I am one of those who doesn't like medication. For *me*, I found these strategies helpful:
1. Not going to bed before I am getting ready to be tired. I'm a natural night-owl, so going to bed when
other people do is ASKING to be lying awake. I try and stay up until I'm at least ready to settle for sleep.
This is usually about 10.30 pm and I put the light out between 11 and 11.30 and I get up at 6 am. This suits
me most of the time. If I find getting up in the morning gets harder, I put the light out a little earlier.
2. Having a settling-down routine before bedtime, to get my head accustomed to 'closing-down time' each day.
I get a bedtime drink, read in bed with drink, turn out light. Routine seems to help my mind close off on
3. Making sure I've had some exercise each day. Exercise helps to get anxious thoughts out of my system ( I
think it helps use up the adrenaline) and helps me get tired at the right time for sleeping.
4. Not staying in bed if I really am not sleeping. In times of stress I tended to sleep for about two hours,
then wake at the witching hours (about 2-3 am) and then, bam, that's it, awake for the rest of the night.
Staying in bed and 'trying' to sleep made it worse, I got annoyed because it didn't work AND because I was
wasting time on anxious thinking when I needed to sleep. This would start a big self beat-up. If I can't sleep
now I get up and read, net-surf or sew. After a few nights like that I tend to settle back into a better
routine, partly because I allowed myself to be awake and partly because getting older means that three short
nights DO make me sleepy by nighttime no. 4...
5. St Johns Wort. This was really very good stuff when I got so upset and edgy I could not settle during the
day or sleep at night either - it just took the edge off the worries. I found it very good.
6. Nursing myself along by keeping my routine and kind of talking to myself, so my unconscious could hear and
see I had 'a plan' and didn't need to be worrying. This might sound kind of wacky but a lot of my anxiety did
seem to be set off by my fears about lack of control over life - being hit by the A had that effect >
hearing myself saying "OK, I'm going to do X, then Y, then Z, then X again' did seem to help.
7. Keeping my perspective on life up by associating with other people, talking to them about what was happening, making an effort to realise that life was still going on outside the A-bomb-site of my life, and generally NOT digging a hole to creep into with my misery. After year 2 I realised that I was going seriously downhill and had to take steps to help myself. This also helped me justify and follow through on steps 1, 2, 3 and 4, and gradually reduced the need for step 5 >
This might all sound very simple, but actually with 4 kids and a full time job and a study load AND THEN the A,
it wasn't simple at all. I had to make myself do it.
And, all the steps were kind of mutually related. At the moment I sleep well, which I really like. But if I
do stop sleeping again, I know I can manage it without getting exhausted or beating myself up, and that's
confidence-inspiring, too. It all works to help reassure myself that I can look after ME, no small thing in
the circumstances, in fact, the key to it all - as the terrible effects of the A were very much related to having
'control' and routine ripped away from me - is that reassurance.