Getting to sleep the night before a big event?
February 25, 2013 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Lately I've been having this horrible anxiety/insomnia the night before important presentations or other work events. How can I fix this?

The last few times I've had to give a big presentation for work, I end up awake almost all night the night before. Even if I know I'm prepared, I can't seem to shake the anxiety. Usually the anxiety shows up as shots of adrenaline right before I'm about to drift off to sleep. It is very frustrating because I know what is happening but I can't seem to do anything about it.

I've got some big presentations coming up and I need to figure out how to get some sleep the night before. I'd like to come up with something relatively failsafe, like a sleeping pill that will let me make sure I am asleep when I'd like to be. Is this a terrible plan? I've never taken a sleeping pill before and I have no idea which one would be best. I need to be sharp the next day, so anything with a "hangover" type effect isn't ideal. Should I try to get a prescription for a sleeping pill? Which one would be best? Is there some anti-anxiety medication that would be better than a sleeping pill in this type of situation? I realize this is a lot of medical advice, but I live in a foreign country and don't speak the language very well, so I'll need to go to my doctor prepared. Any advice (also non-pharmaceutical solutions) appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A really intense bout of exercise usually does the trick for me. Not too close to bedtime, though, that'll be counterproductive.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm prone to anxiety in general, so I totally relate to the night-before jitters. I have a prescription for Klonopin (an anti-anxiety med similar to Xanax or Valium). A little bit (1/4-1/2 pill) takes the edge off so I can sleep, and there is no hangover like OC. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to get a scrip from your doctor. I would recommend trying a little at first on a non-important to figure out what dosage works best for you. Also, these kinds of drugs can be habit-forming (i.e. you start needing more to get the same effect) but you shouldn't have a problem if you're only taking occasionally.
posted by radioamy at 5:22 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just accept that I'm not going to get my best night's sleep the night before a Big Deal. Ironically, this actually helps me sleep better, because I'm not freaking out about how I'm not getting enough sleep.

Also I try writing down all the things I'm worried about - offloading them from my brain onto paper so that I don't have to keep chasing those thoughts around my mental hamster wheel.
posted by mskyle at 5:23 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Have you tried the guided meditation designed to help you sleep? These, along with a very hot shower and a glass of wine always work for me.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2013

another thing that helps with sleep and also anxiety is getting your feet massaged (reflexology if possible) for 30 minutes or a full body massage for an hour. as for anti-anxiety medication - Lorazapem works well, if you take it the night before - chances are you'll feel pretty relaxed the entire next day as well. sometimes a little anxiety does help - but I hear you - this happens to me too. good luck. i will say that going with a foot massage may be better than lorazapem cuz my concern is always that the med will interfere with my ability to recall information. Its worth a try though.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 5:31 PM on February 25, 2013

The day before the biggest presentation of my life, I hit the gym and got a massage. There was also a hot tub in the hotel where I was staying. Let's just say I slept like a log in spite of incredible nerves.

For other types of presentations that make me nervous, I usually exercise and try to do low key activities (reading) right before bed. If I really can't sleep, I'll get up and eat a dairy product (yogurt, usually).

And I always remind myself while trying to fall asleep: during the presentation, adrenalin always kicks in and makes me forget that I'm tired. So, really, it doesn't matter wether or not I get a good night of sleep.
posted by Milau at 6:02 PM on February 25, 2013

Pills. Try all the other stuff first, of course, but you know if you've got the sort of anxiety that is remedied with a lot of vigorous exercise or not. For me (in a very similar situation, talk the next day, NEED to sleep, CAN'T sleep, feel like a crazy person) pills were the answer. I have a lorazepam prescription. I take a small dose the night before I have a thing if (and only if) I am not sleeping. I don't take it any other times. I don't even travel with it if I'm not working. But it basically knocks the squirrels out of your head that are running around in their habitrail and you can sleep. No wooziness the next day for me, ymmv. It's addictive, so sort of important to pay attention to that going in. I just talked to my doc "I have anxiety that keeps me from sleeping at crucial times. I have tried this, this, and this. Currently drinking works but I would prefer something that was not drinking. Let's talk" and that is what he came up with. Talk it through with your doc and see what they say.
posted by jessamyn at 6:11 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would nth vigorous exercise, but if that isn't possible for whatever reason - go see your doctor and get a prescription for Trazodone. It doesn't sound like you have a sleep disorder, so heavy-hitters like Klonopin, Xanax, Lunesta, or Ambien may be too much. Trazodone gives me no hungover feeling in the morning, and about half an hour after taking it I feel like my eyes can't help but be closed. It doesn't addle my brain at all.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:15 PM on February 25, 2013

I have this, too. Can't sleep the night before a talk. Can't sleep the night before a flight, either, even when I'm not speaking. it particularly blows when you have a lot of events all close together.

My magic wonder pill in this case is melatonin at bedtime. it also helps to have zero caffeine for 24 or even 48 hours. Vigorous exercise yes; avoiding bright lights yes.
posted by Andrhia at 6:22 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Exercise, Melatonin and no bright lights before going to bed.

I also find that when I can't get to sleep and my mind is racing that concentrating on keeping my eyes open without blinking usually sends me off to sleep and takes my mind of whatever I'm thinking about.
posted by zaphod at 6:33 PM on February 25, 2013

I have found that I am worried about sleeping in and that is part of the anxiety. Like a background hum. Having a physical alarm set plus my cell phone alarm helps me KNOW I won't sleep late.
posted by saradarlin at 6:43 PM on February 25, 2013

Don't try to think of nothing, it doesn't (can't) work. Instead imagine yourself doing the steps of something boring.
posted by 445supermag at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2013

I definitely worry a lot about sleeping in, especially if I have to get up early for BIG IMPORTANT THING. I deal with my anxiety by setting a lot (like, four) alarms. Sorry, roommates and ex-boyfriends.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:19 PM on February 25, 2013

I take Benadryl about 10 hours before I need to wake up in the morning. It works for everything except days when I have to fly early in the morning.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:13 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I listen to a self hypnosis mp3 (which is really close to guided relaxation).
posted by 26.2 at 9:00 PM on February 25, 2013

It sounds to me that you're suffering from anxiety over not sleeping and not the actual not sleeping itself. I suggest you accept that you're likely not going to get much sleep. Instead, have a nice book to read, drink some herbal tea and take it easy. One night's worth of insomnia now and then isn't going to ruin you. In the long term, you can improve your resilience to anxiety with old MeFi favorites, cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation. I've found them to be very helpful in a similar situation.
posted by Orchestra at 9:56 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ambien (zolpidem) has worked like a charm for me for these types of situations. I've used it before big sporting events -- I occasionally compete in very low-stakes amateur bike and triathlon racing -- and it has completely changed my pre-event sleep. I used to have trouble falling asleep and would wake up several times throughout the night. Now, I'm out within 20 minutes, sleep the whole night through and wake up feeling completely rested. I was worried about feeling groggy or having my metabolism effected on race-day, but once I read Dara Torres Uses Ambien to Sleep Before a Big Race I felt like it was a reasonable solution.
posted by funkiwan at 11:59 PM on February 25, 2013

Seconding Orchestra: one night of little sleep isn't going to cause much harm. You will have enough reserves to get through your stressful day without problems. So there's no need to worry.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

+1 on the Benedryl, also being marketed as ZZZQuil.

It really helps with the sleepy and the relaxation and you wake up feeling AWESOME!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2013

I've also used Benedry and Ambien in the past, both are good. If you get an Ambien Rx the controlled release (CR) is the one you want, even if it's not on your formulary. The CR is better able to help you stay asleep.

For science, I slept with my hypnosis tape on last night. Slept like a block of concrete.
posted by 26.2 at 11:05 AM on February 26, 2013

Tylenol PM
Just nudges you to sleep, very little drowsiness in the morning.
posted by artdrectr at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2013

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