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Recipe for insomnia

Take a handful of any of the following irritations, and stir (and toss, and turn).

- My arm is squished if I lie like this.

- My hip hurts if I lie like that.

- The pillow is blocking my nostril.

- My shoulder is too cold.

- My feet are too hot.

- I should get up and go to the bathroom. No I shouldn't. Yes I should. No I shouldn't.

- The inside of my nose itches.

- I'm so hungry my stomach is eating itself.

- My mouth is dry. My teeth are sticking to my lips. I should get a drink of water. No I shouldn't. Yes I should. No I shouldn't.

- My hair is poking me in the neck.

- My ear is bent funny against the pillow.

- My nightshirt is twisted around me too tight.

- I'm preoccupied by those emails I need to answer.

- I'm preoccupied by thinking about illness, injury, and death.

- I'm preoccupied by story ideas I don't spend enough time working on.

- I'm preoccupied by the insulting things people said to me five, ten, or fifteen years ago.

- I'm furious because I'm going to be too tired tomorrow to get anything done.

- Furious. Argh.

- A bird is singing outside. It's only 4:00 a.m. Argh. Hate the bird.

...And this says nothing about sleep disruptions caused by others, such as toddlers. Then, at least, there's a reason I'm awake. But there is nothing more agonizingly frustrating than lying awake for no good reason while the clock ticks away the minutes and hours. 12:48...1:15...2:09...3:34...4:02...and you bargain for less and less time. I'll be all right if I can just get six hours of sleep...or five...or three and a half...or two...

I've been this way off and on for most of my life. The worst spell was in college, when, for no apparent reason, I didn't sleep at all for about a week. These days I usually do get at least a few hours even on the worst nights, and the worst nights are no more than a few times a month. But I'd rather get seven or eight hours every night, thanks.

I don't want meds. At least, not really, not regularly, not so I rely upon them. Does anyone have other sleep-inducing tricks? Acupressure points? Breathing techniques? Melville novels?

All other insomniacs out there, come here. Group hug. I'm sorry I didn't come out earlier. It's nothing to be ashamed of, except maybe once in a while when we turn into total crazy people and beat our heads against the pillow, or kick the mattress repeatedly with our heels, or throw ourselves upon the floor in a frustrated heap. But sleep deprivation is a form of torture, you know.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Marilyn vos Savant, aka Ask Marilyn, recommends creating an imaginary house which you explore every night. Create a layout and wander around the house and decorate it. I can't say if this works or not because I fall asleep almost immediately and only have about 2-3 sleepless nights per year. Go ahead and hate me, it's okay.
May. 19th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
She's a smart lady. I'll try that. Might at least give me some decor ideas. :)

I won't hate you as long as you recognize how fortunate you are. Meanwhile I'll try to recognize my own good luck in having 20/20 vision or what have you.
May. 20th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
I do realize I'm lucky, yes. And I am blind as a bat without my glasses, so there you go.
May. 18th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. Well, at least we know we'll never sleep together. ;)

Seriously, I've gotten slightly better at relaxing myself to sleep, but I'm still not good at it. Sometimes I'll become aware that I'm holding myself so rigidly that I'm almost lifting half my body off the bed. So I'll relax - and find, thirty seconds later, that I'm doing it again. And my shoulders hurt, and there are little itches all over me, and I can't stop my brain churning, and . . .

Well, sounds like you know what I mean.
May. 19th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
Hee. Yeah, definitely sounds familiar. It's like I want to get back at my sleeplessness by getting really tense and mad at it. Which is so totally not going to work.
(Deleted comment)
May. 19th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
Spousal benefits are all well and fine, dear, but if you exercise them at 2am because you can't sleep, you tend to run into the "two cranky people" problem the next day.

I've never had a particular problem with insomnia; when I do, it's the racing mind problem -- I meditate with slow deep breaths, counting my breaths backwards from 100. If I miscount, or find myself thinking about anything other than the count, I start over. Counting backwards is just involving enough to engage my brain, without being too mathematical (e.g. counting backwards by 7s) to be distracting. If I ever managed to get down to 0 before falling asleep, I would get up and do something else.

I know some people swear by melatonin supplements as a sleep aid. (I've no idea how well it works, in general, or if there have been wide-ranging trial studies.)
May. 19th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
I'm betting most guys wouldn't mind being woken up for sex, but most women *would*. I know I've been somewhat grumpy about it in the past, though hopefully without being a total shrew. Still, can't be held accountable for my attitude at 3 a.m. :)

I'm pretty sure my insomnia's almost entirely mind-related. I'll give the math a try. I think I have some melatonin around too, from a couple years back, if numbers fail!
May. 19th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
It's all sex and alcohol with you heathens! :) Sounds like a good party actually, but...

Sex seemingly works as a sleep inducer for 100.0% of men in the world, but not as many women. Not me, at least, or not reliably. My body tends to view it as exercise: a nice perk-me-up. *sigh*

I should use the change of venue more often, though. I'm way too stubborn about lying there and toughing it out.
May. 18th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
I do that relaxing thing where I try to relax (to the point that I don't really feel it any more) one body part at a time. I start with my left big toe and work my way throught the body, finishing with facial muscles, counting ten deep breaths per body part. If it works, I'll usually be asleep by the time I've reached the right thigh. If it doesn't, it may help to turn over and start again.

This is useful because it helps relaxing the mind as well as the body, but, as you know, sometimes sleep just won't happen.
May. 19th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
It does often help when I try to relax and do some mindless, soothing, repetitive actions like lifting and lowering my hand, or moving my toe back and forth. I just get too annoyed and grumpy to commit to doing it sometimes. Must work on the anger. :)
May. 18th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so sorry! I've had nights like that before, and it's absolutely miserable. I've started taking melatonin pills, on occasion, and have found that they've helped a bit. *hugs*
May. 19th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks, dearie! I might go back to trying melatonin if I expect a bad night (or had one the day before). It seemed to work decently well when I tried it a few years ago--not a total knockout drug, which is good, as I don't quite want to commit to that...
May. 18th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Your list made me laugh, but only out of recognition, not because I'm a heartless sadist or anything.

*hugs* I'm pretty much recovered, but I still get a sleepless night every so often. I don't have any relaxation techniques, but I second the person who said get up and go somewhere else. It helps to own up to the insomnia as soon as you know it's there: don't lie there pretending that you're going to sleep, that just prolongs the misery. It's hard with a partner and kids, but get up, go somewhere else, read, do something quiet and relaxing (not TV) and gradually you'll hoodwink your body into sleep - just like you can hoodwink a baby to sleep by singing or walking up and down.

Also: no caffeine after 6pm, and just less caffeine during the day generally. It works wonders.

Also: ever since I heard somewhere that hot milk has Speshul Kemikuls in it that trigger sleep, I make a mug of hot milk. It might be psychosomatic but I find it works.

If all else fails, I second the Jack Daniels.
May. 19th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
Hot milk + honey = win

I don't love the taste, but it knocked me the hell right out. My fiance gave it to me, and since then, I've referred to it as "Sneaky Hippie Brew." (His parents were/are hippies.)
May. 19th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
Sounds yummy to me. I'll try it as a treat if nothing else!
May. 19th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Hey, I hoped to get a chuckle of recognition, so that's good! I really do need to get up and read for a while at such times. I am way too stubborn about lying there and trying to be still, and *will* my way into sleep. Which only makes me more angry when it doesn't work.

Maybe milk spiked with Jack Daniels? :)
May. 19th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
I'm functioning on about 5 hours sleep on a good night lately. Even if I manage to get to sleep by 10:30 pm, Colin wakes me up by screaming "Mommy!"at 12:30 am because a.) he has peed out of his diaper, b.) he wants a drink and will pee out of his diaper at- say-2:30 am or c.) he wants to say "Hi! Get up!" snuggle snuggle "Shh! Quiet time! Nighty!" and snuggle some more. Then, he wakes up at about 5:00 am and we have quiet time together until we wake Kevon up at 5:30.

On days I can't sleep my mind races in the manner you described here. I hate it, and admittedly used to legally self medicate in various forms (that is before I had Colin and had to be on my toes all the time). The root to my restlessness is real/imagined anxiety so I have no real "set" cure. A routine of daily yoga can help with the anxiety (and it is something you can do with a toddler). Perhaps that could help.
May. 19th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Ooof. Sorry to hear that, though I did smile in recognition. Zach feels the need to climb on me a few times a night (his bed is up against ours; our house is ill situated at the moment for him to have a separate room, though hopefully a remodel will fix that one of these months...). So even though I spend nine or ten hours a day *in* bed, I am lucky to get those seven or eight hours of sleep.

I may just go ahead and try melatonin. Should be gentle enough not to knock me out completely. Yoga is a good thought too--I do feel more relaxed on the days when I take the time to do some stretches. Must make it a routine.
May. 19th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
*hug* Insomnia is the pits. Can't help you with a lot of the minor (or not-so-minor) physical discomforts, but I've managed to tame a lot of the preoccupied-brain issues (I usually put them all under the heading "My brain won't shut up and let me sleep") by memorizing poetry and reciting it in my head to keep my brain from thinking about anything that will result in a real train of thought. The harder the poem to keep straight and get right, the better this works for me. Rudyard Kipling's "If" still holds the crown for putting me to sleep the fastest because sorting out which lines belong to which stanza and trying to figure out of I've missed any sections pretty effectively kills any chance of becoming preoccupied with anything.
May. 20th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
"My brain won't shut up and let me sleep" is a very accurate way to put it! I may try recitations of stuff I once memorized. Even lame songs from the late '80s.
May. 19th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
I would suggest a clinical hypnotist (they work in neurology departments). They can create a tape for you to listen to as you fall asleep. It may take some work, but it might help.

The other one that works for me that I read in an article is to picture gold numbers on a black background and visually count down from 300.

I, personally, have nothing against meds (then again, my dad's a doctor). And also, I don't have insomnia. I have horrific nightmares and night terrors. Taking drugs makes them go away. So, therefore, drugs are my friends. But that's me. ^_^;;
May. 20th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
Hmm, interesting ideas. I may actually try some of the gentler meds, just for those bad nights. And yikes, nightmares are awful. Being afraid of sleep is at least as bad as not getting it!
May. 28th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
I've had trouble with insomnia, and can suggest a few things.

You might start by making sure you don't have any medical problems that are interfering with your sleep (trouble breathing, bouncing blood sugar, chronic pain can all cause sleep problems).

Make sure that your mattress and pillows are comfortable. Experiment with using extra pillows or get one of those body pillows (I love mine).

Try a hot bath and a warm drink (either heated milk or an herbal tea like chamomile) before bed, and try to keep your bedroom cool. That should help you relax, and having your body temperature drop more is supposed to promote deeper sleep. It may require some experimentation though (I don't sleep well if I'm too warm or too cold).

Melatonin can help, as can herbs like valerian. Make sure you get them from a reliable source (I like Trader Joe's).

Do hide the clock, and try to get rid of any other distractions.

Writing exercises can help deal with worries and irritating thoughts, and yoga is great too. I've also used hypnosis CDs for relaxation.
May. 31st, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)
Good thoughts--thank you. Yeah, temperature definitely plays a part. Our room is hard to control for that, as it's in a finished attic with little insulation, so it's usually either a bit too warm or too cold. I'm pretty sure the rest is all in my head, so mental relaxation of sorts is probably my ticket. That, and bright lights in the morning, dim lights at night, etc. :)
Jun. 11th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
This is awesome. Not awesome for you, of course...but for reading.

Incidentally, your mollyringwraith journal came up as a result of a google search I did for a quote from Neil Gaiman (about feeling betrayed by the allegorical aspect of the Narnia books). While I didn't find that, I've found and friended you.)

:) Lori
Jun. 12th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
Insomniacs unite, and bitch and moan. :)

I came up on Google that way? Cool! That reminds me, I ought to add Gaiman to my interests list. Anyway, I friended you back. Nice to meet you!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )