Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Medical Needs and First Aid

Sleep Help Thread

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This is a thread to share more natural remedies on sleep health.

This stemmed from a conversation in another thread about perceived mental health. Last year I had a horrible time trying to sleep, averaging about 3-4 hours and waking up throughout the night. I went to my doctor who wanted to prescribe me anti-depressants, even though I'm not depressed, because they have sleep health benefits. However, if I went on anti-depressants, I could easily lose my job in law enforcement and lose my rights to own firearms.

Melatonin doesn't work for me, sleep aids leave my groggy, a couple of drinks before bed isn't healthy (though it works), and it seems that no matter how tired I am, my mind races as soon as it hits the pillow. What has helped, a little, is that I reduce my caffeine intake to zero after 2:00pm. That gives me 6-7 hours before I go to bed to be caffeine free. I'm still a light sleeper, and I'll occasionally take a sleep aid on days I don't have to be up early.

I also struggled with sleep for a long time, and still do occasionally. I have tried melatonin, trazodone (an anti-depressant), chamomile tea, as well as a host of other techniques.

Melatonin - Can get me to sleep if I'm tired enough, but won't keep me asleep. I rarely use it anymore

Trazodone - Prescription drug, used when I was a teenager. Got me to and kept me asleep well enough, but made me horribly groggy for hours after I woke up. I don't think I refilled the prescription even once.

Here's what I've found has worked the best for me. Most of these things are those stupid tips and tricks you find in magazines or that your doctor may tell you. For me, a lot of them actually work.

Establishing a regular routine - Going to sleep and waking up at about the same time each day, even on weekends, has made a huge difference for me. Work/home life may not make this possible for some, but it's a good goal to strive for.

"Winding down" before bed - Personally, I cannot: play video games, read an intense book, go out to a movie/event, or even socialize with friends for a couple of hours before going to bed. Anything that is mentally stimulating and gets my brain going has to be done during the day or within a few hours after getting home from work. Then I naturally progress to a more calm state, and from there to tired enough to sleep. Took me a long time to figure this one out, and everyone has different "triggers" that will get their brain going.

Warm tea/drinks - This one only works if I'm already kind of tired but need a little extra push. It doesn't even have to be a commonly accepted sleep aid like chamomile. As long as it's warm and doesn't have caffeine, it'll put me into a doze.

Power napping - I didn't believe in this until I got good at it. Napping for 20-30 minutes when the urge hits makes me feel so much better during the day and jumpstarts my brain enough so that I can tire it out long before bed time.

I can't power nap in a bed. It has to be in a place that's moderately comfortable and somewhat horizontal, but just uncomfortable enough to prevent me from dropping into a deep snooze (my recliner sofa is a good option, though I've used the floor to great success as well). It's more of a heavy doze than anything; usually I'm still vaguely aware of noises/activity in my vicinity, but it fades to more of a drone than an interruption. I actually get better results if the TV or radio is on quietly versus if it's totally quiet.

Physical activity during the day - I also didn't believe in this one until I had a physically demanding job for an extended period of time. That was the best year I ever slept. My new position is not nearly as physical, so I try to incorporate more movement at home. Exercising too close to bedtime will have the opposite effect, so I try to do physically demanding chores during the day or soon after getting home from work.

I still wake up 2-3 times each night, and by the time my alarm goes off I'm usually almost fully awake anyway. I do notice that I sleep deeper and longer than I ever did in high school or college and wake up feeling much better. I also believe stress had a major role in my sleep troubles, but minimizing that is so individualized for everyone that I didn't want to get too deep into it. Try to identify your own stressors and see if you can minimize their affect on your brain around bed time. If I've learned anything it's that treating sleep problems is just as much an art as a science. It requires careful self-observation and willingness to try creative solutions.

David in MN:
I want to keep up on this thread as a insomniac/sleepwalker. I agree with most everything stated above and would add that 5-HTP has really helped me.

AvenueQ's methods have all proven effective for me as well.  I have also had occaisonal success with Benadryl (antihistamine) for keeping me asleep.  It has the same active ingredient as the "PM" part of Tylenol PM i believe.

Watching since I've fought with sleep my entire life.


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