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My quest for uninterrupted sleep 2022


It usually happens gradually. Like a corner of shadow raised in a darkened room, giving a glimmer of light, thoughts about what I need to do and my kids in college crawl along the side of my sleeping brain. I can feel them as little bits of light striking me to wake me up. I try to ignore them, so that I can sleep in the dark. But I inevitably lose the fight and open my eyes. Insomnia has struck again.

I can’t remember the last time I slept at night. I have a vague memory of an event from a few months ago, but it may have been a daydream or wishful thinking. The sad truth is that I haven’t slept more than a few hours in a row for over a decade.

When I was little, I was a good sleeper. I could easily sleep nine hours at a time, and I have fond memories of sleeping until 9 or 10 on the weekend (before I had kids, of course) but since I entered my 40s, a good night Sleep has become more difficult. Ironically, it was around this time that my son reached an age where he regularly slept through the night.

Falling asleep is never a problem. Before my son went to college, we had a one night ritual of watching a movie together. If we started too late – and late, I mean at 7 p.m. – I would always fall asleep before the end and wake my son up saying, “Mom, are you sleeping?” I would wake myself long enough to say, “No, I’m awake, I was just resting my eyes,” before I once again hear my angry son asking me if I am sleeping.

Eventually, I would give up and stumble upstairs on the bed. But by the time I brushed my teeth and changed into my nightgown, I was awake again. So I would read or watch TV in bed, waiting for my eyes to dry up.

And then the cycle will repeat itself. I used to fall asleep, only to wake up somewhere between 2 and 4 a.m.

For years, my routine was to go to sleep around 10 or 11, wake up at 2 a.m., and watch “Law & Order,” until I fell asleep again at about 4. Then I woke 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 to drag. I used to drink a big cup of coffee and have sweet cravings (which are common for insomnia) around 4 p.m., but this caused my blood sugar to rise and then drop, at which point, I needed a nap. Was. I used to tell my teens to wake me up after 20 minutes because I knew sleeping longer than this would make my insomnia worse, but they usually had to come back several times before I woke up. I often slept for an hour or more and woke up just in time to cook dinner.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I would curl up with a book on the couch under my picture window, knowing I would fall asleep after only a few pages. Those naps were so delicious and so desperately needed, that I never set an alarm or asked to be woken up, and sometimes I’d sleep for hours.

About 10 years ago, I found out I had sleep apnea, which means I stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. At the time I was diagnosed, my doctor told me it was a mild case and that I didn’t need treatment. I wish I knew at the time that post-menopausal sleep apnea can get worse and cause all kinds of health risks, like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

When I became an empty-nest this past fall, I decided to focus on my health. As the editor of HealthyWomen, I’ve learned a lot about the dangers of both sleep apnea and insomnia, and I was determined to get them under control. I stopped drinking caffeine after 12 p.m. and switched from lunch to eating sugary snacks for high-protein snacks, such as peanuts. I stopped taking naps on weekends as well, and I’m actively working with my HCP to help manage my insomnia.

Meanwhile, I am also trying to break my habit of turning on the television immediately upon waking up in the middle of the night. I’ve 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 lay my hands on my dog ​​and try to get the negative thoughts out of my mind, focusing on something positive. I’ve been able to get back to sleep about 50% of the time. But even when I don’t succeed immediately, I try to wait at least half an hour before giving in and watching TV. I know I absolutely shouldn’t, but sometimes the only way to turn my thoughts off is to watch an episode of an old nostalgic television show.

Like anything in life, I understand that overcoming my insomnia is a process that will take time. And though I get discouraged, I believe that, with the help of my HCP, I will find ways to improve my insomnia and wake up to fully raise my shadow and greet the day.

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