The one where I have my arse well and truly kicked

Insomnia. So bloody cruel. And right now, it is well and truly kicking my arse.

I’m not sure when my trouble with sleeping started. My youngest two girls were awful sleepers. Well actually, awful would be an understatement. Between the two of them, I didn’t have a full nights sleep for over six long years. But it was probably about this time last year that they were both finally sleeping through the night and SO WAS I! It was an absolute revelation. From time to time, I would have trouble sleeping but I just put it down to my poor body being conditioned to get zero sleep for so long. That occasional time turned into something much more frequent though and within the last six months or so, what used to be the odd night having trouble falling to sleep, has seemingly spiralled into the hell that is insomnia. I am broken.

I’ve tried all of the obvious tips of course. Relaxing before bed, having a long soak in the bath, hot milky drink, avoiding screen time, not eating or exercising too late at night and we have always had a no tv or gadget rule in the bedroom. I make a real effort to limit my caffeine intake to one or two coffees during the day (despite the lure of my Nespresso machine) then switch to decaff come the afternoon school run.

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When you have older children who can’t be packed off to bed at seven on the dot anymore, you basically lose your evenings. You think that the baby days are tough? Try having teenagers seriously, it’s relentless! It’s important to me and Mr Mostly to spend time together child free though, even if it is just cuddling on the sofa and watching a film but before we know it, it’s midnight. I guess that doesn’t help my sleep situation but in all honesty, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice our evenings for an early night (well, to sleep that is!) as they mean too much to me. Besides which, I couldn’t attempt to go to sleep at say ten o’clock even if I tried. I need some proper time to wind down plus how could I sleep knowing that my teens were still awake? Never going to happen.

It’s all just terribly frustrating. There is nothing quite as cruel as not being able to get to sleep when you are beyond tired. Just the thought of not being able to get to sleep that night makes me feel anxious. And that anxiety grows and grows throughout the day keeping me awake at night of course. It’s such a vicious cycle and one that I just don’t know how to stop.

I have worries of course I do but no more than anybody else and certainly nothing that should be keeping me awake at night. Saying that, even the tiniest of worries seem so much bigger at two o’clock in the morning. I avoid sleeping in or having a nap later in the day (although the temptation is of course huge) but on the worst of worst days, I do grab a fifteen minute nana nap in the afternoon because to be honest if I didn’t, I think I might die of exhaustion. Can you actually die of exhaustion? Sigh.

A typically bad night for me, will see me going to bed at midnight and still being wide awake by one o’clock. Lots of huffing and puffing later, I might get back up and come downstairs to distract myself until I feel tired. Reading is good, as is polishing or folding laundry. (It’s quite hard thinking of quiet jobs, you’d be surprised at how loud the simplest of things are in the dead of the night, even the steam of the iron!) I tend to stay in the living room where there are no clocks as silly as that sounds. But there is nothing more stressful than seeing what time it is and working out how much sleep you’re not having that night. I can sometimes feel sleepy within the hour (this would be seen as a good night) but I’m more likely to be up until after four o’clock then I will fall back into bed only to be woken by my stupid body clock before seven. Argh! Three hours sleep is typical of a bad night for me and it just can’t carry on. I can barely function.

I tend to have a run of bad nights then out of nowhere, I will have a good night. Honestly, more than six hours sleep and I feel like a new woman! But the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why or when I will have a bad or good night. The run of good nights will never last for as long as the bad plus even on a good night, my sleep is usually still  unsettled so it’s not always a full nights sleep. My doctor’s solution is to medicate the problem. But this isn’t a route I want to go down for now, as it could only ever be a temporary fix. Pills to make me sleep at night then pills to dampen my anxiety to keep me in a zombified state during the day? As desperate as I am, no thank you. I’m doing a good enough impression of a zombie all by myself.

So I’m doing what I do best. I’ve started to keep a journal listing  e v e r y  s i n g l e  t h i n g  that I think might make a difference. Hopefully over a week, a month or even longer, I might be able to work out what could be causing it. Or more to the point, figure out what I might be doing differently on the good days so that I can start having more of them. It’s got to be worth a try, surely? Here’s hoping anyway.

This has been such a difficult post for me to write and if anyone can offer any advice, no matter how small, you don’t know how grateful I would be. I can’t help but think that I must be missing something. My mind is so busy latching on to the tiniest of details that I can’t help but think that I’m not seeing something blindingly obvious. Or maybe that’s just my anxiety talking. See what I mean about the vicious cycle thing? Ugh.

love-mostly

About (Mostly) Yummy Mummy

Blissfully happy (mostly) yummy mummy to four children and (occasional) domestic goddess. Aspiring author and blogger extraordinaire.
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38 Responses to The one where I have my arse well and truly kicked

  1. oh huni *big hugs* been there. For me what helped was reading somewhere (I forget where) not to focus on the lack of sleep, just to lie in bed and enjoy relaxing, to let go and realise that just lying in bed and having time not doing anything is a good way to recharge too, even if you don’t get any sleep. For me that triggered something in my head and after a couple of weeks of lying in bed awake I started to doze and now I sleep fine.
    I really hope you find something that helps you. Although medication can be a lifesaver, I’m on anti-anxiety meds and they certainly don’t make me a zombie, it really depends what you are on. Don’t rule them out completely would be my advice but try your own methods first.
    xxx

    • I’ve never even thought of it like that before. My mind is always completely fixed on getting to sleep rather than just lying there and relaxing but it makes complete sense. Thanks so much for commenting and I’m glad you’re sleeping okay now x

  2. You have my every sympathy, I suffered from exactly the same insomnia as you have for years. I read a good book (I’ll try to dig out name) which as your other comment says said to focus on relaxing and not to worry about the lack of sleep (easier said than done but the advice was generally “don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired tomorrow, no one ever died through lack of sleep, you need less sleep than you think, just enjoy being in bed”) and I also took zopiclone from the drs for years – it didn’t make me a zombie at all the next day and wasn’t habit forming (although increasingly you do need a higher dose for same effect). Then all of a sudden, mainly when I moved to Manchester it just stopped and now a bad night is taking maybe an hour to fall asleep but most nights I go off v quickly! (Then get woken up repeatedly by small children!). I totally understand how awful it is though – I’d weep at 3 am knowing I had a full day in the office starting in only 5 hours and I’d had no sleep. Hugs xxx

    • Thanks so much Tamsin I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been there too. The advice just to enjoy relaxing in bed rather than thinking I MUST GET TO SLEEP makes complete sense. I think I need to change my focus like you have said.

  3. I am afraid I never got the relaxation thing to work for me either (sigh). I just end up worrying that I’m not relaxing enough. I have stopped worrying about lack of sleep and succumbed to middle-of-the night forays to laptop and fridge. Staggering back to bed, bleary-eyed, it’s amazing how easy it is to sleep through the dawn chorus (and the alarm). As a sleep strategy it seems to work (for me). The downside is being even later that my normal late on the school run. But maybe one to try in the holidays?

    • I understand completely. Sometimes the more you try to relax, the more stressed you become about not doing it properly while you lie there wide eyed and not feeling even slightly sleepy. Such a vicious cycle. I don’t blame you for trying to grab a few extra minutes in bed on a morning I think you have to do whatever you can to get any sleep. So sorry that you have problems too x

  4. Liv Mangle says:

    I know how you feel honey, although I’m not married nor do I have children, I’m 21 and have been suffering from insomnia on and off for over 5 years. I find having a cold e an bedroom really helps as there isn’t anything worse than being hot and figity (in my opinion). I’ve also seen a councillor who works at my gp and that helped just talking over just the silly things, and you can get a suggestions from them, I did art therapy within the counciling sessions for a while and that was great :) glad you shared hun and hope you find something that helps you!

    Love an prayers,
    Liv x

    • Thank you so much Liv and I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had so many problems with this too. I think too temperature is really important too – I turn into Goldilocks! Too hot, too cold.. It has to be just right. And I have to sleep on the cold side of the pillow!

  5. I am an insomniac, it runs in the family, and it’s horrible, especially if you have babies or young children. It comes and goes so I will be okay for 3 or 4 weeks then not be able to sleep for a month. I need my sleep but I am also a night owl, so tend to get more energy at night. I go to bed and am still awake, a few hours later, getting more and more stressed. My youngest was waking at 5-5.30am am for a while too which didn’t help. I spend my days feeling like a zombie.

    I actually got quite ill after my first daughter was born as she was a bad sleeper so I hardly slept at all for months. In Singapore it’s much easier because I have a live-in maid, so I can go back to sleep once my eldest is in school.

    One of the best things for me is to turn off my phone and computer by 8.30. This is almost impossible as I do my work after the children are in bed. Reading before I turn the light out also helps.

    I don’t like taking sleeping tablets for much the same reason as you. There is something you get in Singapore called Gabo Night, a herbal remedy you get in the pharmacy, which is pretty good. My doctor also prescribes anti-anxiety tablets to take at bedtime, if I’m going through a bad patch of no sleeping. They don’t make me feel tired during the day.

    Sorry not to be of more help!

    • No don’t be silly you’ve been a huge help! Hearing how others cope with their insomnia is so helpful to me as I try and find my own solutions. Somebody on Twitter mentioned that their father used a herbal remedy too so this is something that I should maybe look into. Thank you so much for commenting x

  6. Poor you, how awful :( there’s nothing worse than being awake in the middle of the night, seeing the hours tick by and thinking about how soon you have to be up and about :( something I’ve found has helped me to sleep more soundly and improve my chances of a restful night’s sleep is Bach’s Rescue Remedy Night – you can buy it in Boots – you’re mean to have about 2-3 sprays of it on your tongue before bed, I usually have 20! (no joke!) I’ve found it really helps me. You could always use their daytime one for anxiety through the day to help you keep calm and worry less about the sleep thing. I know not everyone believes in things like homeopathic remedies but personally I swear by rescue remedy and have been taking it on/off for past 5 years. Also, acupuncture might help too? Good luck sweetie xxx

    • No I would much rather go down the homeopathic route if I possibly can so thank you so much for this. Somebody on Twitter swears by Rescue Remedy too so I will definitely be investigating. I’m so glad that you have found that it has helped you and thank you so much for commenting x

  7. Like all of the above, I’m an insomniac too and have been since I was a teen. I’ve had a particularly bad patch recently where i don’t think I have slept at all for about 6 weeks, and needless to say I am struggling! I even notice it affecting my memory and reaction time etc now, which is worrying. I don’t have any good advice to pass on, as nothing has worked for me…but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing as it helps to know that there’s someone out there in the same boat! I hope you break the cycle soon x

    • Oh Wendy I am so sorry to hear that you suffer from this too. I must admit that I’ve been muddling through but it has been going on for so long now that like you, I can feel that it is affecting my everyday life too. It really is worrying which is why I feel like I’ve got to do something to make it stop. On my worst days I am fit for nothing. I snap at poor Mr Mostly, can hardly hold a conversation, have no concentration and zero patience. I hate it. In a way just writing this post, as hard as it was, helped me to set things straight in my head as to what I might already be doing right or wrong to help. But I am so grateful that so many people have commented and left so much advice. I hope it might help you too x

  8. I have suffered from Insomnia for all my life it seems. As a child I only slept for four hours a night and it has continued on in my life. Sometimes are much worse than others. When I am ill or stressed, then sleep never comes. I have to admit that after trying every remedy possible, even eating two kiwi fruit before bed I resort to sleeping pills when things are really bad

    • I’m so sorry to hear this Jen. I have found it hard trying to cope with the last six months or so, i cant imagine how hard it must be for you if you have suffered since being a child. How terrible! Maybe some people are just more prone to it than others do you think? I guess it is one of those problems that sometimes just can’t be solved but we have to find a way to live with it. I’ve never heard of the kiwi trick before but somebody said to eat a banana right before bed. There must be some sense in it somewhere and definitely worth a try!

  9. It sounds truly horrendous – there’s nothing worse than sleep deprivation (there’s a reason it’s used as a form of torture).

    I had sleep issues last year as I was working at my computer til around 10 or 11pm then going straight to bed, before getting up for work at 3.30am. I found that no matter how tired I was, I’d have trouble getting to sleep because my mind was whirring. Then, even if I fell asleep, I’d wake up. And then I’d get worked up worrying that it’d soon be time to get up again. It was hell. I was constantly exhausted and craved sugar and carbs to get me through the day. I felt like I was on the verge of depression at times, but now I know I was just extremely, bone achingly tired!

    For me, what helps is chamomile tea or decaf tea in the afternoon and evening. I don’t work past 9pm and avoid my phone (Twitter etc) after that time too. I don’t drink any alcohol at all during the week and we have our evening meal at around 5pm. Also, when I go to bed I read a book and then put my headphones in and listen to a relaxation audio on my phone or YouTube. Hope you get through it, it must get better soon! xxx

    • Thank you so much for commenting, it is so heartening to hear that you’ve come through the other side and I am really grateful for your advice. I think technology being at our fingertips makes it all too easy to not switch off and you’re right, this is bound to have an effect on our sleep patterns as we are going to bed wide awake. I’m so glad that you’re sleeping well again, it gives me much hope!

  10. I think this must be one of the most upsetting and frustrating things to suffer. My mother in law suffers terribly and I often wonder how she gets by with so little sleep. Her thing is she is a worrier; she cannot switch off.
    One of my best friends has been struggling lately and quite separately I gave her a weight loss MP3 download which she has to listen to every night. She said one happy side effect has been that she has never slept so well! I wonder if this is something worth pursuing – though a relaxation download?

    • I’m really sorry to hear about your mother in law but can completely empathise with the not being able to switch off issue. I focus on the smallest of worries and everything always seems so much worse somehow in the dead of the night. I wish I could find my off switch! How interesting about the MP3 download though? Somebody on Twitter actually sent me a link to a relaxation one so maybe this is something for me to look at. Thanks so much for commenting x

  11. Kara guppy says:

    Your poor thing, I’m still being woken by little people and teenagers so you have my sympathy.
    My mother had a similar issue and she tried acupuncture. It really worked for her and whilst she still gets up stupidly early every morning, she does enjoy a good 6-7 hours sleep.
    Must be worth a try?!

    • Thanks so much for commenting Kara I’m so sorry to hear that your mother had similar problems. I must admit to being a bit squeamish about trying acupuncture but you’re not the only person to have recommended it to me so maybe I should face my fears!

  12. OrganicAngel_ says:

    Hello
    I’m so sorry to hear this and have empathy. I’ve had a complete breakdown over the last few months so may/may not be the best person to comment!
    Things I’ve found helpful dealing with my anxiety…
    *completely removing caffeine (well not choc so that’s a bit of a lie but I love choc and its all about balance!)
    *drinking copious amounts of herbal tea…pukka night time (yucky but works), Heath and heather chamomile (holland and barratt)
    *setting an alarm for the morning and removing any clocks from the bedroom (so you’re not clock watching).
    *mindfullness – by Danny Williams and somebody else. I’ve just started this its a book with cd on guided meditation. All about teaching yourself to live in the moment.
    I’ve been seeing a psychologist as well since December and after I told her a brief outline of my life she advised that I shut down contact with my mum and sisters because it looks like they have personality disorders and are wrecking my life. This was HUGE for me. So being very honest with yourself about any niggly issues you may have and exploring them.
    Sorry this is a bit long but it’s so close to my heart I had to respond to you.
    Lots of love
    xxxxx

    • Thank you so much for commenting and I’m so terribly sorry to hear about what an awful time you’ve been having. Thanks so much for the book recommendation I will have to look it up, it sounds great. I think what you said about avoiding clocks is a great point too. I feel my anxiety going through the roof when I see what time it is and I start to work out how much sleep I’ve missed and how long before I have to get up even though I haven’t even been to sleep yet. I am so grateful for your advice especially as you have enough on your own plate right now. Sending lots of love right back xx

  13. Victoria says:

    I used to be EXACTLY the same as you, did everything right, but I just got more and more worried to the point where I’d put off going to bed. My husband would try and get me to nap and I’d be sobbing, I can’t because I won’t be able to sleep. I have solved it and whenever it’s threatened to come back, I’ve been able to keep it under control, this is what works for me anyway, I hope it could help you. Every evening I have a hot bath and read. Then OH and I both get into bed and read (nothing scary) and chat, so we’re having time together but it’s in bed and no screens etc. I don’t let myself look at my phone, leave it outside on the landing if I have to. I use the normal Kalms to relax me, though I’m pretty sure they don’t actually do anything, but if I’m feeling anxious I take them for a few days because it makes me feel better knowing that I’m doing something. Then I switch off the light by 11 and I don’t get out of bed again unless I need the loo. I do two things – if I’m feeling anxious about sleep I repeatedly tell myself that it’s OK, doesn’t matter if I’m not sleeping, it’s good for me just to relax. Then, I think about something nice, and calming like planning my perfect garden or room in my house. Every time my mind wanders from this I drag it back, saying to myself that as long as I’m relaxing, it’s good for me. When I do that horrible drifting off then jerking awake thing, I used to get horribly anxious, now I just tell myself that it’s OK, if I can drift off once I can drift off again and I go back to thinking about my garden. It took a while to work, to get used to staying calm etc, but now I fall asleep normally almost every night. The only times I still find it hard is if I go to bed too late, then I sleep badly, but I still try not to worry and the following night I’m usually fine. It’s all about controlling the anxiety and you can do this by yourself, it’s like meditation, you just have to learn it. Good luck and lots of love xxx

    • Thank you so much for this Victoria and the Twitter love too you don’t know what a huge help you’ve been honestly! This sounds like such a simple idea but it makes complete sense. You’re so right, I need to stop focussing on getting to sleep and just make the most of relaxing. It’s so silly because until you and others have said that, it had never even entered my head that’s its okay just to relax. I really need to change the way that I see bedtime I know that now. I love the idea of the self hypnosis too. I can see how taking my mind away from whatever worries are keeping me awake and distracting myself with something else could really work.

  14. Susan Mann says:

    Aww twinny I feel for you I really do. When I was pregnant I couldn’t sleep & at 2am I had made mountains out of molehills. My oldest was a terrible sleeper & little miss we’ll she’s too young to tell. I always find reading an easy, light hearted book helps distract me and nod off but you’ve tried that already. I use lavender oil on the boys beds and they sleep so much better than when I don’t. Not sure what else but if you want someone to talk to during the night, for not I’m there hugs xx

    • Aww thank you so much twinny! No I agree about the light hearted book and this is often how I get myself to sleep. I think it’s great for distracting your mind but I think the actual act of reading makes my eyes sleepy too as silly as that sounds. Big hugs right back x

  15. I have a feeling that training for a marathon might help :) – I’m so bloody sleepy all the time I don’t have any trouble falling asleep anymore.

  16. This sounds awful, sleep is the one thing I could definitely not do without- have little miss a seriously tested this! I’m sorry I don’t have any personal words of wisdom that may help, but I do remember watching a programme on channel 4 called food hospital – one particular episode focused on sleep and lack of it! They treated the insomnia with changes to diet along and the long suffering woman did see some results.

    It may not work but thought it maybe worth a look, they also have a book out called the food hospital and it really is very interesting. Hope this may help in some way… Good luck.

  17. Dawnie says:

    It’s a longshot but I am really sensitive to caffeine & that always affects my sleep. I allow myself ONE coffee when I get up. And absolutely none after noon. It’s rubbish but I started sleeping much better for it x

  18. You have my deepest sympathies about this. I have recently been through a bout of it myself. I was beside myself. I think once it starts going wrong, it just keeps going wrong. I tried to find that post about that blogger who was having 2 hours sleep a night (for years!) but I can’t find it. It was interesting because she shared the advice of the sleep clinic and it really did make alot of sense. One of the suggestions was about fixing your bedtime or trying to get to bed earlier each night, by 15 min incremements. You mustn’t look at a clock but if you think 20 min have passed and you haven’t fallen asleep, get up and go downstairs. After an hour, go back up and repeat. I think it’s about training your mind that bed is for sleeping.
    As a lifelong insomniac these are my rules and whilst they don’t cure it, they can’t work to keep me calm:
    1. Don’t drink caffienated or decaf (they contain trace) drinks after 4pm
    2. If you aren’t getting to sleep, it doesn’t matter. Your body is resting.
    3. If you aren’t falling asleep you probably aren’t needing it.
    4. If you aren’t getting to sleep, perhaps it will help you sleep better tomorrow (?)
    5. It doesn’t matter. You will cope. You have done it before.
    6. NEVER look at a clock.

    Sorry I can’t offer anything concrete. Sometimes you just have to accept things as they are and they go on their own devices. Hope you manage a good sleep soon. XXX

  19. laudickinson says:

    Poor you :-(. I haven’t read all the comments so these suggestions might have been said already: do you drink much in the evenings? I always sleep so much worse after a few glasses of wine. Do you need something in your day which uses your brain more, so that you aren’t just physically but also mentally worn out? I don’t mean that as an insult (I’m not sure what you do do in your day), but I am a sahm too and sometimes feel that I could have got more use out of my brain of a day! I think the main thing, which I’m sure others have said, is to try not to panic when you can’t sleep and at least realise that your body is resting.

  20. Lavender, Lavender, Lavender! Essential oil in a hot bath just before bed time and always sleep with a lavender pillow. This really helps. Courage

  21. really random i know, but if it helps, i have started knitting (gasp! naini! #gettingon!) BUT it’s really helping me to chill out and switch off from everything electrical. so, that and a glass of wine (only at weekends, honest!) at the end of the day has helped me out loooooads with my problem of not being able to sleep. xx

  22. Mum_on_the_move says:

    Just having a nose through your blog because not checked in for a while and read this.

    It sounds as though you already do have excellent ‘sleep hygiene’ practices. i.e. you are doing all the things we (health care professionals) would suggest and have made yourself not do all the things we would tell you to stop.

    I agree that the anxiety over not sleeping is probably now contributing to causing you not to get to sleep. I also think this is primary insomnia as it does not fulfil the pattern typical of depression (often fall asleep but then wake up and can’t get back to sleep) and obviously you would know and suspect that yourself if it [depression] was the case.

    I think the idea of trying to get hold of some self-hypnosis / learn some relaxation techniques are good.

    I agree with YOU (and I’m a GP) that night sedation is NOT the way forward. They are usually addictive and not a long term solution by any means. I usually prescribe them for people with acute insomnia due to grief or a huge personal shock. Occasionally I give a week’s supply to someone with chronic insomnia to try and give them a break and/or tempt their body back into sleeping again.

    Finally, I would suggest asking your GP to refer you to the sleep clinic. They may be able to offer more management options and they may suggest taking melatonin. This is a hormone which is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain when it gets dark, to make us sleepy. Only specialists can prescribe this in the UK. (although you can buy it over the counter in US!)

    Really hope you get somewhere with this. I rarely suffer from insomnia, but when I do, it really is torture! DM me if you want to ask anything else! X

  23. Jordan says:

    Just wondering, almost two months on, how things are?
    Hope you are living in sleep filled bliss – or almost, anyway! xx

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