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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Fortuna

Are you struggling to sleep?

Over the past three months, I found my sleep to be getting progressively worse. It seemed that the more I needed it, the less I had. Lack of sleep created ongoing stress; the more I stressed about it, the less I slept. Further side effects included increased anxiety, an easily overwhelmed nervous system and frequent headaches, which then resulted in acute migraines. To all those migraine sufferers out there, I deeply understand how debilitating migraines can be. I got to the point that I felt anxious to commit ahead of time as I feared I would not be able to show up. This led me to feel more disconnected than ever, which then resulted in impacting my mental health. Migraine triggers became increasingly worse, and I started to feel desperate and, quite frankly, depressed. The challenging part was that I already felt like I was living a healthy lifestyle and had tried countless ways, including seeing medical specialists to "get better". Nothing seemed to work.

What is keeping you awake?

It wasn't until I experienced an extreme lack of energy and a sudden onset of autoimmune responses that I started to deeply listen to what was going on within myself. I needed to pause all my commitments, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I recommend you avoid this at all costs, as it was a frightening wake-up call. I quickly started to lose my sense of self and could not concentrate.

For weeks, I sat on my chair or lay in my bed like a zombie. I was burnt out. I focused my days around meal times, which is about it. I started to feel increasingly stressed in my relationship with my husband as I no longer felt I could contribute much to our relationship. This was very much a reflection of my mental health.


Turning point

Gratefully, there was a turning point. I prioritised health care appointments, in my case, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). When I attended my first appointment, it was like I was having an out-of-body experience as the words flooded out of my mouth, and my TCM Doctor listened with compassion. I combined fortnightly sessions with an excellent kinesologist. A generous friend gifted me a massage, further supporting me in my body. Combining these modalities, I shifted into a gentle healing space. I have found myself to be getting stronger and stronger every day, with my energy returning and my headaches lessening. Amazingly, my sleep returned to 80% better than it was. This alone felt like a miracle.


What helped to improve my sleep?

  1. Consistent sleep hygiene. My husband and I have been discussing this for years and have read countless books on the topic. My ADHD brain hates going to bed because it can get excited, particularly at bedtime, and I become very chatty. If I have had a stressful afternoon (good or bad stress), this seems to increase the likelihood of my brain being overactive and my nervous system being overstimulated. I need to go to bed early to start the unwinding routine sooner. If I am in bed by 7.45, I can read, write, and chat (if my husband is not already asleep) for a good lead-in time.

  2. Retraining myself to sleep. I have needed to reassure myself that I will get better at this. This has helped a lot! If I wake up, I am very gentle with myself and focus on meditation. This is not always easy, as my brain will want to actively engage. I must remind myself that it is sleep time; thoughts are for later.

  3. Creative visualisation. I have created a meditative space to visit when I am going to sleep. First, I visualise myself as clearing my energy, just like you are having a shower before bed. Once my energy feels clear, I notice the most dominant feeling I am experiencing, and then I put it to bed. For instance, if I am feeling anxious about anything in the future, I imagine putting my anxiety to bed. I am loving and kind, yet firm and reassuring towards my anxious self. I imagine tucking it into bed. I proceed to do so for whatever part of myself engages with being awake. It doesn't take long before I am asleep.

  4. Consistency helps a lot. I am consistent now that I know this works for me. This creates a positive feedback loop.

  5. Clearing my schedule. This, of course, has made a massive difference in my body's ability to rest. I appreciate that this may not be realistic for many, yet if you are anything like me and get yourself to burnout, you may have no choice. Start by looking at your current schedule. Are you overloaded with responsibility? Do you need a weekend to yourself? Giving myself the space I needed to heal has been necessary. I was consumed in my studies, which, paradoxically, I love, yet gradually, they were taking more and more of my brain space, and with all the extreme information going into my brain, I had less space to process for day-to-day living. I have decided to continue my studies, but I have to take a different approach.

  6. Are you dreaming a lot? A final tip that worked for me was processing my dreams. I have found memories to surface that I had been avoiding. I needed to give them some light. I did this through journalling and observed my body releasing through involuntarily shaking. I was then able to soothe myself through gentle guidance and self-compassion. I was giving myself what I needed. This process has been vital in restoring my energy and, importantly, removing stress from my body. I recommend gaining support with this process from a trauma-informed therapist.


Takeaway insights

✨ Listen to your body; if you are stressed, there is a reason

✨ Wholistic health is key; everything influences everything

✨ Space and gentle, nourishing energy are essential

✨ Meditation helps a lot!

With love,

Michelle X

PS. If you are experiencing insomnia or any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice.

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