Insomnia…urgh

Insomnia is a big battle in my life. It has been for over a year and a half. I can’t remember exactly when it started being an issue, but it’s certainly been a significant problem since last summer – after I got back from the States. What I put down to jetlag at first soon proved to be more; I was having night after night of not getting to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, feeling absolutely shattered and miserable and a little bit like I was going mad.

I love and need my sleep. My bed is a special place of rest and comfort, and constant nights of tossing and turning were making me hate it, and feel anxious about bedtime for fear that I wouldn’t sleep at all…. so I started making a concerted effort to monitor my sleep around the autumn.

I have struggled with PMS since the beginning of my degree, and it has gotten worse over time, and for the last few years I’ve used an App to track my cycle and my emotional ups and downs. It has been extremely helpful to be able to check the App and note where I am in the cycle, and suddenly have it all make sense why I feel sad for no reason, irrational and snappy, or anxious with none of my triggers happening.

I was already using the App to note my moods, and I started using it to keep a note of whether I’d slept well or had disrupted sleep, if i’d struggled to get to sleep or gone off easily.

I matched my sleep patterns up with my App and recognised that my insomnia was waaaayyyyy worse at certain times of the month. I went to see my GP who said that yes, insomnia is another delightful symptom of PMS and suggested I start taking the pill… so I did.

It helped massively with the emotional rollercoaster, but not so much with the sleeping. Having said that; feeling emotionally well definitely helps with managing sleep deprivation!

Then came a bad period at work which really triggered my PTSD, and along with that a run of nights where I would barely get a few hours’ sleep in the early hours of the morning, having struggled the whole night and driven myself crazy with anxiety and all the yuck that comes with PTSD. I spoke to the pharmacist who suggested Nytol as a short term solution to getting back into a good sleep rhythm.

Woah are those things effective… one tablet and I was out like a light within 20 minutes and slept the whole night through! Proper, restful, But, I didn’t like the concept of having to take a tablet to sleep – so I made sure I only took them a couple of times a week, and only if it got to midnight and I was still not asleep (I go to bed around 10pm on weeknights) That way, I got a few good nights’ sleep each week but was still tired on other days and had a good level of actual tiredness that let me get to sleep!

I managed to get into a relatively normal sleep pattern again, and only taking the tablets on a Sunday night (to make sure I could get a good nights’ sleep for work the next day)

I also did some self-analysis into things that helped me sleep or hindered it. I discovered that I can’t sleep if I’m cold, but I also can’t sleep if I’m too hot! (I have three different bed covers right now and use different combinations of each of them depending on how I’m feeling.) I sometimes like a thinner cover but it also needs to have a bit of weight to it! (I am such a contradiction terms) My hot water bottle is my friend!

I can’t sleep if I’m even the slightest bit hungry or thirsty, but I also can’t sleep too soon after eating or drinking. (About an hour before is the best time)

I can’t sleep if I’ve had too much screen time (so no phone or tablet in the hour before bed if I can help it) I’ve been reading my way through the Narnia books instead of watching Netflix or other shows.

I can’t sleep straight after a shower, or if my hair is wet (so I got a shower cap for the times I don’t want to get my hair wet at all, and a hairdryer for the times when it really needs washing – after the gym or whatever)

Other things that work…

Weirdly, I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot, so I have sometimes had to get up and stick my feet under the shower to cool them off and then I’ve managed to get to sleep almost straight away

Another very strange (but effective) tactic is to switch ends of the bed – move my pillows to the bottom of the bed and switch my quilt round and somehow that helps!

I’ve made a blend of essential oils known to help facilitate sleep/good sleep/restfulness/calm which I apply to my neck, pulse points, and feet. I also have a spray version that I can apply to my pillows/bedding.

A lady from church noticed my Facebook statuses about not being able to sleep and offered to pray for me. She’d been through sleeplessness and insomnia herself so knows the awful effects it can have; she sent me a song that she used to play to help her recognise God’s power over insomnia and to remember that He is in control over everything (putting aside anxiety etc) She really encouraged me to pray over my sleeping and I think it has really helped!!

Over the winter, all through to March, I gradually got to the stage where I stopped thinking about whether I’d sleep and just went off to bed with no anxiety or worry at all. Still the very occasional night of little sleep but it’s completely manageable when the majority of nights are good sleep.

Then the flippin’ clocks changed!!! I don’t know if there is any real connection but since then I have had far many more insomnia nights. Thanks to knowing what helps and doesn’t, I feel like I’m managing this ok – but I am also taking the herbal version of Nytol maybe twice a week to help. Not a long term solution but sometimes you have to do the thing that helps you right now.

Do you have any ideas or solutions for insomnia?

-x-

 

 

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The last seven months…

Hi there,

I’m back (I think).

After several failed attempts at writing this post, I think I am just about ready to enter the blogosphere again. [Is that a real word?]

The observant among you will know it’s been about 7 months since I last wrote…but for a few months before that, my posts were really sporadic. I intentionally took an extended break because life became a little too challenging for me to continue to invest in my blog. There was so much I couldn’t say here, for a number of reasons, and while writing is (and always has been) an outlet, what was going on in life was just too overwhelming to put into print.

Cryptic? Yes. Concerning? Perhaps. It was definitely a tough time, but I am seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now.

So let’s catch-up, shall we? How have you been?? It’s a bit late coming, but happy 2015. I spent New Year with some great friends, eating a 7 course dinner and drinking sparkling wine when the clock struck 12.

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2015 is a New Year in more ways than one, for me. 2015 signalled the start of something new – a new job, a fresh start, and a “rebirth” of sorts [sorry, that’s such a hippy word]

I started January 2015 in a new social work role within a different fostering organisation. I don’t think many decisions I have made in my life could have been better for me, than the decision to quit my previous job. I am truly enjoying my work for the first time in more than a year – I can remember why I wanted to be a social worker in the first place and my new company is brilliant at valuing its employees and I really enjoy being a part of their team.

social work

Having said that, it has taken (is taking) some time to adjust to a new workplace. Not in terms of the practical aspects; that I had nailed within a few days thanks to a very efficient set of systems, brilliant colleagues and above all a wonderful line manager. No, what I am still getting used to is working in an environment that encourages rather than puts down, supports rather than degrades, and values rather than scorns. It was made just barely manageble by some genuinely lovely colleagues – but the leadership and the overall environment that had become so intensely difficult and stressful, and so emotionally gruelling and (let’s just say it) hellish, that actually, in March 2015 I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because the level of stress and anguish I was experiencing daily, hour upon hour, and the horrendous situation that happened when I left (which I might write about at some point, but not now) caused a significant emotional trauma.

I was in that environment, feeling that way, for over a year – and what I have realised is that my traditional way of coping and managing my feelings (i.e. pretending it was fine, except to the people closest to me) was enough to sustain me whilst I was in the midst of it but it wasn’t until I got out of it, and began working in a safe space that I started to slightly unravel. All of the anxiety that I hadn’t let myself feel in that year started to come out, in mostly irrational ways (for example, near panic attacks at big roundabouts, triple-checking emails to see if they could be misinterpreted, intense and terrifying nightmares, and just generally feeling like life and work couldn’t possibly be this good – I began to think that everything my old employer made me feel about myself was true…and it was only a matter of time before my new employers realised this.

Of course…since getting the PTSD “label” and starting to talk a bit more openly about my experience I have realised that a lot of that was the trauma, and not real. I think I knew it at the time but it was hard to accept. There is also the *possibility* that the anti-anxiety medication I am taking is having a therapeutic effect as well, but I think it is a mixture of all things combined and I know there is a significant amount of healing to be done in the next weeks/months.

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It was a bit scary to type all that, I won’t lie. Admitting vulnerabilities and struggles is not something I am altogether comfortable with…but I had to give it a go. I have found that a big part of working through this is being honest about how my old workplace made me feel, and what it has “done to me” and owning that “label” may not seem like a tremendous thing…but it is.

So … PTSD. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a PTSD or a “recovery” blog (nothing against those, they’re just not me). This blog is still just about little old me and my randomness…but right now little old me has this thing called PTSD, so it’s probably going to feature for a while. I hope that’s ok.

Equally, little old me is starting to rediscover past passions – like colouring (yes it’s therapeutic, but it’s also just good fun) and dress-making, and I am really enjoying having the physical time and the emotional ‘head-space’ to enjoy these things again. So those endeavours might make an appearance here too. I’m excited about that!

Anyway…that’s all from me for now. Hopefully I will be back again soon 🙂

-x-