Five ways to sleep well after a high (or low)

After a busy nightshift, a gig, or a late study stint, it’s hard to get your head down. Here are my top five insomnia cures

Snug as a bug in a rug Laura Eades 2015

Snug as a bug in a rug. Why would a Persian carpet be remotely snuggly? It wouldn’t. It would itch. Laura Eades 2015

When a performer friend told me she can’t sleep well after gigs, I knew the feeling exactly.

Having worked both night shifts on a busy national newspaper newsdesk, and as a theatre performer doing late-night gigs, I have plenty of experience of being adrenalised, thrilled, late to bed and unable to sleep. I also have had hundreds of ordinary, can’t sleep experiences where I read a book and ate muesli for hours!

You could stop trying to sleep, of course

Remember that Japanese guy in the sushi restaurant where my housemate worked when we were students in Leeds, who’d go out dancing after his restaurant closed to wind down? (Didn’t I go with him one night? I think we just danced and danced, as if it was a aerobicsathon). Or he’d go to the 24-hour swimming pool. Now THAT’s an idea I like. Nutter.

The trouble is that mostly, when we can’t sleep, we’re stressed because we can’t afford to be awake – tomorrow’s treading on the back of our dressinggown already, that pigeon outside is noise pollution, plain and simple.

Insomnia ‘cures’ that leave you worse off

Back in my nightshift days, I tried the following methods to transition towards sleep. I can say from empirical testing that they are wholly counterproductive:

  • Booze: I was fond of one of those green tall tins of readymixed gin and tonic (about 3 units of alcohol in a can) necked in the taxi on the way home. Failing that, a slug of whatever was in the drinks cabinet while eating dripping gherkins, all of which leaning over the sink to save cleaning. (Not only does this not really set you up for beddybyes, but Oloroso sherry isn’t tasty and then you have nothing to cook that lamb dish with either). Notably, after gigs, the desire to drink was many times greater. But it doesn’t really create a sustainable sense of self-worth. My night team gave me an engraved hip flask, which is housed by a diary. It’s very cute, and is engraved with (‘Consume in the case of sleeplessness’). Necessity of booze, of course, is inversely proportional to quantity of coffee consumed.
  • Telly. A few rounds of hummous and oatcakes and few episodes of Mad Men followed by scampering to bed in a panic as dawn changed the horizon colour undeniably. Not restful, and really hard to know when to stop.
  • Internet surfing. This is not a winddown. And it’s bottomless. You need something for your heart to feel snuggly. The internet is scatty and hollow. It is not cosy.
  • Yoga. I thought this would be healthy. But it is also energising.

So here are my five recommendations for better slumber: 

1) Put your mind into your feet. They float. They feel nice against the sheets. Relaxation comes from my hands and feet.

2) Masturbation. Always conk out after an orgasm. Do you do that enough for you? How could you get groovy about doing that more? Read Albert Espinosa on Positive Wanking. Or maybe this woman could be of assistance? (hint: It’s a link to a sexuality blogger, not a prostitute).

3) Reading fiction. Eyelids always get sleepy after a few pages. Seems to suspend my thinking ideas brain. Even if it feels like there isn’t time, it beats trying to sleep and then having thoughts whizzing, so it’s better to lose 40 minutes of sleep to fiction than a whole night of wrestling with your mind. This is absolutely not true of watching tv, it has to be words on a page.

4) Prayer, big loving thoughts about other people. I think after gigs my ego is jumping up and down like a yippy dog that’s been given a handful of biscuits. My mind is replaying all the good bits. I’m reperforming it in my head, feeling pride in my words, liking what I did, and I don’t want to sleep because I’m loving reliving or going over the shameful bits trying to neutralise them. Prayer can guide your ego out of its own arse and put your love into everyone around you, see the bigger picture, wish self worth and liberation for your friends. Just make some wishes for people you know at first. Calm your ego down and put your hand on your racing heart and open your heart to deep feelings. At least that’ll be time well spent too.

5) Sleep routine. My toddler needs a bedtime ritual, a wind down that’s the same each night. You can’t just dump her in bed and expect her to sleep. Probably the same for us. Think what your ritual was as a child. Make it nice. Make it soulful. Make it peaceful and magical. Get a starry night light, some pyjamas you love, a hot water bottle, a face cream, listen to the same music every night at bedtime, blow out candles and make a wish, cuddle yourself or a toy, mentally say goodnight to your loved ones and blow them kisses, switch off the lights and say goodnight to all your distractions “goodnight bathroom” “goodnight computer”.

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