What To Do When You Have Insomnia, And Your Partner Doesn't

by Natalia Lusinski
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It’s 2 a.m. I can’t sleep. Again. Insomnia. Whether you have trouble falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake, no matter what kind of insomnia and sleeplessness you have, it’s not fun and frustrating to say the least. A hundred and one things keep us insomniacs up at night, from worrying about the next day to problems at work to ordinary stress. Women suffer from insomnia more than men (lucky us!) and approximately 60 million (yes, 60 million) American adults have said they have some form of insomnia. Creative types are likely to have it, and some famous insomniacs include Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and Rihanna.

There are lots of books on the subject, like The Ultimate Sleep Guide and this list of books on how to get to sleep, compiled by an Amazon reader in order of best to worst. Whether warm milk is your remedy —or something stronger like Ambien or an old school shot of vodka (which is not recommend by doctors these days) — insomnia not only affects the sleepless sleeper, but also their loved ones. For instance, what should you do when you have insomnia and your significant other doesn’t? The following are some things I keep in mind when my eyes just cannot stay shut, yet I want to be cognizant of my boyfriend’s needs, like wanting to get a full night’s sleep.

1. Don’t Wake Them Up

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I know insomnia is isolating and you’d rather have someone to hang out with, like your boyfriend or girlfriend. Why not be awake together versus alone? But, if you want a happy partner the next day, leaving them be — peacefully sleeping — is your best bet.

2. Try Different Tricks

Fellow Bustle insomniac Gabrielle Moss offered various tactics for preventing insomnia (trying to, at least), from no electronics right before bed to reducing caffeine intake. I know results vary person-to-person, body-chemistry-to-body-chemistry. I have struggling-to-sleep friends who read boring books, listen to classical music, and try various breathing techniques (slow, deep breaths while counting ever-so-slowly—one, two, three, four...). Still other people use peppermint oil before bed, inhaling it or placing some behind their ears like sleeping perfume. Dream Water is another option, but at $2 for a 2.5-ounce bottle (at the cheapest), this is a pricey remedy.

Other sleepless people try sleeping pills, though they are often habit-forming and cause ill side effects, such as make people’s hearts race (not in a good way) or cause them to be even more restless and jittery. Sleep-deprived friends — and research —tells me that Ambien produces varied results (and I also know too many people who get addicted or whose bodies get so used to the drug that it to stops working). In addition, Ambien may cause people to do crazy things, that they have no recollection of in the morning. Here, you can find some of Anna Kendrick's Ambien-induced stories.

For my insomnia, I tried using a sleep mask laced with lavender (which is supposed to help aid sleep) and recently installed an app on my phone, Relax Melodies, via Google Play. I put on the "piano" and "rain" sound effects, set the timer for 30 minutes, and it usually works, usually being about 60-70 percent of the time. This, combined with chewable peppermint melatonin from Trader Joe’s, 500 mcg apiece, along with a mug of warm milk, have worked best for me. But, like Moss’ article suggested, I think you have to try different things and see what works best for you.

3. Have Your Sleep Aids On Standby

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Some insomniacs have trouble sleeping every night; for others, it’s every other night or no pattern at all. I have milk, melatonin, chamomile tea, and other sleep soothers on hand, nightstand — and refrigerator-ready, just in case.

4. Brainstorm

Think back to what has worked for you in the past. One boyfriend got me an insomniac journal, I Can't Sleep, where I’d chart everything I was thinking and feeling each time I had a bout of insomnia (which was often). I found my insomnia was worse with him (and our long-term relationship didn’t last) more so than with other boyfriends. I’m not suggesting breaking up with someone just because you have insomnia, but you should take the relationship into account when trying to determine the cause of your sleepless nights. Also, the journal was helpful in going back and rereading what was going on in my life at the time — stressors preventing me from sleeping, like job woes, conflicts with a friend, and so on — like my very own sleep study.

5. Sleep Separately

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I know this one’s a bummer — who, especially at our age, wants to sleep apart from their partners? I only recommend this if your partner is a light sleeper (you’ll learn this very fast, i.e., the first time you wake him/her up when you turn over a thousand times, restless).

Sometimes, by thinking about our lack of sleeping, we tend to not sleep even more. So, though it's great to try to do the above and try to find the root cause of the problem, sometimes it's best to just relax and call it a night.