By Leo Babauta
Reader Vincent asked about becoming an early riser and insomnia:
My question is this: you offer some great tips that actually work, but what does one do if one suffers from insomnia?
I ask this because it’s around 7:30 in the AM here in Georgia, and I’ve yet to sleep a wink. I went to bed at around one AM (we had company over till late) and couldn’t sleep. Usually, sketching or reading slows my heart rate and gets my mind in sleep mode (if I’m laying in bed anyway) but at least once a week–today, for instance–none of my tricks work, and I end up laying in bed staring at the ceiling all night.
This is a very good question, and as there are a number of causes of insomnia, I can’t give a definite answer. But actually, until about a year and a half ago, I had some bad problems with insomnia. Now I’m an early riser and I have no problems going to sleep at night. I can’t guarantee that these tips will work for everyone, but they definitely helped me:
- Exercise. If you start to exercise and really tire out your body, you will be nice and exhausted when it comes time to go to bed. When I began running, especially longer distances (it took me awhile to build up to that, though), I would go to bed and welcome the sweet release of sleep. :)
- Waking up early. In order to run, I began waking early, using the tips in the article you read. They worked, and the flip side of the equation is that I became so tired at night that after awhile, I just could not stay up late any more. If you begin waking up early, you might be tired for a few days … and eventually, you will be forced either to go to sleep earlier or wake up later. One or the other. The next tip helped me go to sleep earlier instead of sleeping in later.
- Go to bed. If you’re tired, you can still stay up late if you’re watching TV or on the computer. It’s easy — I’ve done it a lot. But if you turn those things off and go to bed, and read in bed, you’ll probably fall asleep … if you’re really tired, from those two tips I gave above. Exercise and wake up early, and then go to bed and read. You’ll fall asleep.
This cure for insomnia, for me, didn’t work overnight. But I don’t think it took that long before it began to work. You can only go without adequate sleep for so long before your body and mind force you to catch up. So catch up by going to sleep earlier.
Another thing: when I began to sleep earlier and wake earlier, it threw my sleeping patterns off for awhile. It was a bit weird, and took a little while to adjust. But it was rewarding.