**WARNING: Potentially triggering if you have issues with sleep, or insomnia.**
Insomnia is a bitch. Cold, unreasonable and relentless.
If you saw my posts on Twitter and Instagram last week, then you’ll be aware that I’ve being going through a bad patch with sleep. It’d been slowly getting worse for months, I just didn’t want to believe it. Even with all of my experience, I still fall down at times, (on this occasion I appear to have fallen down a hole, lined with barbed wire)!
Over the last month I’ve developed a twitch. It’s triggered just as my body relaxes and I’m about to fall asleep. It feels like an electric current darting through my body and I wake up with a start. It’s called a ‘Hypnic Jerk,’ and I hoped that it was just one of those things. Seven Nights later I knew it was bad news. It wasn’t a conscious decision, the twitch took on a life of its own. For some reason my brain associates sleep with danger and triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response to keep me safe. Another 7 nights and I was experiencing full blown insomnia. Getting a few hours sleep a night if I was lucky, and waking up in a panic.
It’s a scary word, ‘Insomnia,’ or at least it is to me. One that conquers up images of insanity (and for good reason)! The simplest way to describe sleep deprivation is that I felt drunk, completely sh**faced.
48 Hours without a wink and I actually started to see things. Nothing tangible, just shadows that stayed in view longer than they should, and objects that moved. My motor functions failed me as I stumbled from the living room to the kitchen, and no matter how much water I drank I still felt dehydrated. As though my eye sockets were dry. At one point my nose even started to bleed. My body was effectively dying and I didn’t know what to do.
And yet, the world seems to be crying. “You need to sleep! Look what happens when you don’t get enough sleep!” Talk about irony.
I took a taxi to the doctors, because I didn’t trust myself to drive. She was nice enough and covered all the basic questions. When it became apparent that there were no obvious lifestyle changes that I could make, she gave me some sleeping tablets. Or ‘knock out’ aids as I call them.
I can’t bear that look on a doctor’s face, when all other options have been explored and they don’t know what else to suggest. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it thing. For a single moment they ‘falter,’ look through you, then back at their screen and say nothing. “I don’t know how to help you.” Is what they’re thinking, or at least it feels that way.
Sometimes I get tired of solving my own medical mysteries, of working it out myself. I don’t think there’s anything scarier than feeling as though you’re beyond care.
Still, that’s enough negative talk. The dark hole may be quiet and cosy, but I can’t stay down there forever.
I wish that I could write this post knowing that I have my insomnia under control. But the truth is, I don’t just yet. I’m still taking the tablets that the doctor prescribed, which isn’t a long-term solution.
However, what I can tell you, is that I’ve taken some positive steps to improve things.
For example, I’m going to see a therapist this week. I haven’t seen one in seven years. It might be good to let someone in my head for a while, to see if they spot something that I haven’t. If nothing else it’ll be good to vent to a stranger. (Who I don’t have to feel guilty about whining to, because I’m paying her for whining privileges)!
I’ve been doing yoga stretches. Nothing major, just moving my limbs around to make sure the muscles are in use. Funnily enough this seems to be helping to reduce the twitch, as does belly breathing. I do it for a solid two minutes a few times a day. There’s something really comforting about a long juicy exhale. Click here to see my instructional video.
I’m working with this as I go. Mental illness is something that I live with, it doesn’t control me. Insomnia is no different.
Top tips if you experience Insomnia
- Say to yourself either mentally or internally “It’s going to be ok. Sure, falling asleep now would be nice, but I’m not going to punish myself for being awake. It’s not my fault. So for now let’s be comfortable and relax as much as it possible.”
- Keep all clocks, hour glasses, sun dials etc.. out of sight. Basically, anything that will inform you of the time. Clocks will only taunt you.
- Don’t surf the internet. You’re rewarding your brain for being awake. I’m sure it’s very interesting to see what the Kardashians are up to, but don’t. (That’s just what they want you to do)!
- Stay warm and as comfortable as you can. It gets cold during the wee hours of the night.
- Do a hypnotherapy session. You might not be asleep, but deep relaxation will allow the body and brain to recharge. It’s basically the next best thing.
- Have a bath (if possible). This might seem bizarre at 2am, but it will relax the body. Again helping it to recharge.
- Don’t stay in the living room all night. Again, this is rewarding the brain for staying awake. At a certain point it’s time to return to bed.
- Once in bed, play a few mental games. Nothing too stimulating like the normal distraction techniques I recommend. Instead, try a bit of role play. For example, a friend of mine who loves the show Stranger Things, told me that she imagines herself in the plot of the show. Her character is in bed due to injury and the other characters come to visit. It made me laugh at first, but she might just be on to something…..