I am doing the A-Z challenge; today’s letter is I for insomnia...
The Sleep Train
I see the comments on FaceBook, every time I ever check in. Many people struggle with insomnia, in one form or another. I too battle the inability to sleep, but per my agreement with Annie, I do not go to my computer, for any reason. I used to wake up anywhere from eleven to one, not be able to get back to sleep, and end up in front of the computer, writing-always writing.
I was suffering the effects of mania, and the last thing a person should do, if he or she can’t sleep, is immerse one’s self in front of the blue light of electronic gadgetry, including the TV, a computer monitor, or a “smart phone.” I know one friend who simply posts a series of times, indicating that his battle progresses over a long period of time, every night.
According to Dr. Sherry Heffle, my VA psychiatrist, I should never lie in bed for more than fifteen-twenty minutes, trying to get back to sleep. What I should do, is get up, go to another room in the house, and engage in some form of quiet activity, such as meditation, yoga, or reading, so long as the reading material is not something that will stimulate my brain any more than minimally. Even the mystery stories, that I am inclined to prefer, may provide too much in the way of mental gymnastics, to allow me to return to sleep efficiently.
The flaw in this strategy is simple. My home is heated exclusively by wood-burning stoves, which I allow to die late in the afternoon or early evening. That means I would have to rekindle one of the two stoves, in order to be able to stay up for any length of time. It is just too cold up here on this mountain, from October through May, to realistically spend any more than the length of time, it takes me to amble into the bathroom, to make use of the facilities, and return to my warm bed.
The act of lighting the stove would not only take more time than I am willing to devote to the task, but it frequently proves challenging to the point that it gets me all fired up, no pun intended. Often the wood is not one hundred percent dry, or the fact that I do not have unlimited starter material, creates a sense of anxiety that would not seem to promote a mellow environment, from which I would emerge in the proper frame of mind to return to sleep.
I have asked one after another health care provider for sleep medication, and have been rebuffed each time. Well, that’s not completely accurate; the one psychiatrist willing to prescribe sleep medication, also prescribed medication for bipolarism, with the most hideous side-effects imaginable. And as a crowning achievement, the sleep meds he prescribed, did not work for me.
And so I struggle. One of the unfortunate results of waking up in the middle of the night, is the train of thought that inevitably sallies forth from the station that is my mind. Actually this train has two baggage cars: the first is the fact that I suffer most when I am by myself; the second is that my resentment towards health care providers, who won’t acquiesce to my request for sleep meds, soars. So I lie awake and stew.
Unlike some, who cannot fall asleep when they first retire to their beds, I normally drift off the minute my head hits the pillow. Unfortunately, I have to rise two, three times-or more-each night to make use of those facilities, and thus the problem surfaces. I know I can attribute this to being sixty, so I do not worry unnecessarily about it, but that doesn’t help my problem. Dr. Heffle would have me stay up later than my normal eight o’clock time that I retire. Unfortunately, the nature of my very physical lifestyle, make me so tired, that staying up past eight is impossible. Even on a night when I do drift back to sleep upon awaking in the middle of the night, I find myself unable to sleep past three in the morning.
Heavens to Murgatroid! No wonder I am exhausted by eight in the evening. It is a vicious circle, and one from which I do not seem to be able to emerge. Included in this vicious circle is the strategy of drinking a nice, soothing cup of tea. You see where this is going. If I drink tea, I wake up shortly afterward, so the effects of the tea have the proverbial double-edged sword.
Maybe that double-edged sword will eventually dull. I hope so; otherwise I will continue to do what I have been doing, and write these A-Z challenge pieces in my head, prior to sitting down in front of my computer, and bringing them to life in front of my eyes, the next day. It’s better than lying awake, stewing. The only problem is, what am I going to do after I hit Z?