Updated: Jul 7
Since the moment I got my concussion, my sleep has changed. I had a hard time falling asleep; I woke up many times during the night, and it felt like my brain was always awake. During my first year, I had no clue what to do and just used sleeping pills to fall asleep easier. It didn’t feel like that was the right way and within the next year, I learned a lot about how I could improve my sleep naturally.
How did you sleep during the first year after your accident?
I slept a lot during my first week after the accident, but that changed. I couldn’t fall asleep anymore. It felt like my brain was always awake; I felt so restless and stressed. Every time I went to bed in the evening, it felt like I was so nervous about something. There wasn’t anything to be nervous about, but it made me stay awake for hours.
I went to the doctor, and he gave me some calming pills. I was happy that something was helping, and it improved my sleep a bit. It made me more tired, so falling asleep became a bit easier. It made me feel less restless, but I still woke up many times during the night, and it felt like I ’still wasn’t getting the quality sleep I needed.
What happened after the first year?
Over time, it didn’t feel good to use the sleeping pills anymore. I felt like there should be another option. I started to learn about how sleep can be affected, and how I could improve it naturally. I am not a fan of medicine, so it felt like this was the right thing to do.
I listened to books, Google searched, and tried many things to find what would work the best for me. My sleep was affected by many things, the most important of which were: nutrition, exercise, screentime, light brightness, cognitive tasks before bedtime, coffee, a consistent sleep schedule, and optimizing my bedroom.
What sleep habits did I change?
I felt a difference when I started to drink a green smoothie every morning. I add banana and a lot of vegetables to it. It helps break down the melatonin in the morning, so I feel more awake and because the melatonin breaks down fast in the morning, it gets the chance to build up in the evening.
I have a love/hate relationship with coffee. One day, it can make me anxious, but the next, it can help clear my head. I noticed that I shouldn’t drink any coffee after 1 PM to improve my sleep. It can take up to 10 hours to get out of your system.
I learned that exercise has a big impact on my sleep cycle. When I do a workout in the morning, it has a positive impact on my melatonin cycle. Try not to do a workout before going to sleep.
Screentime had a huge impact on my melatonin level. In this modern time, we are watching our screens often until bedtime, but this isn’t natural for your body. Your body will start to make more melatonin when it gets darker. When you continue watching your screen, it’s a sign to your body that it’s daytime, so your body ’doesn’t prepare you for bedtime. I try to turn off all screens at least two hours before I go to bed.
Same thing with the brightness of the lights in your house. Try to turn down the lights at least two hours before you go to bed. This will build up more melatonin.
Before going to bed, try not to do a lot of cognitive tasks. This will give your brain time to calm down and prepare for bedtime. A calming yoga session or meditation is perfect. I often turn off the lights, light some candles, and listen to an audiobook. This is a sign for my brain to calm down, as well.
Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. When I stick to a fixed sleep schedule, my sleep is so much better. It’s better to go to bed at the same time every day, so your body can adjust to this natural sleep cycle. When you go to bed at 10 PM one day and at 2 AM the next, your body will become confused and will have to adjust to the natural 24-hour cycle again. Try to stick to one bedtime if possible.
Make sure that your bedroom is only the place where you sleep. So, don’t watch television in your bedroom and don’t bring your phone into your bedroom. Your brain loves clarity and if it knows ’that your bedroom is just a place for sleep, then it will adjust. Make sure that your bedroom is a dark, quiet, and relaxing place. I bought some blackout curtains and painted my bedroom in a calming blue-grey colour. It helped a lot!
Figuring out what improves your sleep is a learning process. Every person is different, but I hope this will give you some guidelines to improve your sleep, as well. I am always open to hearing about things ’that are missing from my list and what helped you!