November 25, 2014

Sleep like a baby

Like so many of the Uborka crowd, sleep is a subject dear to my heart. As a lifelong insomniac (with occasional breaks), as the mother of a child who didn’t sleep through the night until the age of 5, as a postnatal doula, and in my new job as a parent advisor on a popular parenting forum, I spend a lot of time thinking about sleep, and not enough time actually sleeping.

This morning twitter alerted me to an old article from Mark Rice-Oxley about how he handles his insomnia, and the main thing I got from it is that we all handle it differently. A milky drink at bedtime makes no difference at all to my sleep, whereas TV-watching wind-down time at least helps me not to be buzzing when I go to bed. I’m interested in how fitbits and sleep diaries help, but I’ve never bothered to try anything like that. Running makes me tired, but subsequent leg pains in the night keep me awake.

What does work for me, is to accept and acknowledge that tonight I’m not sleeping. Being able to switch off the digital display of my bedside clock has made a huge difference to how I feel about not being asleep when everyone else is. I need certain conditions: a quietly playing radio helps me to doze, which is better than not sleeping at all. Warmth in the bed but cold in the air: even in the middle of winter I like the window open. Being woken up by something or someone [I’m looking at you, Maisy] after I’ve fallen asleep is pretty much catastrophic for the rest of the night. Sometimes I get up and walk around the house, raid the fridge or check my email; sometimes this helps, but not consistently enough to be my go-to solution.

My best sleep comes in the early hours, from about 6am. Unfortunately this is when Bernard usually gets up, goes to the loo, shuts my bedroom door, and goes downstairs to play Minecraft videos at the top of Stampy’s voice.

I wondered what the rest of Team Insomniac Uborka has tried; maybe we can have our own sleep study, right here.


8 thoughts on “Sleep like a baby

  1. I’m a sufferer, but have no proven cure yet. My insomnia has a habit of striking at more-or-less the same hour (3am summer time, 4am winter time – no, I don’t understand that either, surely it should be the other way around?). Then, after a period of tossing and turning, I usually get up, have a pee, make a cup of tea, surf the net, play a silly game – anything to switch my mind off. For it is definitely my mind that is to blame – it seems it can’t cope with going any amount of time without some serious activity/fretting and that’s what wakes me up. Bedtime reading is what switches it off, but the effect of that only last a while. I have found that, sometimes, reading in the middle of the night helps to switch it off again, but not always.

    So, I’m going to watch this thread with interest and see what others suggest.

  2. For me acceptance was the biggest part of dealing with my insomnia. I don’t often have trouble getting to sleep but will wake 3/4am and not be able to get back to sleep.

    These days when that happens I get up and either sit and watch catchup TV or a movie, or I’ll potter round my flat (I’ve been known to prep slow cooker meals, clean my bathroom and put away all my washed clothes before 6am).

    One thing I’ve not tried, is leaving my phone outside the bedroom. It’s too easy to wake up and think… hmmm I’m awake, I’ll check Twitter… switching your brain back on…

  3. My phone goes off at bedtime every night, unless I’m away from home in which case I’m probably not going to sleep anyway.

  4. My phone lives downstairs when I’m asleep, as do the cats. Son is in the next room, but only rarely disturbs me. Wife is alongside and she quite frequently disturbs me.

    I’m intrigued by brown noise. Is that like farting? Hels does that quite a bit (and doesn’t read this!).

  5. I’ve just accepted that I have bad nights – it took a long time to understand and accept that, but it’s true. At least 25 years of it, so I’m pretty used to it all told.

    What the Fitbit tells me is that it’s even more disturbed than I’d thought. I try to not look at it too much though, because I’ve found that looking first thing and knowing you’ve had a bad night almost becomes an excuse and reasoning for having a shit day – I’m aware of how little I’ve slept, and so can feel more tired than I perhaps would if I didn’t know for sure.

    I do sleep more now than I did, though. Now I seem to work on an average of 3-4 hours, which is far more than I used to.

    I do try to at least lay/doze when sleep isn’t happening though – better than turning on the phone, reading, or whatever. And sometimes just accepting it’ll be a bad night and staying in bed is enough for it to go back to sleep a bit. Sometimes.

  6. I generally sleep very well, but just recently, my MS has been manifesting itself as cramp and spasms in my legs during the night. This I could easily live without. My solution to that is quinine (in tonic water) in the evening (sadly without the gin) and magnesium, both in supplements and a topical spray. Seems to help a bit, but I think it’s a different problem to insomnia. You have my sympathies, anyway.

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