are things to look at within the lifestyle, as taking medication to aid sleep is not ideal for long term health.

    Usually when the body is experiencing insomnia, the bodies cortisol levels (stress hormone) are elevated which prevents the natural release of melatonin, growth hormone and obviously the immune factors are impaired (Sarah, you already touched on this), which are crucial in the repair and general maintenance of the body. Having a disrupted sleep/wake cycle contributes to an adrenal and or thyroid issue. Causing the body to have a weakened immune system and possible illness. Therefore it is imperative to address lifestyle, and the elements/factors within it, that are contributing to excessive cortisol levels. The usual suspects are stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, nicotine and alcohol. Then there is electromagnetic pollution (phones, computers, TV, etc), bright lights, getting to bed too late, water levels and diet. There is also medications and drugs, both herbal and over the counter. It could be one or two or a combination of all these stressors that are causing the body to release excessive amounts of cortisol, hampering sleep, the immune system and making life difficult.

    To fully optimise the body’s natural circadian rhythm it is good to rise at around 6am, exercise (body is designed to produce most cortisol in the am, therefore exercise is best in morn and def not after dinner), drink plenty of water, eat right for your metabolic type, wind down with sunset, dim lights 2 hours before bed, sleep by 10:30pm at latest and most importantly avoid having sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol after 1pm. (I know, all nice in theory!) But the basic message is to reduce the stress and stimulants in your life to optimise a better nights sleep and ultimately your health.

    As each person is different – shift workers for example, would definitely have trouble following the above information – a through individual assessment of lifestyle factors and stressors are needed before suggesting possible treatments, to gain optimum results within their life and health.

    I write this believing that we are all entitled to good health and wellbeing – sleep, playing a crucial and very important role – and to settle for anything else is second best.

    Kindest Regards,
    Georgia Rhodes – Health and Wellness Coach


  • Hi Sarah!
    I really don’t mean to be rude here, but i was wondering maybe you aren’t eating enough carbs. Since what age did you start tweeking your diet, going through the rounds, to end up here where you are today?
    I don’t know if you know about the Paleo Diet? It is based around a lot of the same concepts you focus on, and is often used as a way to cure autoimmune diseases, but I was doing that a while back on very low carb in take, maybe 1-2 pieces of fruit a day, and then all vegetables and meat. No dairy, no legumes, nothing processed. I WAS NOT SLEEPING AT ALL!!! I went to speak to my nutritionist about it, who is a supported of the paleo diet, and he told me that I need some more starch or carbs, and that would help me sleep, as it helps to relax your body and helps your cells repair. I know you want to keep sugar in take low, but what’s worse, a banana and a sweet potato at night time before bed? Or a cocktail of medications to help your insomnia/autoimmune condition?


    steffi Reply:

    I forgot to say, after eating more carbs at night I slept like a baby! I too do not function on no sleep, I get cranky and hungry and feel like I’m in a fog all day. But this honestly helped so so so much!!!


  • JessB

    Wow, Sarah, you certainly have my understanding. I have needed 8 hours of sleep a night since I can remember, and really struggle to function when I don’t get it. I really, really, sympathise with you and with all those who suffer from insomnia.

    I have had one bout of serious insomnia as an adult, and that only lasted about a week, but it was absolute torture! It was as we were selling our family home – I went back to help with the clean-up, and ended up rescuing some sheets that I’d slept on as a kid. I put them on my bed when I got home, and spent the whole night staring at the ceiling. And the next night, and the next night, and three or four nights after that.

    I ended up deciding that the sheets were bad ju-ju, and getting rid of them. That night, I slept beautifully. And I learnt that sleeping is about more than a physical need for rest, it’s about being at peace. Physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. That’s what I concentrate on when I have trouble sleeping now, but thankfully the insomnia has never really returned.

    Sweet dreams, Sarah, and all the insomniacs out there.


  • Sarah, the only person you need to ask for understanding and leeway is yourself.

    I wouldn’t call myself an insomniac but given how poorly I function if I have a bad night’s sleep I’m a bit particular about trying to make sure I do get good sleep. Something that makes a big difference to my quality of sleep is doing yin yoga in the dark right before I go to bed (in my pjs, teeth cleaned, ready to go straight to bed). The longer the session the better but even if you can do a few poses it can be helpful. I find the most benefit (for sleeping) from spending at least 10 minutes in poses where I can rest my forehead on the floor. Also lying in savasana and gently/slowly rolling my head from side to side (varying the angle of the chin) for a good chunk of time is incredibly relaxing. And even if it doesn’t help you sleep it still feels freakin amazing! I also keep my phone by my bed with yoga nidra set to repeat and ready to go in case I wake up through the night and have trouble going back to sleep.


  • Claire

    Hi Sarah,
    I’ve just discovered your blog. I am so pleased I have. I feel you will beable to give me a huge insight into things that have been happening with me over the past few years. I too have Graves Disease. I too know what it is like to be scared to go to sleep. Reading this post made me cry, your’ve made me feel that all my thoughts and feelings arent me going mad, its just what goes with having Graves Diesease and insomnia, they all go hand in hand I guess.
    I have a question I would love to ask you, I am trying for baby, have had one miscarriage and am trying again, I’m not falling pregnant and would like to know if you have any tips for me or if you have any of your own experiences in this area?
    I’ve just done an alkaline test on my body and I’m way down at 6.0, so I am going to be doing all I can to get my PH up higher.

    Thanks for making a blog that will help me in so many ways

    Claire x


  • Karen

    Hi Sarah,

    Insomnia sounds dreadful. I have it occasionally, but not like you.

    I want to mention EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) otherwise known as the “Tapping Technique” as a possible method to cure this problem.

    It was developed by Gary Craig and now there is an upcoming Tapping Seminar coming up online in very early February. It’s helped thousands cure their ills.

    Just do a search and you should find a ton of information.

    I truly enjoy your ezine. Since I stared subscribing, I’ve been diagnosed with Hypothroidism. What are the odds?


  • Wendy Johnston

    Hi Sara, This is my first time blog. I have been researching for years to understand WHY I was feeling unwell, unable to sleep, dry skin and nails, hair loss, high blood pressure and 100 other symptoms. Two years of tests, including Thyroid all negative.
    FINALLY MADE THE CONNECTION. Hair Analysis confirmed COPPER OVERLOAD, that has also affected my thyroid. ( Have hypo-thyroid symptoms). Copper blocks the passage/absorption of most vitamins and minerals, and you can appear to have deficiencies even though you are obtaining them from your diet, and supplements.
    I found a Doctor(GP) Dr. Igor Tabrizian, in Perth who specialises and teaches other doctors (through ACNEM) (Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medecine) about copper overload, he has written many (text) books on the subject, to understand just what other functions it interfers with in the body. My research has also found a book “It could still be your Thyroid” by Dr. Peter Baratosy, another ACNEM doctor, that shows how copper overload relates to thyroid & Hormonal problems.
    Sara, Have you done any research on IODINE? Recommend http://www.vitalityplus.com.au, a few great articles. I have been supplementing with a1 drop of iodine in a glass of water a day with great effect. Incidentally, Iodine is one of the most highly alkalising minerals, so helps with acid/alkaline balance, removes toxic chemicals like fluoride, bromide, lead, aluminium and mercury. It strengthens the T cell adaptive immune system and protects against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach. Incidentally flouride blocks the uptake of iodine and causes hypothyroidism. Selenium is also required for healthy thyroid function. There are lots of other things I have learnt that impact thyroid health, that I would be pleased to share with you as putting it all together has resulted in me now understanding how to rebalance my system.


    Panda Reply:

    I took iodine supplements for a while till I started developing severe anxiety symptoms…. took quite a while to work out what the source was.. iodine overload.. I thought I was going crazy, it was pretty scary.. I’m sure you’re being monitored, but just take care 🙂


  • Gabrielle

    I just posted the below message on the VERY OLD Intentional Resting bit but I figured I would re-comment it on ur lastest AI post b/c I do hope you see and know how thankful I am for all of your expressions, having been reading and reading for two days now!

    Sarah! 🙂
    I know you write this over 2 years about but I am just finding your blog now. In just one day you have become an AMAZING inspiration to me you have no idea! I have an AI as well and I am also a high strung stress case NO DOUBT! I had a very traumatic and abusive childhood and young adulthood so I truly believe that is what triggered my problems…I’ve also gone gluten free which has gone a long way to help my AI skin issues. Anyway I had to post here because so many things you say hit so close to home for me in so many ways. People are alwas telling me “just relax” which sets me off the same way as you so I found that quite amusing, if it was only that easy….LOL Anyway I am going to give the intentional resting a shot I get horribly huge knots in my neck and upper back and shoulders from the “stress pack” I wear on my back treking through life the little stress mule that I am 🙂 Please keep the AI issues coming you have no idea how theraputic it is to feel connected to someone else that has similar issues!


  • Have you ever heard of asmr video’s? They seem to help people a lot


  • I am a native santa cruzan! I was born there in 1955. My dad was too, my children and a few grandkids! Lots of family and generations there! I JUST stumbled into your book information TODAY for the first time! Looking for inspiration! Here I go!!!!!!! (PS, living 3 years now in Arizona).


  • SarP

    It may sound strange, but audiobooks put me straight to sleep. They distract my mind and stop me going around and around in circles as the minutes and hours tick by. The audible app has a convenient sleep timer to turn itself off at the interval you select and off I go… whatever works huh!


  • Panda

    I have a bevy of natural things to help me sleep that I rotate. My staple are Chinese herbs called An Shen Ding Zhi Wan. You can buy them online for about $14 a bottle of 200 pills. I take 8 of these before I go to bed and on good nights they get me through.. but usually they don’t and I wake around 4 am. Recently I’ve been using 4 drops of Rescue Remedy Sleep to get me back to sleep and these work fabulously for a few days and then I have to give them a rest. I’ve also been using Pregaba but this stuff’s really expensive and doesn’t work as well as the Chinese pills. Valerian’s good for a while but stops working effectively if I take it too much. Braur have a sleep and insomnia homeopathic spray that works a bit… and when none of it works I use Tempazipan. Vipassana meditation is a good technique that helps for a while after I’ve done a 10 day retreat … I tried the counting meditation suggestion above last night and that was really helpful…. The Chinese pills have saved me many times.. they at least get me a good five or six hours and they are a natural calmative. I’ve noticed I sleep better after a really good foot massage … and Vata tea is also calming… la la la la la la la


  • Helen

    I am new to the auto immune thing, having only just this week been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I have been diagnosed hypothyroid since 2009.

    A 24 hour saliva test for cortisol (actually 4 samples taken throughout the day) will show if your cortisol is within the relevant ranges at 4 points during the day. It should be highest in morning and taper of during day so levels are very low at night allowing us to sleep. My problem was not the ongoing insomnia described above but an inability to sleep until about 2 am and then not being able to properly wake until about 11am. The testing showed cortisol way to low in morning, OK in middle of day and a smidge high at night. Once you know what is right/wrong you can better ascertain what may or may not work for you.


  • Sasha Heywood

    I’ve had insomnia from ever since I can remember as a child. I was a creative girl who read fantasy books and would be suddenly inspired to make art all night until the tiny morning hours in my teenage years. My brain came alive at night and my creativity peaked. I was misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression when if fact I had ADHD which I have finally been assessed with at the age of 24 years.

    It was never obvious but I lived with it my entire life and developed depression as a result of my inability to cope. The day I was told ADD I drove home in tears of joy for finally having an answer to the 24 hour anxiety that I had.

    With this new understanding of the reason behind my insomnia I found these tips from Native Remedies Blog to be great:

    Do drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed- chamomile is a natural tension reliever
    Do take a warm bath to relax and release stress- try adding some lavender bath oil for a calming sensation
    Do exercise more
    Do wear socks to bed- even if you have to take them off in the middle of the night, poor circulation can cause feet to get cold and you can get uncomfortable
    Do keep your bedroom temperature no warmer than 70 degrees
    Do keep a journal- write about your day that has passed or what needs to be the following day to help clear your mind
    Do listen to relaxing music or sounds, like waves crashing, waterfalls, or classical music
    Do make your bedroom as dark as possible
    Do keep a set schedule as to what time you should be in bed and stick to it
    Do try waking up to relaxing music to help you awaken naturally and refreshed
    Do try herbal tea with passion flower to combat the effects of insomnia and adding vitamin B6 into your diet
    Don’t do your homework, finances, or heavy thinking projects before bed
    Don’t think about the past; sometimes this can lead to emotional turmoil
    Don’t watch horror or mystery shows before bedtime
    Don’t start a fight with a significant other before bed
    Don’t drink caffeinated drinks
    Don’t eat anything spicy

    If you’re really trying to kill the insonmia, the ADHD approach is great regardless of whether you have it. More detail into ADHD insomnia cna be found here:


    It’s a fascinating article, I hope this helps somebody.



  • Craig

    When I was young my father used to say to me “you could sleep on a barbed wired fence” As I was young I didn’t really comprehend what he was saying and it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood what he was actually meant.

    I am one of the lucky ones as I can do the shut eyes and fall asleep in 30 secs thing. When I cannot sleep for whatever reason it seems so hard and frustrating so I cannot image how life would be to suffer this horrible imposition everyday of your life…..well I have an incite into how horrible this is on someone as my partner suffers from it and just like Sarah described she too does and has tried all the remedies under the sun similar to what you have all described.

    She is very aware of not trying to rely on drugs too much as she knows the long term effects that they have i.e. they stop working or you get psychologically or physically addicted to them. We also do the “clandestine” thing whenever we go overseas as the pills that work are either too hard or to expensive to buy in Australia which is a real shame.

    I have only stumbled upon this article / site and have already told my partner about it. I just hope she does come and read all of your comments and suggestions.

    Good luck to youse all and I hope something can be done to help you one day(sooner rather than later).


  • jill

    I got some melatonin in australia the other day from a chemist, over the counter.It helps my golden retriever sleep 🙂 I also have auto immune disease and just wanted to say thanks for this blog.


  • I have Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I feel your pain. Drugs have to be a part of our lives. I cannot sleep unless I take Trazadone. It’s a fact I have to accept and I am willing to be a prisoner than to watch my body deteriorate from lack of sleep! Sending you autoimmune-buddy hugs. 🙂


  • Yissa

    Hi sarah
    I too have hashi’s and have been following your journey as I am on it too. Your vaccination post has really thrown me, that is the part that you can’t have kids. I know this is a personal
    Issue to you but it has sent my own anxiety into a tail spin as I am ttc at the moment and can’t. Is this exclusively a hashimotos side effect? I wish you peace and good health.


  • Theresa

    I feel for you, have been there myself. Especially in times of extreme stress, but I want to share something to consider that is decidedly the most politically incorrect suggestion to try, it seems. PRAYER.

    The times I’ve been “afraid to fall asleep” were for good reason. Being tormented by, for lack of a better word, demonic influences, is often a main contributor to, or the outright cause of, most physical and emotional stresses.

    Before you all want to paint me “one flew over the cuckoos nest,” I am a prophetic healer in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), and prior to that was a professional psychic for 15 years, and continue to be a professional holistic healer with an allopathic medical background. So I’ve been around the block a time or two and can tell you that getting some prophetic healing and deliverance support can really help, as you have mentioned this started in childhood for “unknown reasons.” But there is a known reason and the ultimate healer, Jesus himself, can and will deliver us from our…well, demons.

    Blessings and peace! Theresa


  • I don’t suffer from awake-all-night insomnia, however I often wake between 1am-3am with a racing mind/heart and occasional night sweats. It takes hours to get back to sleep. I have chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue, and I’m told my problem is high cortisol & low metabolism (potentially related to a paleo diet) A teaspoon of raw organic honey with a little sea salt does the trick when I’m wide awake.


  • Hello. I had sleeping problems too but now its over. One good advice is when its sleeptime, you should avoid anything with a screen (TV, Mobile phones, laptops). Next you can try reading a book or listen to soft music. I tend to think that we cannot find sleep because our brain cells are still working on everything we had done during the day. This is why you should spare sometime calming them down, give them some rest. Taking sleeping pills or tranquiliser will help you but with side effects. At least try to do it gradually, try to increase by 15minutes, then 30 minutes until you get a good sleeping pattern. REM looks nice too. But this is hard to do when we can hardly sleep. I hope you’ll be able to come over this.


  • Getting off of diary is HUGE !! Eliminate all diary out of your diet….and then switch to the Paleo diet. I did this !!! Now I Can sleep…no more crankiness. !!


  • pat

    Getting off of diary is HUGE !! Eliminate all diary out of your diet….and then switch to the Paleo diet. I did this !!! Now I Can sleep…no more crankiness. !!


  • David LaPorte

    It’s two years later, so I’m not sure that anyone is still reading this, but here are a few thoughts from a fellow insomniac who’s undergoing to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia as I try to get off of several medications. I’m also a professor of biochemistry.

    – Melatonin is a chronobiotic, not a traditional sleep aid. It can help if you have a circadian rhythm problem, but most people don’t. I took melatonin for years, but it was easy to stop because it had very little effect. If you do have a circadian rhythm problem, melatonin should be taken several hours before bedtime, not AT bedtime.

    – Electronic screens, including computers and TVs, tend to stimulate the brain and don’t promote sleep. If what you’re doing on those screens stimulates you (e.g. an interesting TV show), that may defeat boredom, but it will also defeat sleep. If you’re trying to get to sleep, boredom is your friend.

    – Many forms of tea contain theophyllline, which has effects similar to caffeine, and should be avoided. Not sure about peppermint tea.

    – Trying to force yourself to sleep rarely works. Sleep professionals refer to it as “paradoxical intention”. The effort and resulting frustration stimulate your brain, which keeps you awake.

    – If you can’t move to another bedroom to get away from your snoring husband, at least keep the dog off of the bed. Love your dog while you’re awake, but don’t let him contribute to your sleeping problems.

    – I highly recommend the book the Savvy Insomniac by Lois Maharg. She’s a journalist but also an insomniac with an impressive grasp of the sleep research. I just discovered that she has a website, that I’ll be exploring.

    – “Psychological And Behavioral Treatment Of Insomnia:Update Of The Recent Evidence (1998-2004)” published in SLEEP, Vol. 29, No. 11, 2006, 1398 is a good review of the primary literature written by a task force appointed by the American Academy of Seep Medicine.


    Helen Reply:

    I am reading this 2 years after the original post and suffering severe insomnia. Thanks for the tips. I am going to try not drinking caffeine after noon as I do drink a lot of tea, thinking it might be better than coffee but some research I saw today from Sarah has tea at similar caffeine levels to coffee.


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  • Paul Zelic

    I stumbled upon here whilst looking up information for insomnia. Like you I have insomnia and have had it bad for years where I could easily stay up 4 nights in a row on 0 sleep. On average I was getting about 4 hours sleep. Pretty much what everyone writes in the comment section helps, but never fully fixed me. One thing that helped that hasn’t been mentioned is leaving the lights off and having salt lamps around my room. They give off an orange glow which simulates more of a dusk sunset and your melatonin kicks in better. You should also get flux on your computer which makes your screen orange (go in the options and adjust it, the more orange the better). At first it feels strange, but later you won’t be able to live without it. The blue lights on your screen are a major culprit without you even realising.

    I also suggest putting some headphones in before bed for about 1/2 hour and listening to some calming meditation/ambient/soft instrumental music. Focus on the beautiful sounds, instruments. What you want to do is really feel the beauty and calmness in it as it will lower stress levels and done right will take your mind off everything. You need to use the time to stop. No work thoughts, resolving issues, ect.

    You may also want to research adrenal fatigue as no sleep will cause issues here and the vitamins/diet will be beneficial in restoring sleep.

    I hope you beat insomnia, it’s a battle i’ve been battling for over 15 years and is really robbing my quality of life (i’ve lost at least 20 jobs from being tired/taking days off, lost friends, unable to attend events, been bed ridden). You’re the only person who can fight this, but you’re not alone.


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