Friday, June 19, 2009

How to cure chronic insomnia

It is no secret among my friends and family that I have suffered from horrible insomnia over the last few years. It started as a side affect to an anti-depressant I had to take after my son was born. Eventually, it blew up into a full blown case of sleep anxiety that I suffered with for well over a year.

In the beginning I was surviving on maybe three hours of sleep a night, sometimes in chunks. On a bad night, I would go to bed at 10, lay there until midnight, wake up at 1:30, fall back asleep around 3:30, then wake up again around 5. As you might expect, I became completely obsessed with sleep and how little of it was happening. I even kept a journal.

I was exhausted, but not sleepy. When you start to sink into a truly chronic sleep cycle, your head aches, your body is sore, your eyelids hurt, you can't focus, but strangely enough, you don't actually feel sleepy. I forgot how to yawn.

Of course, I tried all of the tricks. I drank hot milk, took lavender baths, practiced visualization techniques, read boring books, stayed in bed, got out of bed, got massages, went to an acupuncturist, took medications, tried homeopathic herb combos, experimented with vitamins, exercised, didn't exercise, had my thyroid checked, went to a sleep specialist. I even tried this crazy thing called sleep compression where you limit your time in bed to just the number of hours you can manage to sleep. I sat up, in the middle of the night, in the dark, until 1 am and then got up again at 4 am. Insane.

Nothing worked. Short of drugging myself into a near coma, I could not sleep. Since we had two small children at home, that wasn't an option. Eventually, I resigned myself to just suffer through it. Three hours stretched to four hours, then five, and I learned to be grateful for whatever I could manage to get.

So the cure?

There isn't one.

Sure, sometimes there are medical reasons that people suffer the way I did, but for the most part, really bad insomnia is all about the crazy. I am completely convinced that the more you think it through, the more you try to control it, the worse it gets. And isn't that often the case for most of the crazy shit in life.

Finally, I decided that I would never sleep well again. I moved from the place where I wanted to accept what was happening to actual acceptance. I gave up.

And then slowly, over time, I started sleeping. I know the universe was trying to teach me a hard lesson about control. I hope I heard it clearly enough.


latisha said...

ahh control. my great enemy. great piece. i love how it grew.

Linda Pressman said...

Nice to know someone else out there is up at those abnormal middle-of-the-night hours.

Efrat said...

I've had crazy insomnia, every single night since the birth of my son 17 months ago.
THe falling asleep isnt usually the problem, it's the staying asleep or waking up too early. the less i sleep the more obsessed about sleep i get, the harder it is to sleep.
so far nothing helped, and it's been so long I don't know what sleeping well feels like.

so, you say it's all "in our head", that sux.....

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