As I type this, it’s 1.20 am. I jerked awake 10 minutes ago, heart racing, a feeling of panic and discombobulation weighing heavily on me. A weird weighty feeling to my forearms, strangely. It isn’t the first time this has happened lately; last year, in the 6 months between my dad being diagnosed with cancer and his death, I developed insomnia.
As someone who previously, luckily, rarely struggled to sleep, this period of grief insomnia was an unwelcome, although understandable, consequence of the emotional toll at the time and did, thankfully, improve after a while.
However, now I’m experiencing it again! If my insomnia is connected to major life events, I’m attributing this bout to becoming a freelancer and small business owner a few months ago. Therefore, I’m wondering – is freelance insomnia a thing and should I be taking it as seriously as any other form of insomnia?
Rachel Moss reports that around 30% of us will experience insomnia for a shorter period at some point in our lives, as referenced in her article What It’s Like to Experience Insomnia.
Why might a freelancer may develop insomnia?
Future work and/or money worries weighing on your mind;
Less, or a lack of, defined daily structure, leading to feelings of restlessness;
Erratic sleep patterns – less need to stick to a set bedtime or needing/sneaking in daytime naps;
Fizzing brain syndrome – not physically tired enough or conversely, extremely tired but pushing yourself to do more;
Technology over-stimulation – many freelancers rely on technology for their work, or part of their work. Between emails, messages, phone calls, meetings, social media and possibly switching between multiple screens/apps throughout the day, it’s no wonder the brain is wired rather than tired. Some freelancers may also enjoy working with the radio or television on for background noise, creating an extra layer of stimulation.
Anyone experiencing insomnia, for whatever reason, should treat themselves kindly (and so should their family/friends but that’s another blog!). Freelance insomnia comes under the category of adjustment insomnia and is no less debilitating than other types of insomnia.
What can a freelancer do to tackle their insomnia?
These are a few of the tactics I have found useful so far:
Work through it
If, at any particular time, you are awake due to a specific project, get up and do some work on it until you feel satisfied you are at a stage where you can rest again. Sometimes this may take hours or sometimes this may be a case of simply getting past a tricky point that has been playing on your mind.
Read through it
Reading helps me prepare for sleep by relaxing my brain and body enough to fall asleep. Although it can be frustrating to wake unexpectedly, reaching for a book again may calm/distract your busy brain enough to return to a state of slumber. This sometimes works for me even when I’m in the middle of one of my grisly crime ficton novels!
Drink through it
I am definitely not suggesting imbibing a few shots or a whole bottle of red to render yourself unconscious (although no judgement if if helps!), but herbal drinks not only have natural health benefits but they rehydrate too. On a recent holiday to Bali, which I featured on my Instagram, I was fortunate enough to visit a coffee and tea plantation and learned a lot about the beneficial qualities of a range of herbal teas – including turmeric tea which was actually delicious! You can read about 8 health benefits of drinking turmeric tea here but the best teas to aid sleep can be found here.
Write through it
Sometimes, writing down what is on your mind helps stop the over-activity enough to return to sleep. Sometimes, depending on what is on your mind, this may take a bit more of an in-depth approach. For me it’s often brainstorming ideas for blog content, fiction stories, marketing strategies and for future personal and business goals. I always feel more in control once the ideas are down ‘on paper’, which in turn helps me sleep.
Exercise through it
Perhaps, due to a more sedentary lifestyle, as mentioned above, your body simply needs tiring out! Incorporate walking into your days, do some Yoga with Adriene stretching, if your local gym is 24/7 or opens early, go and make good use of it, or finally get on that exercise bike/cross trainer in the spare bedroom you’ve never got round to using!
These techniques are definitely working for me and I am finally enjoying less and less sleepless/disrupted nights. As someone who loves to sleep and knows I function better on 7-8 hours per night, it is a relief. Have you ever experienced insomnia as a result of freelancing? If so, what did you try/are you trying to help you overcome it?