How I learned to sleep again after years of lying awake all night

-Mar 18, Hannah Hargrave, Health -

If you're having trouble sleeping it might be worth looking at your whole life and making changes in multiple areas rather than focusing on just one

There was a time in Morgan Emmy’s life when she feared she would never get a proper night’s sleep again. For years she had suffered from terrible sleep patterns leaving her to get just a few hours of rest a night. But now she’s finally learned to sleep again and she’s sharing her story with Lumity.

Morgan Emmy is the first to admit that she had little to worry about when her issues with sleeping properly first become a problem. At the time, she was in her 20s, no children, no relationship woes and no financial problems and yet she would lie awake at night tossing and turning unable to sleep. The longer she laid there the worse her anxiety would become over her inability to drift off and this would happen night, after night, after night. 

“I was exhausted,” she tells Lumity. “My bedroom had slowly gone from being my relaxing safe haven to being more of a torture chamber.”

Will I ever get a good night’s sleep again?

For many people their poor sleep habits are triggered by an unsettling life event or an accumulation of stressers, but for Morgan this wasn’t the case and that left her feeling as though she wasn’t a candidate to seek medical help.

She says: “I guess I kind of felt like a fraud. I didn’t know what was causing my sleepless nights, I just knew they were very real. I didn’t want to complain to people though for fear they’d belittle my problem because I wasn’t stressed at work or in a crisis.”

Why am I waking up at night?

But before long the lack of sleep did affect her stress levels and she was lying awake even longer, just worrying about why she couldn’t get to sleep and stay asleep for that matter. 

“The more I stressed, the less I slept. It was a viscous cycle. I didn’t want to see a doctor or resort to medication so I began researching what I could do myself.”

How can I learn to sleep?

Morgan knew there wasn’t a quick fix her sleep problems and so rather than seek one out she took the time to research a collective group of actions she should be taking. She believes it’s the combination of these things which had her sleeping again. 

“For a long time I’d tried one thing or another but I hadn’t focused on the problem collectively or looked at it as a whole,” says Morgan. “I’d stopped reading screens before bedtime or I’d tried to kickstart an exercise regime but by themselves they weren’t making a big enough impact, if any at all.

“I also knew nothing was going to change overnight. So I made a list of things I needed to stick to  and the list was long.”

Resetting your body clock

Morgan set about resetting her circadian rhythm and adopting a plan that was manageable and that would last.

“It was really hard to begin with but I knew there were some absolute measures I had to take first and foremost.”

She began with making a sleep schedule so that she would go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day even if it was a weekend or she was on holiday.

“It would have been so easy to lie in when I’d had a horrific night’s sleep and I knew if it was a Saturday  I could easily stay in bed and catch up on some rest, but that wasn’t an option if I wanted to fix my problem in the long run.

Why aren’t I tired at bedtime?

“The same went with going to bed. I often didn’t feel tired come 10pm but I would ensure it was lights out at a decent time and roughly the same time each night.”

Morgan created a calming nighttime routine, which she miraculously still manages to stick to, despite now having two young children.

“Before I would be dashing around, cleaning, doing the washing or whatever else at 9pm. I had to get into the mindset of these ‘things can wait’. If it meant me getting a better night’s sleep I would be more productive the next day and I could do it then. So instead I’d ensure dinner was finished by 7pm.”

Will reading at bedtime help me sleep?

Morgan had read that if you eat out of rhythm it to stresses the body, so she fit all her food into a 12 hour window, meaning if she had breakfast at 7am she should have finished her dinner by 7pm.

She made time for a relaxing bath at bedtime, even if just for 15 minutes and there were no screens from this point onwards. Instead she would read a book.

“It’s so tempting to check your emails or watch a film in bed,” she admits. “I used to say the latter would relax me, but I think in reality it upped my stress levels. A work email could set my mind off racing or if I was really hooked on a show I’d binge watch, convincing myself I may as well, because I couldn’t sleep anyway. Not to mention the blue light from the electronics doesn’t help with sleep either.”

Checking your phone ups your stress levels

Morgan left her phone in another room so that she also couldn’t be tempted to sneak a peak when she woke up in the middle of the night. 

“I used to reach for my phone, check the time, get all worked up and then panic when I couldn’t get back to sleep. For the first couple of weeks of my new routine I did still wake up in the night but I would lie there and concentrate on my breathing or even try counting back from 100 over and over again. Sometimes I would still be awake after an hour but as time went on the wake ups became less frequent and I was able to drift back off quickly when they did happen.”

How exercise can help you sleep better

What she did in the daytime also helped her get her sleeping back on track. 

“I became more active and ensured I squeezed in at least half an hour of physical activity nearly every day. Sometimes this was a brisk walk, other times I would get to the gym or do an at home workout. Not only did it improve my fitness but it contributed to a good night’s sleep.”

She also stopped napping! 

Is napping good for you?

“This was so hard,” she admits. “When you’re exhausted and you actually have a window where you can shut your eyes and drift off it’s almost impossible to turn it down. But in the beginning I had to, to get my body clock back on track.”

Morgan removed caffeine and alcohol from her diet and upped her nutrition game too. 

“I already had a pretty healthy diet but I added more whole grains and fresh fruit to it. I also started taking a quality supplement to be the best and healthiest version of myself.”

How sleeping properly changed everything

Now that she’s sleeping soundly – at least she is when her children aren’t waking her up – Morgan has relaxed her ban on caffeine and alcohol and even has the very occasional lie in. She’ll admit she’s reaped the benefits of a nap from time to time too. But for the most part she has stuck to her routine and doesn’t want to go back.

“It felt like a lot of life changes all at once but really they weren’t things that time consuming or were particularly demanding and I got so much more out of doing them than I could ever have imagined. I’m basically living a more organised, healthier life and I’m getting a ton of sleep too!”

If you enjoyed this article then you might like to find out what the one sleep hack Oprah Winfrey’s sleep doctor swears by and follow these tips to getting a good night’s beauty sleep.

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