Day four: three hours, 36 minutes

This is the first time we have fallen short of the Four Hour Rule.

I went to bed when the little hand was on the 10 (is it the little hand? I have actually forgotten) and was awake at 1.36am.

I’ve tried the old ‘going back to sleep’ thing but it doesn’t work: unlike in bygone days when I could snooze ’til lunchtime. And actually, the early hours are the most creative for me.

On the other hand I am officially not responsible for anything that I might say or do this morning.

(Possible reasons why I didn’t sleep long: I’m now hungry because of eating dinner too early; I had my glass of wine AFTER my meal; I did a work interview too late in the day and was still buzzing a bit when I went to bed.)

People have offered a lot of advice over the years, some of it more useful than others. Although my actual favourite has to be from the (apparently trained) mental health care professional who said the following:

‘Accept you are never going to sleep again, and just get on with your life.’

In no particular order, here are some other bits of counsel that have come my way.

  • Try medication: A big subject. Sleeping pills can be helpful in the short term, but they have diminishing returns. And a particular kind were bad for me, as a psychiatrist briefly had me hooked on benzodiazepines (valium-type drugs), which did make me sleep a bit. However, I also recall standing, shaking, waiting for the chemist to open so I could get my new prescription. Antidepressants are different from sleeping pills. More on all this another time.
  • Don’t try medication: I totally respect those people who cured their insomnia with Jo Malone candles and camomile tea. Mazeltov. Didn’t work for me.
  • Eat more carbs, eat fewer carbs: Eat foods containing tryptophan, an amino acid that apparently turns into the feelgood hormone serotonin. This is then apparently converted into the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep. You can find tryptophan in turkey, nuts and seeds, kidney beans and turnips. Didn’t work for me, and made me feel a bit sick.
  • Get a FitBit: which will prove you do sleep, actually. Except one night FitBit told me I was sleeping when I was down in the kitchen making some toast.
  • Try Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: another big subject. CBT contains a set of techniques ‘to help tackle the racing mind and behavioural strategies to help reset sleeping patterns naturally, without relying on sleeping pills.’ This is according to Sleepio, an online sleep improvement programme sponsored by the NHS. There is solid logic behind CBT and empirical evidence that it works. It didn’t work back in the day when I was really unwell. Perhaps something to revisit?

  • Other suggestions included: lavender oil on my pillow; spray magnesium on your arm (suspiciously white and gloopy); try reiki (too weird); stop taking naps (haven’t taken a nap since I was three.)
  • Give up coffee: give that person an NVQ!

Does anyone have any new advice? Please write in the comments section at the end.

All the suggestions above (except the coffee one perhaps) are worthy blog topics in their own right, which means I may have material to keep this going beyond the first week.

Ok, it’s getting light now. Time for my first cup of (caffeinated) tea.

3 thoughts on “Day four: three hours, 36 minutes

  1. On subject of taking naps; you quite rightly said that you haven’t take a nap since you were 3, but how much better does a 3 year old feel after said nap? Just saying! A few weeks ago, I found that my eyelids had suddenly gained about 3 stone each and it was only 3pm. I also don’t didn’t like the idea of having a nap ( I call them Nana Naps but you can call them Disco Naps if you prefer?) but I Googled it and learned that it’s considered to be a really good thing and can be highly beneficial! So I had an hour long ‘schluff’ and woke feeling lovely and refreshed (this was on a day off, I hasten to add – not advisable at work). The trick is to keep it short, hour and a half max, and although I was worried that it might affect my sleep that night, I figured ‘well, I’m tired NOW so I obviously need it’ and I don’t remember having any issues later! The body needs sleep and I am not convinced that it necessarily matters WHEN you have it, as long as you have it. Obviously the ideal is to sleep for 8 hours at night, but if that’s not working for you, then I say grab it where you can! A power nap gives you more energy so you can do more which means you will then hopefully be mentally and physically tired again when it’s night time!

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  2. Well, as one insomniac to another, I salute you for putting it down in writing like this. I don’t quite dare tot up my sleep quota on a nightly basis, just as I don’t dare read that book that tells us just how much damage this insomnia is doing to us. As I said on FB, I’ve been an insomniac for 20 years now and it’s beyond vile. At my worst, I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep until 4.40am (why??), only to be woken at 7am by a baby. Sheer torture.

    People are well-meaning but I have come close to violence when I hear about how wonderful this essential oil or that tea bag is. All these sticking plasters aren’t the answer. The question is WHY? Why don’t we sleep? Mine is down to too much cortisol running through my system – it’s that simple and, since realising that, I’ve been able to focus on how to ease it and it has improved. Unfortunately there isn’t a pill you can take to lower cortisol – it’s a case of finding a way of getting back into a good stress axis balance. Partly that involves managing insulin (so the diet advice has some grounding in sense) but mainly it’s about stress management (for me). In particular deep abdominal breathing (I breathe as if air is rationed). I am pretty strict about sleep hygiene (phone out of room, laptop off two hours or more before bedtime). No exercising or coffee or alcohol in the evening (bummer for the last one but alcohol does affect my sleep – I go off just fine but it buggers it up later on).
    If all that is in place (and I don’t have anything super-stressy going on in my life) I can get a decent amount of hours (say, six or maybe even seven – halleluyah!) though not all in one dollop, no siree. I tend to sleep for the allotted 60-90 minute cycle and then, ping, awake again. I read about six books a week (in the middle of the night) – insomnia is costly in so many ways.

    What can I add to your list of things that didn’t work for me? Sleeping pills, CBD, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, homeopathy, sleep apps, sleep stories (though the Steven Fry one did work once), guided visualisation, meditation, mindfulness, yoga nidra, herbs, ayurveda, essential oils, antihistamines (some limited success with those), flower remedies, marijuana… the list goes on. When I got a decent mattress that helped a bit, as did getting black out blinds – but those are incidentals really.

    Curiously someone recently sent me a herbal tincture that does seem to be making a bit of difference to the quality of the sleep. Can fish it out if you’re interested but you may have gone totally beyond. And, like I say, such an individual thing.

    Good luck!

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