Hi Ethel! Thank you so much for asking this vital question! I can tell that you are feeling curious and are interested in discovering some tips, perhaps some new ideas, as well as guidance, on how to manage insomnia.
I can certainly relate to your concern that you have been experiencing trouble sleeping throughout the night. What is your current evening routine? It sounds like you are having trouble staying asleep. Are you also having trouble falling asleep, as well? I know that you mentioned in your question that you have recently been experiencing insomnia. How long have you been experiencing insomnia? These are some of the important questions that you may want to address with your therapist or primary care doctor.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when it comes to managing insomnia is to establish a sleep routine. Take some time to identify the patterns of sleep that you notice that you are experiencing. Start by simply observing your sleep patterns and begin to make changes as you go. I recommend keeping a sleep diary, if that is at all possible. The BetterHelp platform offers a worksheet on sleep hygiene as well as an example of a sleep diary that may be helpful for you.
In addition to starting a sleep diary, I recommend utilizing aromatherapy techniques. This strategy may help you to feel more relaxed and calm in the evenings. For example, you may want to purchase a scented pillow, a body or room spray, or a scented eye mask. I believe that lavender is a popular scent for people to use to stay asleep. It may be a good idea to test a few different scents out and see which one appeals to you and which one brings you the feeling of relaxation. Perhaps vanilla or jasmine might be other scents that you could try. If you are waking up in the middle of the night, you can utilize aromatherapy in order to focus on falling back to sleep.
I am not sure if you were doing this already, but it would be a good idea to shut off all electronics and screens an hour or two before bed. Turning off your cell phone, the TV and any other blue light device, such as a laptop or computer, will likely be beneficial for you and your sleep cycle. Sleep education is going to be key so do what you can to learn about the various stages of sleep. It would be great if you could read a book or a magazine as a means to relax before bed. Keep a consistent schedule, such as adhering to the same bedtime and wake time every day. These ideas will hopefully be beneficial for you!
In addition to the aforementioned strategies, I recommend relaxation strategies. Relaxation techniques include mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided visualization. These are just some examples of relaxation techniques that you can try any time, from the comfort of your home. Listening to audio clips on the topic of mindfulness might be a great idea for you! Here is a resource to a website that I recommend:
It may be a good idea to practice these techniques while you are awake and during the day in order to feel more comfortable with implementing these strategies in the moment when you are awakening at night.
One thing that I tell my clients is that if you are awake, laying in bed and can not sleep for more than thirty minutes, take about twenty minutes to get out of bed and do a different task, such as an epsom salt foot bath, listening to music or reading a story. The idea is that it is best to leave the bed and the room you are sleeping in, refocus your energy on something else and return to the bed feeling refreshed and ready to try to sleep again. You can certainly learn more about these strategies and techniques in individual therapy sessions.
You may want to try some holistic modalities, as well. This may include massage therapy, acupuncture, art therapy, herbal supplements and more! It is up to you what you decide to try and be patient with yourself in the process!
Thank you for giving me more information about what you have been worried about. I think it makes sense that you are worried about your son. It can be difficult, as a parent, to stop worrying about a child, no matter what age they are at. In order to combat your feelings of worry, I recommend making a worry chest. You can design a container to your liking and use sticky notes or scrap pieces of paper to write your worries on and fold them up and place them in the container. Know that your worries are safe in a place that you have made for them. Allow the worries to exist and give yourself the time you need to rest. You can always revisit your worries again in the morning.
I can tell that you are feeling lonely. What is it like for you to live alone? I can only imagine what it must be like for you to be a widow for fifteen years. What has that experience been like for you? I think that it is a great goal to try to meet someone new and go on a few dates. That seems like it would be helpful for you!
I recommend utilizing a positive affirmation in the evening as a means to comfort yourself and wind down before you go to sleep. An example of a positive affirmation for sleep could be: "I will get a good night sleep tonight. I give myself permission to rest. I know that when I feel tired, that it is time to relax my mind and body and get some sleep."
It sounds like a positive aspect of your life is taking classes at the local YMCA and spending a good amount of time with your friends. I encourage you to keep doing that! Thank you again, Ethel, for your time in asking this important question related to insomnia!