My story began in my early 20’s and ended in my early 30’s when I was reunited with a friend and colleague who introduced me to the work of Dr Ray Peat and his research into physiological stress. That summer was the beginning of the end of my insomnia and the struggle to survive each day that came with it.
Sleep Hygiene Just Doesn’t Cut It
The web of symptoms which swarmed around the sleepless night and the roads I travelled down, both metaphorically and physically, were a test of extreme endurance. It’s because of this experience that I despair when I read the sleep hygiene methods that are promoted in every magazine. It’s not that they don’t play a part, but they are not going to help a serious insomniac, and it is you, Serious Insomniac, who I would like to help, along with the millions of others who just don’t get beautiful, restorative sleep.
Dieting Was The Beginning Of Sleeplessness
At the time that my insomnia started to become an issue, I had been dieting, not that I needed to especially to, I was already quite slim. Well, that is how it started but as the fatigue accumulated and the stress hormones built up, my appetite became suppressed.
A typical night would see me fighting to get to sleep initially, only to wake again a couple of hours later and lie awake until finally dropping off again an hour or so before it was time start the next day.
This was generally the pattern with better nights and worse nights along the way. I did get a clue though as to what could help but I didn’t put two and two together at the time. When I was pregnant, and still struggling with insomnia, I noticed that if I had half of a large tub of plain yogurt with lots of honey before bed that I slept much better. I can’t remember what happened to that lovely treat but I didn’t continue it religiously.
Understanding Insomnia For The First Time
Then, I had my son, and despite “knock me down with a feather” exhaustion, I still could not sleep. Then, one wonderful summer’s day, I had a call from a friend from California whom I studied with some ten years previously. She was in Kent! We were always very close but time and distance meant contact was sporadic and for some reason I didn’t ever express what was going on with me. But that day we set out off for a walk in the country, with my one-year old boy and I got to tell her my story. Driving through town we came to a halt and she ordered me out of the car to a local cafe to get a decafe latte and dump a load of sugar in it. Okay, now here was the difficult part for me. I had spent 10 long years (actually longer) keeping sweet things and milk out of my diet. Plus, I had eczema, I wasn’t supposed to have milk? I didn’t like milk? But who was I to argue. I had spent nearly a decade getting…. NOWHERE! What is that saying, “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. I had absolutely nothing to lose.
And there began my venture back into physiology, stress hormones, sugar, calcium, calories, glycogen, adrenaline, cortisol, anxiety, insomnia, thyroid. The idea of having enough, that your body should be listened to, that cravings can actually be a sign of genuine need, that sleep can be a pretty accurate barometer of how adequately you have eaten during the day, that dietary dogma has a lot to answer for and that there is a heck of a lot of confusion surrounding sugar.
Was it comfortable having to literally demolish long-held beliefs? No. Was it enlightening, healing, freeing? Yes! Did I start to sleep better? Yes. That night!
We are not all carbon copies of each other and we have various influences both internal and external outside of food which disrupt our sleep. I fully recognise that. But fundamentally, if your stress hormones are running high into the night, your brain is simply not going to switch off and allow you to sleep, and food is the best way to start tackling that.
The question is, are your willing to take that journey into listening to your body and doing things differently?
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