How to get a good night’s sleep during deployment

If there’s anything that’s bound to mess up your sleep schedule – other than a new baby – it’s a deployment. It’s an understatement to say deployments can be a stressful situation for us. But I’ve found myself reacting differently to THIS stressful situation that I normally do – namely in the sleep department.

The real reason I can’t sleep – someone stole my pillow!

For me, sleep has always been my coping mechanism when things get stressful. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, all I want to do is go home and go to sleep. About 5 years ago, I went through a pretty serious bout of depression and I was sleeping more hours than I was awake. I’ve learned to recognize that, while sleep is important, too much can be a bad thing for me.

Recently though, I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum and unable to sleep, or waking up in the middle of the night. In fact, the only time I’ve been able to nap or fall asleep early are, oddly enough, times when I know my honey is on a “trip.” (It’s our nice way of saying mission.) I think it’s a “hurry up and go to sleep so the next day will get here” mentality.

But, back to the not sleeping … As I said, this is new to me. I’ve had a few restless nights before, but the waking up at 3 a.m. wide-awake or not being able to fall asleep is not something that usually happens. It’s gotten progressively worse the last month and last week, it happened 3 times!

Don’t you wish you could be this relaxed?

So, what to do? There are tons of tips and ideas out there on how to battle insomnia. Some are common sense. I’m going to share my 5 favorite ways to help combat insomnia.

  1. Write it down. Keep a journal and take a few moments before bed each night to jot down your thoughts. If something is bothering you, write it down. Sometimes it helps immensely to just put it on paper. But don’t stop there – jot down the happy things that happened to you or that you’re grateful for, too. That way you’ll be putting your mind in a positive state, and hopefully a more relaxed state.
  2. Read. I love to “unwind” at night by reading before bed. It helps your body relax, but also distracts you from whatever is on your mind. Try to turn off electronics like your computer and TV about a half hour before bed to give your body time to adjust to sleep-mode.
  3. Avoid turning on the lights in the middle of the night. This includes your cell phone. Yes, I know that’s nearly impossible – I, too, check my phone every time I wake up in the middle of the night. If you can’t break that habit (and I don’t blame you – I can’t either!), set your backlighting as low as possible. Invest in a few nightlights for the bathrooms, too. When you turn on the lights, it shocks your body into thinking it’s daytime. That’s why sometimes it’s impossible to get back to sleep.
  4. Count sheep. Yes, I’m serious. Here’s the trick to counting sheep: Do it backwards. By 3s. I’ve found that when I’m laying awake at night, my mind racing, if I count backwards from 100 by 3s, it gives my mind something to focus on. Sometimes, I get all the way down to 1, but most of the time I just fall asleep without realizing it.
  5. Keep your room cool and comfortable. I always have a fan in my bedroom. It serves two purposes – keeping the room comfortable and providing some white noise to drown out the sounds of the roadway outside. Simplynoise.com is a great site (and app!) that provides white noise. It even has a setting that make it “oscilate” like a real fan. Also, check out Rainymood.com if you enjoy the sound of rain & thunderstorms. (PS – both are great for work environments too!)

The trick is to find out what works best for YOU. Everyone is different and what works best for me, may not work for you at all. Experiment. What else are you going to do on those sleepless nights?

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