I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, feeling somewhat desperate. Since then I have continued with the medication, been to the GP (who was very helpful), and gradually begun sleeping more. But I decided to publish this anyway, in the interests of ‘keeping it real’ – this is life, we take the good and the bad together.
And if I’ve neglected to read and comment on your blog, or to respond to your comment on mine, I do apologise. I’m working my way through my backlog of ‘stuff’ at the moment, but it will all take a while to catch up.
I have been overwhelmed by a long-standing inability to sleep enough. The past couple of months have been particularly difficult. I have done whatever I have been able to manage, but have also had to absent myself from some things I really wanted to do (farm meetings; a friend’s 60th birthday party) because I knew I simply wouldn’t cope with the added disruption to already disrupted sleep. And most weeks I’ve had at least one day when I was so exhausted that all I could manage was to go for a walk, to put one foot in front of the other and just go. No thinking or planning or destination needed.
I know this is not something truly awful in the scale of things (I don’t have cancer or any other life-threatening or life-limiting disease; I don’t have to do anything I don’t feel up to doing; my life is generally very good).
On the other hand, if you haven’t experienced the effects of long-term insomnia maybe you think it’s just like having the odd bad night. I can tell you it’s a very different thing. An average night of 5 hours sleep is just not enough for me to cope on. I can do it for one night or two, but not week in week out for months on end. I am no Margaret Thatcher (in more ways than just the sleep department, I hope).
A few days ago I wrote a post reflecting on some of the things that may have kicked this off – all of them normal parts of everyday life for most of us at some time or another: the stresses of combining demanding paid work (albeit part time) with multiple substantial (part time) family caring responsibilities; some challenging relationship issues in my extended family; effects of menopause (especially the many years of hot flushes day and night).
Then I decided it was sufficiently cathartic simply to have written it. I don’t need (or want) to publish it here. But it did help me realise just how hard I am finding it. Which in turn helped me resolve to put first the things that aid a better night’s sleep (and the converse – avoid the things that make it worse).
So – hello to a regular bedtime routine; ensuring that I stick to the ‘sleep hygiene’ rules we all know; revisiting medication tried some years ago but rejected because it was difficult to combine with the need for an early morning start to work; and saying ‘no’ to some invitations and trips and commitments that just don’t work for me right now.
It’s goodbye to late nights out, alcohol (no great loss for me – though I enjoy the odd glass of wine or beer, I’ve never been one to drink much); caffeine beyond the early afternoon; evening meetings or parties.
And thank you especially to Malcolm for being so supportive through all of this (and for being such a good cook).
My ambition isn’t massive: just to be able to sleep at least six and a half hours a night, every night, would be truly wonderful.
A week into the new drug regime, I seem to be managing just that, and am at last waking up each morning feeling refreshed and energetic.
Maybe I’m still recovering from a backlog of weeks and months and years of lack of sleep, or maybe it’s the effect of the drugs, because right now by late afternoon I’m fairly done in. I’m hoping that will resolve itself soon, because it’s not how I want to be nor is it how I am when I’ve slept well.
But even so, I can do (and enjoy) so much more than has been possible of recent months. Long may it last.