Insomnia (Inability To Sleep Or Fall Asleep)

PeniG

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As a lifelong insomniac, I say it's time and past time that sleep deprivation got taken seriously as a disorder, and part of that is good solid scientific studies on why it happens and what its effects are.

Discussion of sleep deprivation (whether caused by insomnia or not) can be pursued in this other thread:

Sleep Deprivation
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/sleep-deprivation.801/
 
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littlebrowndragon

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As a lifelong insomniac, I say it's time and past time that sleep deprivation got taken seriously as a disorder, and part of that is good solid scientific studies on why it happens and what its effects are.

My sister became an insomniac as a result of drugs she was given for a serious illness nearly 30 years ago. She is no longer on drugs and, in fact, came off them pretty quickly because she knows that drugs are harmful. However, the point is, since then she has had to drink alcohol at night - wine - in order to get any sleep. And while medical drugs forced my sister on to alcohol, it is on the advice of medics that we are now supposed to cut down our alcohol consumption. Well, I know what those medics can do with their advice.........

Do you have techniques you use to help you sleep? Alcohol, for example?
 

PeniG

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I dislike the taste of alcohol.

I have never, ever, not once in 60 years, found any technique to help me sleep that was any use at all. I sleep, or I don't. Sleep aids like antihistimines, valerian, or melatonin make me fuzzy and thick-headed the next day without putting me to sleep any faster. Cognitive behavioral therapy just makes me angry, as the assumption behind it is that insomnia is a learned behavior, that there's no base reason for not sleeping, you've just convinced yourself you're not going. If a doctor suggests CBT I know he's not taking me seriously and dismissing three-quarters of what I've told him, if he was even listening. I learned I was insomniac in the same way I learned about gravity (which also doesn't give me the same sensations it does other people) because I've had to deal with it ever since I was a baby. Literally - Mom'd put us all down for naps in a row on the bed and when she looked in ten minutes later, my brother and sister would be asleep beside me and I'd be wide awake. Usually singing quietly to myself once I became verbal, because damn, naps are boring if you're not asleep. Cut out caffeine? Yeah, sure, if I don't intake caffeine I am less likely to be awake for 24 hour stretches. Less likely, not guaranteed. And don't I miss caffeinated tea in the morning! Sometimes I drink it anyway if I know I'm in for some unusually strenuous activity.

The problem gets worse if I don't write every day or don't work hard enough, which is a pain in the neck when other health crap prevents me from writing and working. It does seem to indicate that there's some kind of psychiatric (as opposed to psychological) tension involved with the way my brain functions, presumably down to the way it takes in and processes data. My usual way to pass the time while lying in bed not sleeping is to work through scenes in my head, either of a story I'm working on or one I've consumed recently, or something I don't intend to write but am just playing around with daydream style, making changes in a desultory way, trying not to focus too hard on it as that'll put my brain into hot mode and sleep will be further away than ever. Sometimes I'll be exhausted when I lie down and come awake more and more as I lie there, in which case the only thing to do is sit up and read or get a notebook and scribble, or just give up and get up to do something.

For the past several years, in the absence of a soul-sucking day job, I've abandoned any idea of having a schedule. I lie down when I feel like I could sleep and get up when I don't. I've had extended periods of sleeping in the day time and being awake all night, whereas for the first 50 years of my life sleeping in the daytime was flat-out impossible unless I was sick. Sometimes I'll get up when my husband does, between 7 and 8 (more erratic since he started working from home), get both of us breakfast, get on the computer for awhile, and then take a nap around 9:30. Other times I fall asleep for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Sometimes I go to bed at 10:00 PM, sometimes I go to bed at 3:00 A.M. This of course has huge knock-on effects on the rest of my life, as it knocks out all possibility of having an eating schedule, and there's work I can't effectively do if it's dark or my husband is asleep.

Anybody want to study sleep disorders? I volunteer, but you're not going to like the way I skew your results. I'm not fond of it either. But man, if you can crack why I'm like this, you'll probably be in position to make vast strides in the subject!

It's hell on the skinny part of the bell curve but that's where I live.
 

littlebrowndragon

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Anybody want to study sleep disorders? I volunteer, but you're not going to like the way I skew your results. I'm not fond of it either. But man, if you can crack why I'm like this, you'll probably be in position to make vast strides in the subject!

It's hell on the skinny part of the bell curve but that's where I live.

The following is a means of dealing with your insomnia. It will not happen overnight. But by degrees your situation will improve.

First, do not cling to your identity as an insomniac because that just clings to the insomnia. If you believe you suffer from insomnia, then you will suffer from insomnia. So, you must detach yourself from it. Do not “own” the condition in any way whatsoever.

You must develop a strong sense of pride. You must take pride in your failures as well as your successes. Failures teach you more about life, make you stronger and strengthen your character. People to whom success has come easily all their lives just end up as weak and foolish. People who have had to deal with failure and hardship learn a lot about life and about themselves and as a result become strong and wise.

So, take pride in dealing with a lack of sleep for so long. Take pride in your refusal to be treated with CBT. Did you like or dislike your job (assuming you were in paid employment)? If you did, then take pride in how you dealt with that. If you had a bad boss, take pride in how you dealt with him. Take pride in your work, in your family, take pride in how you have dealt with the failures, and successes, whatever those may be.

Deliberately work on your pride by setting aside some time daily to work up your pride and to find forgotten experiences that you can take pride in.

This advice is not just for insomnia. It can be used by anyone for whatever condition they have, be it a specific anxiety, an illness such as cancer or asthma etc, etc. I have used this method to alleviate my bronchitis and asthma. I do not get them anymore.

If you have any questions, then do please ask.
 

Naughty_Felid

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The following is a means of dealing with your insomnia. It will not happen overnight. But by degrees your situation will improve.

First, do not cling to your identity as an insomniac because that just clings to the insomnia. If you believe you suffer from insomnia, then you will suffer from insomnia. So, you must detach yourself from it. Do not “own” the condition in any way whatsoever.

You must develop a strong sense of pride. You must take pride in your failures as well as your successes. Failures teach you more about life, make you stronger and strengthen your character. People to whom success has come easily all their lives just end up as weak and foolish. People who have had to deal with failure and hardship learn a lot about life and about themselves and as a result become strong and wise.

So, take pride in dealing with a lack of sleep for so long. Take pride in your refusal to be treated with CBT. Did you like or dislike your job (assuming you were in paid employment)? If you did, then take pride in how you dealt with that. If you had a bad boss, take pride in how you dealt with him. Take pride in your work, in your family, take pride in how you have dealt with the failures, and successes, whatever those may be.

Deliberately work on your pride by setting aside some time daily to work up your pride and to find forgotten experiences that you can take pride in.

This advice is not just for insomnia. It can be used by anyone for whatever condition they have, be it a specific anxiety, an illness such as cancer or asthma etc, etc. I have used this method to alleviate my bronchitis and asthma. I do not get them anymore.

If you have any questions, then do please ask.

Sorry I ironically have been called into work to work an extra so need to grab a couple of hours, so don't have time to respond fully. (This really screws with sleep).

I was particularly interested in the notion of using alcohol as a way of improving sleep, (it doesn't make you sleep it sedates you and messes with restorative sleep).
 
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PeniG

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Last night, I went to bed at 2:00 A.M. I had finally gotten tired and was sure I would fall properly asleep within two hours and probably be drowsing in thirty minutes. (I know, I know, but that business of falling asleep in ten minutes? Never known it to happen. Ever. Being positive I would fall asleep within two hours is as good as it gets in terms of Attitude when going to bed.) I lay there thinking calm relaxing swirling thoughts and my muscles, all by themselves, got tenser and tenser and tenser and tenser and tenser and tenser and not one of 60 years worth of accumulated stuff-that-sometimes-works did me a lick of good this time. So I gave up around 3:30 because I was fully awake again. Tired, but fully awake. So I went into the study and read for awhile, gave the cats their breakfast around 5:30, came back to bed around 6 as my husband was half-waking. We snuggled and laid contingency plans about his breakfast - he was going in for his second Covid shot around 8 and picking up takeout breakfast on the way back, so this was a good morning for me to sleep through if it came to that. Normally I put his pills together and fix his breakfast when he's ready for it, sometime between 8:30 and 9:30, after he's tested his blood and had his insulin, unless I sleep through all that, which I sometimes do. The clock radio is on my side of the bed because he sleeps through it and I don't, so I turned it off when it went off around 7:00 and about the time he got up I was where I'd originally expected to be at 3:00 when I originally went to bed, so I put the apnea mask back on and by the time he left the house I was asleep enough not to hear him. I slept, I dreamed about rescuing small animals from large snowfalls, I woke a little after 10:00, gave myself some lying-in time to see if I'd go back to sleep, but I was too hungry for that, so I got up, showered, dressed, fixed brunch for me and lunch for my husband, read and washed dishes and did stuff on the computer. About 3:30 I got tired again so I lay down, ready to fall asleep or not, figured I had a 50-50 shot. I didn't. I didn't tense up this time, and it was kind of pleasant lying there, but I kept thinking about things I wanted to do so I got up again.

When will I go to bed tonight? There's no telling. I recently had about six months of going to bed around 10 at night and waking up around 8 in the morning. That was nice. I enjoyed it while it lasted. But it didn't last. Probably having to stay in bed to keep warm during Texas Snowmageddon signed its death warrant, but it'd been fading for awhile before that. I've also had periods that I went to bed at 8 in the morning and slept till 5 in the afternoon, and ones during which I stayed up late, slept less than four hours, and napped for 1-4 hours in the mornings, or the afternoons, or evenings, depending on when I crashed. (There is a specific "crash" sensation which absolutely requires that I lie down, whether I sleep or not. Usually I do; if I don't, at least the crash gets rested out of me. Crashes appear to be random.) When I'm really motivated I can artificially reset myself to rest at night and be relatively active during the day by staying up for 24 hours straight, until I'm so tired my entire body wants to vomit, but it doesn't last and I really do better, in the absence of outside scheduling needs, giving up on all idea of structure, lying down when I feel as if I might be able to sleep and getting up when I seem unlikely to.

It makes planning anything a bitch, though.
 
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stu neville

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My sister became an insomniac as a result of drugs she was given for a serious illness nearly 30 years ago. She is no longer on drugs and, in fact, came off them pretty quickly because she knows that drugs are harmful. However, the point is, since then she has had to drink alcohol at night - wine - in order to get any sleep. And while medical drugs forced my sister on to alcohol, it is on the advice of medics that we are now supposed to cut down our alcohol consumption. Well, I know what those medics can do with their advice.........

Do you have techniques you use to help you sleep? Alcohol, for example?
As a pathological insomniac who is also a recovering alcoholic, I can confidently say that this is bollocks. As Felid said, alcohol may initially knock you out but it then seriously screws with the deeper sleep levels, REM particularly. The body might become rested but the brain doesn't benefit as it should. Since I've been sober my sleep - whilst still poor by usual standards - is immeasurably better in comparison to what it was.

By the way, CBT was my route to sobriety.

As for pride as a tool - I agree that a feeling of self-worth and positivity is an important part of any recovery, but I would challenge the notion that it is all anyone needs to cure themselves of anything at all. Serious illnesses always need a combination of treatments.
 
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