Please don’t wake me…

Today kicks off Sleep Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good sleep. As a chronic insomniac I am of course acutely aware of how important sleep is. I’m writing this at 4am, so I haven’t found the cure for sleepless nights. I do though have some semi successful strategies.

My relationship with sleep has flipped from one extreme to the other. In my youth I could drop off anytime, anyplace. I loved to snooze and had zero issues dropping off. I was the queen of the long lie. Sleep became a problem when I first experienced mental health problems aged 19. Unfortunately, I have never managed to regain my easy breezy relationship with slumber. Almost twenty years on I have become accustomed to functioning on a few hours a night. Chronic pain has done little to aid a peaceful night, but an inability to calmly shut down is still a major obstacle in my quest for rest.

A decent night’s repose can affect everything from heart health to sex drive. It goes without saying that exhaustion also has a massive impact on mental health. The NHS advises that most of us need around 8hrs sleep to function properly. In fact, lack of sleep can so massively impair cognitive faculties that experts suggest driving after only 5 hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Everyone should be mightily relieved that I cannot drive.

The long-term effect of insufficient sleep is grim. The anxiety of going to bed each night knowing achieving sleep will be a battle is wearing. The more you worry about not sleeping the less likely it becomes. Constant fatigue makes getting through daily tasks difficult, which adds to one’s stress levels. This in turn pushes that magical 8 hours even further out of reach. Long sleepless nights are lonely. There’s rarely anyone else awake leaving a busy mind way too much room to mull over worries. Throw pain into mix and you have a recipe for despair. Moving through the world in a worn-out shuffle will grind you down, which is why I offer my extensively tested tips on getting some god damned sleep.
I’m not going to waste your time with milky drinks and lavender under your pillow. Everyone knows the basics and they aren’t going to cure hardcore insomnia. I don’t have a failsafe solution, if I did, I’d snoring now. However, these are the things that I have had some success with over years.

Bedroom Tips

Keep your bedroom cool. Lowering your body temperature helps the body prepare for sleep.

In theory that’s why a hot bath should aid sleep, but I find any sleepiness gained from the temp drop is lost during the process of getting dry and organised for bed. If you do less faffing post bathing it might work better for you.

No tv in the bedroom. This is a definite for me. I find a television to be the opposite of relaxing. I need my bed and bedroom to be a completely chilled out zone. Which sits nicely with my next point.

Try to make your bedroom as pleasant as possible to be in. Obviously, that means different things for different people. For me it’s nice sheets, subtle scents, comfortable mattress.

Black out blinds are your friend. I could not live without mine.

Invest in one of those huge maternity pillows. They give so much support if you have back or joint pain. Plus they’re just super comfortable.

Sound Effects

Rain on window

I use sounds machine apps. I like heavy rain/ thunderstorm type sounds, but experiment and see what works for you. Something about being safe & protected from the elements I’m hearing sometimes helps me drift off.

Soothing music (whatever that means to you) at a low volume can also help. I like to mouth the lyrics and focus on words I enjoy rather than my own thoughts. Getting the volume just right is key for me, so again, you might need to experiment. Select specific songs and make a playlist beforehand. You don’t want anything that unexpectedly bring unpleasant or stimulating associations to mind.

Preparation

I should probably have started here, but lack of sleep melts your brain. So, you’ll have deal with my disjointed thinking.

These are all evident. I’m going over them because sometimes you miss the obvious when you’re knackered.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Don’t watch, read or listen to anything that will bring up stimulating emotions (nothing scary, disturbing, sad, triggering etc).

Avoid arguing or deep conversations right before you hit the hay.

Smoking, caffeine, some meds (check with gp/pharmacist) are no goes before you attempt sleep.

Against Accepted Wisdoms

Sleeping cat

I’ve consulted many Drs, Psych’s and other practitioners over the years and some of the oft repeated advice they’ve given me has turned out to be just plain wrong for me. If you find something that really does or doesn’t help, even if everyone is telling you the opposite, do you. For me this includes:

Looking at my phone in bed. Putting it on night shift mode to alter the light tone to yellowish rather than blue is a must. Otherwise I find aimlessly scrolling can be very helpful in getting me sleepy.

Reading in bed also works for me. I can’t fall asleep without reading. I find that if I just keep going until I literally can’t keep my eyes open, I have a good chance of getting into a proper sleep. I think it’s because my mind is occupied with the content of the book rather than whatever mess is in my head. Clearly, it’s important to choose the reading material with reference to my previous points.

Sharing the bed with pets. So many people have cautioned me against this. I find my petting my cat and hearing his purrs excessively relaxing. Thus, I ignore such warnings.

Hippie Dippie

Constellation lamp

I hate to be that person, but occasionally the esoteric route gets you there.

A constellation lamp in a dark room can offer something uncomplicated to focus your attention on long enough to get to sleep.

Gentle yoga – clears the mind & stretches everything in a pleasing manner.

Desperate Measures

When you’ve been attempting shut eye for hours and are reaching the point of hopelessness; get up. By that point you aren’t going to sleep. Every toss & turn just raises anxiety levels. I find it much more productive to get out of bed and stop forcing it. Do whatever you can manage and if you get drowsy try again.

Medication – You need sleep to operate. There comes a point when discussing medication options with your Gp is the sensible thing to do. I have tried several sleeping pills over the years. Most didn’t work for me. Most are not a suitable for prolonged use due to addictive and/or tolerance building properties. There are some drugs that can be used for longer periods. I have been prescribed one such medication. It doesn’t have a 100% strike rate, but when it does work it knocks me out all night.

Sleep when you can in extreme cases. Often napping is counterproductive when fighting insomnia. However, when you haven’t had more than a couple of consecutive hours sleep in weeks that goes out the window. When my sleeplessness is at its worst, I will get so completely exhausted that my body will crash. That doesn’t always happen at bed time. Take that sleep. You need it. Sleep all day if you must.

Last but Not Least

Oxytocin

Sex and orgasms in general are brilliant for sleep. Sex works on so many fronts. You can tire yourself out, all those feel good hormones chill you out and of course it’s the perfect distraction from any negative bullshit you have going on. Flying solo releases all that lovely oxytocin and melatonin too, so don’t be shy about giving it a try.

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This week I have been mostly…

Horny. My stupid sore body has curtailed my sex life somewhat. So, yes I am confined to Jammies, heat packs & elevating swollen feet right now. I can still I’d hark back to the days when my legs were in the air for more enjoyable reasons & the music that calls them to mind. 

Madonna’s Music album is blasting in our kitchen. I’m making tea wearing just knickers & a vest when he comes up behind me. His neck kisses are more sexy than sweet; before I know it I am pinned against the wall & he’s pulling a breast from my vest. We are right in front of a large sash window & the folk in the tenement opposite can look right in if they want to. My protestations that someone might see melt away as his mouth drifts from my nipple & heads south. By the time he’s pulling my knickers down I couldn’t care less if the whole street is watching. As Madonna provocatively demands  the dj plays a song I’m having my first ever standing up orgasm. His tongue seemed to move to the irrististable beat, I definitely ‘danced with my baby’. Thus, from the electro popish intro to the classic Madge lyrics, Music spells sex to me. 

Sometimes you meet someone & you just know something significant is going to happen. That feeling was instant with this man. At first we talked. We liked talking. Those conversations stretched from hours to months. So, when we finally crossed the line into more than words there was a certain amount of anticipation. We needn’t have worried the moment our bodies slammed against each other everything worked. He knew exactly what I wanted without a hint of direction. He dominated me to exactly the right degree. As he flung my legs over his shoulders I had Dave Matthews Band playing in head. I loved that he knew I could handle it rough. Crash Into Me was that night set to music. It was hot & kinky, but also tender. As the bite marks faded in the days after this was the song I had on repeat. 


When an ex was left with the keys to lock up his workplace I ceized the opportunity to indulge in some gross misconduct. I turned up wearing not very much & offered to perform a strip tease in his boss’ office. The song I chose to shed my lingerie to was Touch Me. Dj Rui De Silva created one of the very few dance tunes that does it for me. I loved how it felt to dance to its seductive vibe in a heaving club & it translated to one on one. The lyrics were in synch with where I was at; intense, intimate sex was my thing. I liked that this club anthem was about more than just random fucking. The sultry tones & insistent dance track still makes me feel like a siren. 

I hadn’t been with a women in a long time when I felt a connection with a chick I had thought would be just a friend. Our feminist politics got us sparking, but her curves & penchant for spikes pushed us into bed. 212 was the song that got us on the dance floor that summer & it was the theme to our fling. The pounding drum that never quit felt like how she made she cum again and again. And again. Azelia’s fierce words mirrored our ferocious feminism. When the music takes on a rolling composition like waves breaking on sand I’m drawn right back to the sensation of breasts meeting soft stomach ripples. The song is forever a metaphor for the joy to be found in female flesh & intellect. 


When a fairly new boyfriend stumbled upon some of my sex toys whilst looking for condoms his reaction spoke volumes. Next time he stayed at mine I gave him a treat. To the triply strains of Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry, I cuffed & blindfolded him. Once I’d stripped to nothing but a corset I uncovered his eyes. I processed to straddle him & drive him a little crazy by demonstrating a shiny pink vibrator. The power of having him completely enraptured was so hot. His eventual begging to be freed & allowed to touch me came during the seriously seductive Strict Machine. As a result the 70’s/electro mash up never fails to make fails to make me feel like a sexual goddess.