Insomnia Chronicles, Christmas Edition

1:27 am any I’m getting ready for bed…eventually. It’s -2 degrees fahrenheit outside and the wind has been blowing like a bastard all day. I’ve stayed in, done work and have continued putting together my Christmas presents. That involves a lot of baking.

My sleep therapist wants me to wait until I’m really tired before going to bed. So, I could be hanging around for a while. It is getting better though. I have never slept normally in my life and even the smallest improvements are gratefully accepted. So, here I come 2 or 3 am. 

My Daily Calm

Empty Bed

Last night was rough, sleep-wise. My 62-year-old bladder got me out of bed twice, then I was rousted out of bed in the early morning to move my car. We’re having insulation blown into our house from the outside and they needed the driveway. Of course, nobody told me this the day before. If I’d known, I’d have moved the car the night before.

I became aware of an impending migraine once I got back into bed. I was exhausted and strung out from multiple awakenings. My regular morning alarm came and went. All I wanted to do was to stay in bed where it was safe and warm. I didn’t want to do anything. I had client work to do, but didn’t want to touch it. I was tired and angry due to the multiple disruptions to my sleep. My head was starting to hurt even more. Then the fucking doorbell rang. I knew who it was: the insulation people said they’d  need to get into my basement and would ring my bell once they needed to do that. So, up and out of bed I went – cold, tired, headachey and very irritable. I threw a sweatshirt over my pajamas, stumbled downstairs and opened the basement door.

I needed something to get me out of the funk I was in. How about a start-the-day meditation over a cup of coffee or tea? That idea sounded appealing, so I went downstairs, scooped some tea into a tea pot and finished getting dressed while the kettle heated up. Then I poured the tea, portioned out some almonds and then cut up a ripe pear. I took out my cell phone, pulled up my meditation app and sat back to breathe and, eventually, relax. The wounds of the morning faded into the distance as I noted my breathing: in-out, in-out, in-out. I felt my body relax and  my outlook improve. Yes, I could do a little work and do it well. I could also write about my morning (a great way for me to get things out of my system), browse some articles I heard about the day before and enjoy the day.

So, here I am. The migraine aspirin is just now starting to kick in. My chest has unclenched and I’m breathing comfortably. I’m giving myself permission to write and relax, read a little bit and start my day, even though half of it is already gone. I’m munching on almonds and a pear. I think I’ll be okay.

Sleepy Time

My Brain is on the Other End
My Brain is on the Other End

Okay, I’m going for the gold: a certified sleep therapy program. I’m a life-long insomniac. It’s not attitude – it’s brain chemistry. I couldn’t do nap time when I was 5. I still have memories of staring at the classroom ceiling in the dark and wondering when the torture would end. I hated anything that started in the morning: school, meetings, classes, you name it. I did well in all of them, but my body was not a happy camper. I’m not at my best at a 7:30 am meeting after I’ve had four hours of sleep. My immune system was a frequent victim of those feckless nights.

Like a lot of insomniacs, my internal chronometer is off by a few hours. Typically, your body starts a “cool-down” process to get you ready for sleep. Your body temperature starts to decrease a bit and your active, roaming mind gets the five-minute warning. We’re shutting down now, good nighzzzzzz…

But me? My stupid brain won’t shut up for a minute and my body temperature refuses to chill out. I do get to sleep eventually, but not for a while (hence the nap time torture ritual). It’s called Sleep Onset Insomnia and that’s a killer for me. These days I’m also experiencing very early awakenings. When that happens, I’m up and nothing short of a morphine drip will get me back down.

I’ve been to sleep doctors before, but not in a long time. I take a multitude of medications to get me into a bed and keep me there. I’ve also been trying to follow some online advice about turning my bedroom into a sleep haven. I’ve made some progress, but good luck with the rest of it. I’m going offline earlier and keeping my computer life and my sleep life as separate as I can. Problem is, I associate bedtime with toss-and-turn time.

So, I hope this helps. The clinician I’m seeing is a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. It’s an actual field and a new one, with a marked dearth of practitioners. Fortunately, I live in Boston which has lots and lots (and lots) of doctors from all background. I had my choice of two!

 

Morning in America

It’s 5:30 am and I’ve been up for two hours. I could hear the hubby snoring and went downstairs to the couch. It was too cold, even with a sleeping bag. We’ve got some kick-ass snow out there with more on the way. Mighty cold, too.

But sleep? This chronic insomniac usually doesn’t crack open her eyes until 11 am or so. I usually finally get to sleep by 3:30 or even 4am. Very odd.