The Surprising Hack That Finally Fixed My Insomnia

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I feel like I’ve lost years of my life to sleeplessness—sometimes I look as if I have, too. Most nights I wake in the middle of the night, suddenly on some kind of vigil for that saber-toothed tiger attack. But of course, the tiger never comes (I know this because I am then awake for hours). For me, a good night’s sleep is a meager six hours. The worst-case scenario—about four hours, broken into little pieces (a bit like me)—happens all too frequently. 

Like many insomniacs, I’ve tried everything: over-the-counter sleeping pills (they work, but dependency feels wrong), quitting caffeine and alcohol (it helps, but it is no cure), ear plugs and eye masks (essential), sleep podcasts, bedtime breathwork, magnesium and melatonin (all useless), and CBTi (that’s ‘i’ for insomnia—effective but brutal, and my bad habits and wakefulness always won out). I have followed all the received wisdom around sleep hygiene—to no real effect. And with all the literature around the negative health consequences of sleeplessness, it’s easy to let panic steer your life into obsessiveness around sleep. That didn’t help either. 

But then a chance conversation a couple of months ago with the sleep coach Camilla Stoddart changed everything. “Have you tried journaling?” she asked. I hadn’t. I was always too self-conscious, too unconvinced. To me, journalling belonged with pillow mists and milky drinks in the softly-softly, totally ineffective category. Stoddart explained the science: “The amygdala is your brain’s worry center, and is responsible for emotional processing—it’s the amygdala that judges whether something is worth panicking over.” It was my stressed-out amygdala that was waking me up, she said, adding, “but journalling will help to switch it off.”


Photographed by Steven Meisel, Vogue, June 2006



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