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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A plus size guide to thrift shopping…

I’m a girl who loves a rummage in a second hand shop. Thrift shops are amazing if you want to save money, reduce waste or just snap up some amazing vintage find. Thrifting is even better when the shop in question is an ethical nonprofit like my go to consignment emporium Glad Rags.

I also know there is a myth that see plus size gals can’t do this kind of shopping. Well, I’m here to tell you different. It can take a little more dedication, but trust me, there are plenty of fat sized gems to be unearthed. Here are my top tips for finding them.

Ignore the label & try everything

Sizes are anything but standard. We all know we can be a variety of sizes depending on the brand. If you’re like me you will have clothes in your wardrobe that technically should never fit you. When you thrift the nonsense of sizing is amplified. The clothes can be anywhere from a season to decades old; sizing has changed. Clothes can also have originated in a whole other country (a US12 is not a UK12), so basically, the sizes don’t necessarily mean much. If you like it & it looks like it might fit on your body, try it on. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Check for a plus section

A really quick way to scope out your size is to check for a plus section. Most thrift (& even charity shops) are organised into sizes. If you don’t have much time or don’t want to try everything, heading straight to your size is a good bet.

Get to know the staff

I’m lucky enough to have been able to build an excellent relationship with the guys at Glad Rags & a few of my local charity spots. Not only is it nice to meet lovely new people, but it aids my fashion foraging. If you are friendly with the folks in store they’ll point out things they think you’ll be interested. They may even keep something aside if you become a valued customer.

Take your time

Second hand shops are completely reliant on what patrons donate. They simply can’t maintain stock in every size. If your plus you might have to play the long game. Keep checking back to see if new stock has arrived. Try setting aside a day for thrifting; then you can hit a number of shops & really devote some hours to the search.

Utilise Social Media

I follow my fav spot on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. They post new stock, events & special offers. If you see something you love don’t be afraid to shoot them a message. If you can get into store fairly quickly there’s a really good chance they’ll hold that dream item for you.

Shop the menswear

Or women’s wear. Basically forget gender roles & rules. Check out everything & if you like it, buy it.

Consider alterations

Lots of clothes can be altered if they don’t quite fit. If you find something that you don’t want to live without, grab it & head off to the nearest alterations place. Most thrift shops will be able to point you in the right direction in their location. You will be amazed at the magic a seamstress (is still the right term???) can work without breaking your bank. On a similar theme…

Consider repurposing

Lots of items can be repurposed or customised really simply. A men’s shirt can easily become a cute tied crop. An oversized t shirt dress can become just tee a on a bigger body. Sometimes a wee bit of thought can go a long way.

Know your measurements.

If you know your measurements you will be able to see at glance if some garments fit. Lots of proper vintage & menswear items will only feature measurements on the label. If you want to be able to grab & go this is a great tip. It will also come in handy should you want to have anything altered.

So, there you have it. Thrifting is for everyone. I hope these tips may give first time fatties the confidence to explore the second hand world. I assure you there is nothing like the thrill of finding your heart’s desire for mere pennies. When you’re helping your community too, your cup will indeed runneth over.