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Insomniac tips for staying awake during the day

Updated on March 30, 2012
What's with this guy? Has he drunk too much coffee?
What's with this guy? Has he drunk too much coffee?

Tips on getting through the day - coping with insomnia

Insomnia can be very debilitating to the sufferer, making days extremely hard to get through. While everyone has been tired at some point, not everyone will suffer from debilitating tiredness or exhaustion, which affects you both physically, mentally and emotionally.

Science shows that keeping going under constant strain affects the heart, amongst other things. Depression is a likely outcome of feeling exhausted. Feelings of being unable to cope with situations can quickly arise. 

In this hub I present some tips to help with keeping going during the day, if you've had little to no sleep the night before. Or if, indeed, you suffer from insomnia. Please note that these tips are not a replacement for getting to the root of your sleeplessness or insomnia - they're short-term fixes.

The background to this is that for years I had very intermittent sleep, and have learned various things that really helped get through the days. My record (not that I was trying for it!) of not sleeping at all was 3 nights and days running, without one iota of sleep. I don't recommend going without sleep, but I have learned from these experiences certain things that aid immensely when it comes to keeping going with the day. To the point, that even after a hard days work of manual labour, I didn't feel like I hadn't slept the night before. 

I have become very interested in the nature of sleep, what it really means, something which I hope to explore in another hub at some point.

But for now, these are some things that I have found help immensely with sleep deprivation.

On the physical side

Breathing deep into the abdomen

When you're tired, you'll generally take shallow and strained breaths, which hugely limits the intake of oxygen (or life energy, prana, if you prefer to look at it that way) that enters your body. It's easily missed, to realise how strained tiredness has made you. Breathing deeply into the abdomen is in itself something that requires energy, but the payoffs are immense. The easiest way to do this is sit in a chair (though I used to do it standing due to the nature of my job), and breathe some air into your lungs and feel yourself expanding your chest cavity, while at the same time pushing the air down into your abdomen, such that your stomach stretches outward. It's that last movement which seems to be the essential component of this - whereby you can feel your stomach dilate as if it's ready to burst. I would hold my breath at that point, but not so long as to go dizzy. Guiding the breath down that far, and holding it for a while with an expanded lower abdomen, is incredibly invigorating!

Streching the hamstrings

It is said that a lot of energy gets locked up in the hamstring. Either sitting on the floor with legs outstretched, or standing up, gently try to touch your feet with your hands, and you'll feel a pulling sensation in the backs of your legs. Don't worry if you can't touch your feet, it's just the action forward which counts. Take a deep breath and stretch, holding it for a couple of seconds, then release. Do these several times until you can feel a little bit of extra flexibility. You should find that this reinvigorates you a lot.

Masaging the head or scalp

Massaging the head is a really fantastic way of getting the blood circulating to your brain if you're feeling really brain-dead. The best way is to stand up, then hang your head between your knees, and massage the top of your head with your fingertips. The effects are really quite immediate. You don't need to hang your head down to do this, as you can massage your head sitting in a chair or standing, but letting gravity work for you does help.

Drinking water

Keeping hydrated is one of the main things to stay on top of (this is true of normal everyday tiredness as well). If you've suffered from insomnia, you'll do doubt have experienced sore and dry eyes, dry mouth etc. Drinking plenty of water will help immensely. Keeping hydrated is also good if some of the more physical exercises mentioned above are not something you can do for whatever reason.

Avoiding sugary or caffeinated foods

The usual take on feeling tired, is that some sugary food or drink will help you through. Well, it might, but only for a while before an ever worse energy crash sets in. The same with cafein (or any stimulant for that matter). What comes up must come down. So avoid stimulants at all costs if you're suffering from insomnia, whether it be tea, coffee, alcohol.... I was recently reading some sites mentioning coffee and chocolate as great energy boosters - this might be true for the short-term, but if you're suffering from longer term insomnia this really isn't recommended (esp. if stimulants is the cause of your insomnia in the first place). Also, if you're already highly strung out from sleeplessness, taking any form of stimulant isn't something you want to do.

Avoid wheat

This might look like a funny one, but it's a curious fact that many of us have a slight allergy to wheat (or at least, the main tough strand of wheat which is generally used commercially), and unknown to us, makes us feel sluggish (and some heavy to the stomach). If you have a slight wheat allergy, this will feel much worse if you're suffering from insomnia, and would be best avoided. It's possible to bomb out on wheat, especially when already exhausted.

Eat slow release food such as oats

The best thing to eat are slow energy release foods such as oats, bananas, beans.... A bowl of dry processed breakfast cereal immersed in quantities of processed milk (i.e. homogenised) is probably not the best thing to give your digestive system first thing in the morning, especially if you're already tired. Try an alternative such as Bircher Muesli which you can read about here.

On the mental side

It's important for you to remember that how things look today, while feeling very tired or exhausted, are probably not the way they really are. We've all had the middle-of-the-night syndrome, where problems seem to acquire an incredible magnitude, but if you suffer from insomnia or have had a bad night, you're really in that middle-of-the-night time-frame during the day. Don't form conclusions or base decisions when you know that you're not at your best.

The best thing is to just try and watch the things your mind is coming out with when you're tired, and your reactions to things. It'll come out with no end of rubbish when you're really, really tired!

So just being calm and conserving energy, and not feeding negative thoughts and so on, will also help your energy level during the day.

I have tried and tested all of the above and can vouchsafe for their efficacy.


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    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 3 years ago from Wales, UK

      peachpurple.... you're right about the computer, really I need to add to this hub. I'd say most of us spend too much time on these devices, which stimulates the brain at just the wrong time.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      thanks for the tips, i must avoid sweet food and computer

    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 4 years ago from Wales, UK

      thanks for visiting NicolasSoules!

    • Nicolas Soules profile image

      Nicolas Soules 4 years ago from 25 corringham road,Nw11 7bs. London,UK

      Great tips !!

    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 7 years ago from Wales, UK

      Thanks for visiting Mentalist acer

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Nice survival tips Electro-Denizen,didn't know about the tendency to have wheat allergys;)