Posted in Insomnia

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. 

Posted in Insomnia

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!


Posted in Insomnia, Just Bitching, Life, Seasons, Weather, Winter

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oh Sleep, Where Art Thou?

Wouldn't it be nice to lay down, shut my eyes and go to sleep? Most everybody else seems to . But, not me. I lay there, tossing and turning. God help me if I have an early morning meeting. Then I'm dragging because, basically, I just got to sleep.

Case in point: tonight. Laid down, no go. Listened to some music, got tired. Then got hungry and had a handful of nuts. Not tired enough to go to bed now. So, I'll write and see what happens. Weird. I'm tired, but I'm not tired.

I hate having insomnia. Nothing I can do, but I still hate it.

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And She’s Still Conscious

To my disbelief. I've been on a rather severe insomniac jag the last three nights. I was so tired yesterday I'm surprised I made it through, period. I conked out last night, then woke up two times. Couldn't get to sleep after the second time. I was very congested and could not breathe.

I had a weird dream and recorded it, at 1:45 am. I put it in my insomnia blog: Midnight Journal. Sorry for the sniffing, but the "breathing disorder" was settling in around that time:


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Not A Good End To A Weekend

Spent a very productive day working on the novel outline yesterday. I was quite tired by the end of the day, as I usually am, and went to bed somewhat on the early side.

Then I woke up at around 3:00 am, went to the bathroom, and then couldn't get the *$#*(@# back to sleep. I tossed and turned. My brain was churning out music and more ideas for the novel. All I wanted to do was get back to sleep before my husband started to snore again. I couldn't shut my brain off, though. Classic pattern of sleep-maintenance insomnia.

No luck. I finally dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to the couch. I tossed and turned some more, then finally went back to sleep for a little while. I dozed away most of the morning but did not fall asleep after coming awake downstairs.

I went to my outline and added another, substantive, chapter to the novel. I suppose one good thing came out of last night anyway.

But right now my eyes are red and raw and my brain capacity will drain itself within the next few hours.

Damn. I hate this.

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O Sleep! O Gentle Sleep!

O sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?
2 Henry IV (3.1.7-16)

I've been following the adventures of my friend, Rosie, on Live Journal as she struggles to sleep through a night. This has, of course, struck a chord in me since I'm a chronic insomniac. She and I talk regularly and I've been following her online sleep log with interest. She has quite the sense of humor:

"so back to the zzzzz pills. finally i got the ROZEREM. you might know it as the commerical with Abe Lincoln and the groundhog. i carefully read (with a magiflier) the directions.

"do NOT use your bed for watching tv or reading. use your bed for sleeping and sex."

i swear that was in the instructions. a bed for sex? who would have thought to try that. i mean back of a car, kitchen table, pool table, sofa, WALMART, but in a BED? oh for pete's sake."

She's up to day three now and still struggling to sleep more than a half hour at a time. There seems to be some progress, but we won't know for sure until she's taken the full course of the medication.

Like Rosie, my brain simply will not shut off at night. My husband is snoring a forest down 10 minutes after he hits the pillow while I toss and turn most of the night away. It's just not fair.

I've had this problem all my life. My dad would rock and rock me to sleep as a baby (yes, he was an incredible caretaker, particularly in those 1950s gender-role days). My eyes would slowly close. Then they'd pop open the minute he stopped rocking. Nap-time was torture in kindergarten. The rest of the kids would be sleeping and I'd be lying there staring at the ceiling feeling bored out of my mind. I never slept through grade school or high school. These days I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. I've tried relaxation exercises, acupuncture, biofeedback, hot baths, long walks, medications up the wazoo and it's still no-go.

A few years ago menopause hit. Hot flash! Okay, I'm up. Shut up, honey, I'm trying to sleep. More tossing and turning, or "pancaking" as Rosie would describe it. I know every feature in my ceiling and can find anything in the dark. Do you ever notice how everything goes completely black when you first turn off the lights, before your eyes have had a chance to adjust? I find it absolutely amazing that I can go from total black, to light-dark, to object identification in less than 10 minutes. First, nothing and then – oh! – there's my dresser. The eyes are amazing things.

I'm using Ambien now, trying to find a dosage that gets me to sleep without inducing a hangover the next morning. I've been moderately successful, but still wake up feeling very tired from the medication. This is a strange sensation: feeling somewhat more rested and, at the same time, tired. I've taken other medications over the years and may switch back to them. Ambien does induce some strange effects before bed, though. Normally I would just get drowsy. This stuff goes beyond drowsy. My head "buzzes." That's the only way I can describe it. I'm not dizzy per se, but I do have balance problems once I take the stuff. I almost fell over once with a higher dosage. I was in the shower when suddenly everything went topsy-turvy. Things "looked" different, they way they might with a bad head cold – but not quite. Again, it's in the eyes and in the way the brain interprets the signals they send. Look at something with a clear head and it appears one way, the "normal" way. Then look at it again when the brain is processing it differently. It's at a distance somehow. It's more difficult to make sense of its actual identity and place in space.

I experience that visual vertigo when I get a migraine, too. Clearly there's an eye-to-brain process that's affected by all this.

I'll give the Ambien a little time. Perhaps I just need to catch up on more sleep and will give it a try this weekend when I don't have to be up for work. It does seem to be helping to shut off my brain, so maybe I'll stick with it and see what happens over the next few months. I don't see Abe Lincoln playing chess with a gopher in my attic, but I am remembering some pretty wild dreams. What's Eric Clapton doing here? Uh oh!

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