It’s usually slow. Like the corner of a shadow being lifted in a darkened room and a splinter of light coming in, my mind seeps into the edge of my sleeping brain while my kids are in college and what I should do. I can feel them as little bits of light coming towards me to wake me up. I try to ignore them so I can sleep in the dark. But I inevitably lose the battle and open my eyes. insomnia disease hit it again.
I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I have a vague memory of it happening a few months ago, but it may have been a dream or a wishful thinking. The sad truth is that I haven’t had more than a few hours of sleep consistently for over a decade.
When I was little, I was a good sleeper. I can sleep comfortably for nine straight hours, and I have memories of sleeping until 9am or even 10am on weekends (before I had kids, of course). . Ironically, this was about the same time my son reached the age where he slept regularly through the night.
Falling asleep is never a problem. Before my son went to college last fall, we had a ritual of watching a movie together. If we started very late – and by late, I mean 7 pm – she would always fall asleep before the end and ask my son, “Mom, are you sleeping?” I would wake up. I’d stand up long enough to say, “No, I’m awake, I was just resting my eyes,” before I heard once again my exasperated son ask me if I was asleep.
Eventually, I would give up and stumble upstairs to the bed. But when I brushed my teeth and put on my nightgown, I woke up again. So I would read a book or watch TV in bed, waiting for my eyes to fall.
And then the cycle would repeat itself. I would fall asleep only to wake up somewhere between 2 and 4
For years, my routine was to sleep at 10-11, wake up at 2am, and watch “Law & Order” until I fell asleep again at 4am. Then I got up at 6:30 (or even earlier). to start the day. I’m a morning person by nature, so I was usually fine until the afternoon, when I started dragging. I used to have a big cup of coffee and crave (common for insomniacs) cravings (common for insomniacs), but that just made my blood sugar spike and then drop, at which point I needed a nap. I used to tell my teenage kids to wake me up after 20 minutes because I knew sleeping longer than that would make my insomnia worse, but they usually had to come back multiple times before I finally woke up. I usually slept for an hour or more and woke up in time to start cooking dinner.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I would curl up with a book on the couch under our picture window, knowing that I would fall asleep in just a few pages. Those marshmallows were so delicious and so necessary that I never set an alarm or asked to be woken up, and sometimes I slept for hours.
About 10 years ago, I found out that I have it. Sleep apneaThis means that I stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. When diagnosed, my doctor said it was a mild case and I did not need treatment. I wish I had known then that sleep apnea could get worse afterwards. menopause and can lead to all sorts of health risks, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
When I was an empty nester last fall, I decided to focus on my health. As editor of Healthy Women, I learned a lot about the dangers of both sleep apnea and insomnia and was determined to get them under control. I stopped drinking caffeine in the afternoon and switched from sugary snacks to high protein snacks like peanuts in the afternoon. I’ve also stopped taking naps, even on the weekends, and am actively working with my healthcare provider to manage my insomnia.
By the way, I’m trying to break my habit of turning on the TV when I wake up in the middle of the night. I learned that I may have contributed to my insomnia by training my brain to wake up every night to watch TV, and now I need to train it. When anxious thoughts wake me up, I now place my hand on my dog and try to get the negative thoughts out of my mind by focusing on something positive. I am good at falling asleep again about 50% of the time. But even if I am not immediately successful, I try to wait at least half an hour before watching TV. I know I shouldn’t watch it at all, but sometimes the only way I can turn my thoughts off is to watch an episode of an old nostalgic television show.
I understand that like everything else in life, overcoming my insomnia is a process that will take time. As frustrated as I am, I am confident that with the help of my HCP I will find ways to cure my insomnia and wake up and greet the day to fully raise my shadow.
This resource was created with support from Eisai.