Storming the Bastille

I have had problems with insomnia since I was a child.  My current sleep pattern is to fall asleep easily, then wake up at about 3:00 am and not get to back to sleep until just before my alarm goes off at 6:30.

I know all the “sleep hygiene” and cognitive tricks for good sleep, but they often don’t work for me. I was gratified to read a recent New Yorker article on insomnia which described insomniacs’ cortisol levels  as so high as to look as though they are getting ready to storm the Bastille.

I know that anxiety and worry trigger the sympathetic nervous system to pump out high levels of chemicals which hinder sleep.  My anxiety and worry are all work related,  and I am hopeful that they will reduce over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, I think I will see if memorizing the lyrics to the Marseilles and repeating them over and over when I wake up at 3:00 will lull me to sleep once more.

How do you deal with insomnia? What puts you to sleep? What keeps you awake?

24 thoughts on “Storming the Bastille”

  1. I’ve mentioned my insomnia issues. Insomnia is a special challenge for older folks. I “go to bed” several times a night, usually two to four times. When awake I usually am on my computer, always trying to identify those fugitive signs I might be sleepy enough to go back to bed again.

    I had a breakthrough that helped me. A decade ago I worked with the Saint Paul Sleep Clinic. I was suffering from an extreme case of sleep apnea, a problem ultimately solved by using a CPAP device. But that wasn’t the breakthrough.

    I once told the sleep center technicians that I was distressed by my inability to fall asleep. They said, “You’re not special. You generally fall asleep within fifteen minutes, and that’s exactly the norm.” That insight was the breakthrough. Learning I was “normal” allowed me to relax while trying to sleep, and that simple change in attitude has helped enormously. Fifteen minutes can seem to stretch forever, but if you don’t dread that transition it happens faster.

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    1. I don’t really suffer from insomnia but every now and then I do have trouble going back to sleep if I’ve woken up in the middle of the night. I have some old movies and a couple of books that I know very well and I recount the plots to myself, the same way that Wes thinks about his game. That usually works. If it doesn’t work, then I have a couple of these movies saved on my TV and
      I just turn them on. If I don’t fall back to sleep right away (although I usually do) then at least I’m watching a good old movie that I like.

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  2. I don’t get insomnia very much, but when I do, I just turn the light on and read a book. Sometimes I only need to read for 15 minutes, other times an hour or two. Whatever happens, I don’t stress about it since, worst case, I can slog through any 24-hour period on 3-4 hours of sleep and survive.

    Not having a job that requires me to be somewhere at a certain time every day helps too. I can always sleep in a bit if I feel the need.

    My theory is that getting stressed about insomnia only makes it work, so it’s best to just accept it and figure tomorrow night I’ll have a normal night’s sleep. 🙂

    C in O

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Once or twice a week I’ll lie awake for an hour after getting up in the middle of the night. If it seems to be that I’m making mental lists of what needs doing the next day(s), I’ll turn on the light and put the damn list down on paper. Sometimes works.

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  4. I make things worse by being a stomach sleeper. I have some lower back issues, and sleeping on my stomach leads to muscle spasms in my legs. I am trying to stop the stomach sleeping, but it is hard!

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    1. I had horrible muscle spasms in my legs every night until I started taking 400 mg of Magnesium at night before I go to bed. The only time I get the spasms now is if I forget to take it. I don’t seem to store it; the night I miss is the night the spasms come back. I don’t miss often.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. My best friend arises at 3:30AM to make it to her 5:30am job in the city to avoid rush hour by leaving this early. I go to bed at 3:30am, sometimes later. We email during the layover. I could (and occasionally have) stayed up until the sun starts to rise, but always get 7 hours of peaceful sleep. To be honest, I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I had an entire day to fill. This way, there’s only half of it to fill. The best half, I might add! The news of the day’s already rolling in and my daily work out is later in the afternoon.

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  6. I typically sleep about 7 hours— provided I’m in bed by 10 o’clock. If I go to bed later, I still wake up about 5. I can sometimes go back to sleep for another hour and a half—90 minutes is a standard sleep cycle.

    When I can’t fall asleep, I nevertheless lie motionless in as close an approximation of sleep I can manage. I try not to deliberately direct my thoughts—no inventories, no counting sheep or anything else, no mental rehearsals of the coming day. I try to release my mind to whatever flows through and when I am surprised by where my stram of consciousness meanders, I am usually close to sleep.

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  7. I usually have no trouble falling asleep. The difficulty is staying asleep. I often wake up in the night. Things that might worry me during the day seem to grow in significance when I think about them in the night, making sleep elusive.

    I had a sleep study done once. They told me I have a fragmented sleep architecture. Basically this just means I wake up a lot.

    If I wake up and can remember what I was dreaming about just before I woke up, sometimes I can get myself back into a sleep state by thinking about the dream.

    More often. though, I turn on an audio book and try to concentrate on the reader’s words. This usually puts me back to sleep promptly. The key is not to start thinking about what I have to do the next day or in the days that lie in the future. I just need to know that I don’t have to do anything except listen to this audiobook in the present moment.

    Having an audiobook tells me that my insomnia is not really very serious. If I listen to the audiobook the next day from where I started it up in the middle of the night, I can clearly tell I went back to sleep in a matter of minutes, even though the audio went on for half an hour or forty minutes beyond what I remember hearing. Sometimes I’m rather surprised – it feels like I was tossing and turning for quite awhile, but it was really only a few minutes.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Now that I’m retired, I don’t consider being awake in the middle of the night insomnia. It’s just more private time without interruptions. And that’s a luxury.

    Waking up at least two and sometimes three times a night was a pattern that evolved over the last several years. I’d wake up because I needed to go to the bathroom. I tried several over the counter sleep aids, and while they worked, they also made me feel groggy half of the following day. About a month ago I got the brilliant idea to try Tylenol PM, and man, that works like a charm. I take two about an hour before I go to bed, fall asleep within minutes, and sleep a good five to six hours before I need a bathroom break. Then I go back to bed, and most nights sleep another hour or two. I feel like I have a whole new lease on life.

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