HomeMental HealthInsomnia Stinks | Psychology Today

Insomnia Stinks | Psychology Today


© Photo by cottonbro | Pixels

Source: © Photo by cottonbro | Pixels

It’s 3:30 AM as I sit here writing this post. This is fairly typical for me. I get a lot of my work that has nothing to do with my day job done in the early morning hours. I’ve had insomnia for years and before that, I was always an early morning riser. I recall as a kid waking up early and trying desperately to stay still because the first person in our home to wake up had to walk the dogs. I never need to set an alarm because I’m always up by 3 or 4 AM.

I remember one time sleeping until 9 AM. I was on vacation in Fire Island, which is just off the South Shore of Long Island. What is unique about Fire Island is that no cars are allowed on the island. I slept with the window open and there were no sounds of cars or trucks to disturb me, only the sounds of the waves lapping at the shore. The salty smell of the ocean drifted gently through the open window. I had the best sleep of my life that night. If only I could recreate that every night.

Some facts about insomnia:

I know that some things I do are not conducive to having the best chance for a good night’s sleep. You are only supposed to use your bed only for sleeping and sex. I have one of those electronic bases that rises and falls which is the best and worst thing I ever did. It allows me to work in bed comfortably, which I do, and allows Shelby, my rescue dog, to be near me as she has severe separation anxiety. I have a dog bed in the bedroom, but she prefers to be close to me.

 © Andrea Rosenhaft

Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft

Sometimes, when I get up to use the bathroom or go to the kitchen, she moves into the spot where I was and stretches out horizontally across the entire bed. She’s too heavy for me just to shove over, so I have to sit next to her and nudge her over bit by bit, until she gets insulted and jumps off the bed to sleep on the floor.

I use my computer right up until the time I go to bed. I do wear glasses with a blue light filter and I have a blue light filter film over my monitor, but they are not perfect. I also drink coffee past noon, especially on the evenings I work until 9 PM, because working late is difficult for me. I tend to fall asleep with the television on, mainly because I can’t stand the silence.

When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, it’s hard to get back to sleep, so I turn on my laptop to see what work I can get done. I know that’s not the best idea.

The standard treatment for insomnia is CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia). Here’s how it works:

CBT-I focuses on thoughts and behaviors that disrupt sleep and teaches ways to promote good sleep hygiene. It also reframes negative thoughts to positive ones and aims to help reconnect the concepts of “bed” and “sleep.” Often, people who suffer from poor sleep link negative thoughts and anxious feelings with sleep; in many cases, they become anxious at the very thought of sleep, due to the persistent fear that they’re not getting enough or won’t be able to fall asleep. CBT-I aims to address these anxieties and teach strategies to calm a racing mind.

These are some clinically-tested tips for sleeping with insomnia:

In addition to good sleep hygiene, such as keeping one’s bedroom conducive to sleep, it is helpful to set a schedule; get regular exercise of 20 to 30 minutes daily; avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol or heavy meals in the hours before bedtime, and, if unable to sleep, get up and read or listen to music until sleepy.

I’ve tried medications and supplements such as melatonin, trazodone, and Ambien, and either they had no effect or had side effects I couldn’t tolerate. A new medication was recently approved by the FDA and I asked my psychiatrist about it. She said she didn’t like what she was reading about it and didn’t want to prescribe it for me.

My issue is not falling asleep, it is mainly staying asleep. I acknowledge that there are practices I could put into place that might improve my sleep, but then again I’m trying to launch a business and these are optimal uninterrupted hours to get work done. But I pay for it, especially on the evenings I work late. I even start to feel tired around 4 or 5 PM; hence the coffee. And the vicious cycle continues…

Thanks for reading. Andrea

© Andrea Rosenhaft

Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft

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