dreaming of sleep

Sleeping is probably one of my favorite things to do in the entire world, so it’s a pretty cruel deal from the hand of fate that I should be a total miserable insomniac.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping through the night for almost a year now, and my recent unemployment and subsequent feelings of unease aren’t helping.

Anxiety is a bitch, man.  No matter how tired you are it will do its best to keep you up.  I get in bed around 11:00, lay awake until around 12:30, maybe get an hour or so of sleep before I’m up again for an hour, then down for twenty minutes, then up again.  My body has finally adjusted to not getting up at 6:00 AM to get ready for work, but it doesn’t really matter, because when 6:00 AM rolls around I’m usually up tossing and turning anyway.

The problem is I can’t turn my brain off, so lying in bed for hours at a time is basically a free pass for my mind to go batshit crazy and start constructing all these disaster scenarios about how fucked up my life is surely going to turn out.  In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, molehills become mountains with astonishing ease.  I’ll lie awake stressing about shit that could not matter less in the grand scheme of things, but at 3:00 AM can you tell my brain that?  Of course not.

I’ve tried valerian root and melatonin, sleepytime tea and cutting out caffeine after 3:00 PM, trying not to stare at my computer for an hour before going to bed, even counting sheep, but nothing works so far.  Getting up and going for late-night walks in my neighborhood is not especially safe, and with the cost of gas right now my old method of 3:00 AM joyrides down Pacific Coast Highway has been out for a while.  My psychiatrist said my prescription for Abilify might help me sleep, and it did at first, but losing my job has knocked any lingering effectiveness right out of that pill.

You guys…it’s wearing on me.  I’m not a night person.  I’m not particularly productive in the dark.  I like to spend the hours between midnight and seven completely knocked out.  But currently I’m probably clocking in about three hours of solid sleep a night and frankly I’m starting to lose my mind.  Have you guys ever dealt with long term insomnia like this?  Any tips to help me sleep?  I feel like the walking dead.


15 responses to “dreaming of sleep

  1. Someone suggested this to me once, when I was struggling with insomnia:

    Imagine you’re inside your dream house, and it’s all empty. Then, piece by piece, decorate it. Plan where you’re going to put the rugs and the lamps and the paintings and the TV. What color on each wall. What the floors look like. What the faucets and cabinets look like. What the furniture all looks like and where in the room it’s going to be. Decorate the front yard, the back yard, the deck (if you have one). Be thorough and extensive. Do this for every single room. Just walk through the house in your imagination and place things everywhere.

    It takes all of your focus to do this, leaving no room in your head for other anxiety stuff to intrude.

    Hope this helps.

  2. i was having a lot of problems sleeping due to anxiety about a year ago, i went to a doctor and she gave me a list of “sleep hygiene” tips. You can google it to find a more specific list but here are a few that stuck out to me: regular exerce (but not too late at night), staying out of bed until you’re ready to sleep (no reading or computer in bed, that one was really hard for me) and making a consistent routine pre-bedtime to kind of prepare yourself every night. I guess you really want to be READY to go to sleep before you actually hit the sheets, making your bed a sleep-only kind of place if that makes sense!
    my doctor also told me to stop smoking weed and drinking but i was like, “YAH RIGHT LADY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?”
    hope you start getting some real sleep soon!

  3. Sara – I like the ideas above but wanted to also add my two cents.. I totally swear by tart cherry juice about 30-60 minutes before going to bed. Since I love to read yer stuff, I’ll tip you for your good words/works by giving you a free bottle (we have it at my work and I get freebies of this yummy elixir on the reg.) – just let me know if you are interested! 🙂 xo, Erin

  4. I have that problem, too. I have to forcefully keep thinking “it’s 2 am, there is literally nothing you can do about this now, get it out of your head” for it to work. Or read about something very boring, like the Optics chapter in my physics textbook.

  5. I have had the same difficulty falling asleep for two or three extended periods. I never found a single solution, but here are some things that I’ve had most success with (usually one works even if the others don’t):
    — OTC sleeping pill. Catches: can’t take it too often or it loses effectiveness; and go to bed as soon as you feel drowsy after taking it, otherwise the drowsiness dissipates and you’re SOL.
    — “Playwriting” a daydream/fantasy while lying in bed (making up dialogue, deciding on settings, identifying plot points, &c.) It never sent me to sleep any faster but it kept me from obsessing about all of my worries while waiting for sleep.
    — Forcing yourself to sleep. I heard about this from a guy, and although I never learned all of his tricks or achieved the success he claimed, even my inner skeptic is fully convinced. The things I know are to do are, (1) regular breathing, (2) close your eyes, and (3) with your eyes closed, look “up” and keep looking “up.” That’s the hard part but it’s also the mysterious secret ingredient. You can’t roll your eyes so far back that your eye-muscles get tired, but they definitely have to be up/back. All I can say is, far enough up/back that you can tell but are also comfortable keeping them in that position. I don’t know the scientific explanation for it but when you get it right it’s like a switch. You can almost feel your mind disconnecting from conscious thought. I’ve had the most success with this when feeling tired but not exhausted.
    Best of luck to you.

  6. I can never sleep at night. I have anxiety as weel, and similarly, I might go to bed tired, sleep for an hour, wake up, fall back asleep only to be up again a few minutes/hours later. It’s so frustrating! The only thing that I’ve noticed that helps is having sex before bed…haha. So if that’s an option for you…do it! Get it, do it?

    Seriously, I sleep like a baby, 8 straight hours.

  7. I’ve been a night-time thinker my whole life, I can’t count the number of times my man has woken up to me crying in the middle of the night over random stresses that didn’t bother me until I tried to go to bed. I find turning on the tv, or reading a book for a while helps, then as soon as the show or book gets really good turn it off, that way your mind focuses on what might be happening in fiction instead of what’s happening in your reality.

  8. Oh girl—I used to have major issues with sleeping/anxiety. Pretty much everything everyone said above helps. But, also I will sometimes write down all the stuff that is bothering me on a list. Then I try to write the action I’m going to take, but mostly it helps me realize: there is pretty much nothing I can do at 1:00am about the shit that is bothering me. Sometimes I just take a deep breathe and remember: “I’m ok today.” Presumably, there is a roof over your head, no one is physically knocking down your doors over bills, etc. It helps! And once you do all that, start letting all the tension go out of your body, starting from your toes and slowly work your way up to the top of your head. Picture a brush sweeping the tension off and away from you 🙂

  9. Hey silly head!
    I wish there was a solid answer on how to kick insomnia’s wild ass – I can relate on not turning off your brain and worrying/thinking/worrying/thinking about nonsense and insignificant issues til the wee hours of the night. I find that not eating or drinking after 7pm (i get to bed at 11) helps the most. I’ve tried everything too, and for me this is the best I can come up with. I’ve tried sleep aids and they disrupt my sleep in odd forms. Everyone’s different…

    And I wanted to tell you also that the unemployment issue – while I KNOW it can be terrifying, stressful & hideous – can be the best thing that’s every happened to you…I read your post about how your gonna make things happen and kick out the jams mother trucker – you should know that that’s exactly what you can make happen. The feeling of time’s running out, I need to do something RIGHT NOW, help! is an inevitable sucker punch to make you panic and stress and create’s the snowball effect till ur life’s a living nightmare of stress and next thing you know you’re a complete wreck. I wanna tell you that you’re an incredible force, even as little as I know you, I know this. YOu can do whatever it is that you want. Don’t think of time running out – slow down your mind and get a focus, a plan, and take it step by step. If you love writing, make that your focus. If you love music as well, make time for that on the side. Fashion, same thing. Lookit this blog world. Look how many people have made a career out of it. Just by being honest and doing it every day. I’m not saying it’s the ticket, but if that’s possible, if it helps connect you to the right people, use it for what it’s worth.
    Here’s a few blogs/sites of incredible people making things happen because they love it. And I know you know that you can do it. Just do it. And sleep soundly…

    Let’s have tacos with Jennie soon.

  10. I’ve had anxiety-induced insomnia off and on for over three years now – it’s the worst and you have my deepest sympathies. I recently started taking a vitamin called Rhodiola Rosea (Nature’s Way, twice a day) and I’ve noticed that it helps quite a bit (Valerian root and melatonin made me kind of depressed and didn’t help with the anxiety). it also helps if I get away from the computer by 11 pm – and of course steady exercise (running and yoga for me) help to make me good and sleepy by bedtime.

    It’s tough because every single person is different – a lot of my anxiety and depression has been situational for sure – but it also runs in my family, so there are genetics to consider as well. I spent nearly a year taking prescription medications for ADD and ended up going off of them six weeks ago because they were making me irritable and were augmenting some of my anxiety issues (and resulting insomnia) which led me to try out some homeopathic remedies (vitamins, essential oils and Reiki). I pretty much feel like it’s an on-going science experiment with my body and brain, which blows.

    Which is to say – I’ve mostly been a mess recently and a few of these things have helped me and may or may not help you – but I hope you are able to find some coping mechanisms that work for you, insomnia and anxiety are bastards.

    Best of luck!

  11. Sara, check out this article. Not everything will apply to you, but there are some good suggestions:

  12. I’ve struggled with this for years, as well. Every person is different, so different things are gonna work for you. I would suggest trying to exercise more, cut out any daytime naps, and keep a consistent schedule. I used to make to-do lists like mad when I was unemployed, just to keep myself busy. I also made a habit of counting the things I’m thankful for when I can’t sleep. Some nights it works.

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