Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Insomnia, Causes and Coping

There are only a few typical reasons why a person (a woman in particular) wakes up in the middle of the night.  There is the hormone cycle, that causes your body to freak out because it's trying to work out hormone levels and so causes you to wake up randomly.  There is anxiety or even anticipation, which can happen for both good things and bad things, making you too excited to stay asleep for a full 8 hours.  Lastly, there is the lovely situation when something is wrong with your body - maybe your temperature is off, or your stomach is bubbly - which forces you awake to address the situation.  I am familiar with all of these.  Tonight was just another one of those typical insomniac moments.

I can't help but stumble into them.  I am by nature, an anxious person.  Add my physical quirks that require a very limited range of bodily equilibrium and sleep is a regular disaster.  Insomniac moments tend to occur regularly for me.  It is a rare and much coveted night when I sleep the entire night and wake up feeling refreshed.  In the past few weeks, I generally wake up at least once during the course of the night and in the morning feel like several freight trains ran over me leaving me in a zombie like stupor. I'd like to take a second to point something out that seems a little strange - I wear an eye mask and ear plugs yet when there is a full moon I tend to have more issues with waking up in the middle of the night regardless of whatever else is going on... or is it? Coincidence? I'm just not sure. 

So how can I work through this? What can I do to make this better? I try everything. I exercise.  I do.  That helps a little.  I never ingest stimulants after a certain hour.  As I said before, I have an eye mask and earplugs. I have organic lavender oil and linen spray to put on my temples and on my pillow (which I use periodically but not nightly).  In order to ease my way back to sleep, I keep water, books, tissues, a journal, Sudoku puzzles, several books, and various decongestants in my night stand.  I could do yoga, maybe meditate.  My mother taught me some basic self Reiki which is very relaxing, but I have been horrible about doing it with any kind of consistency which renders my knowledge effectively useless. 

Generally my best plan of attack is the one where I simply do something for a given amount of time until I start to feel tired again.  That's why I have the journal and the Sudoku.  Tonight however I decided to skip my typical tools.  When I woke up tonight I was so awake, thinking about so many things, that I needed the big guns.  If I had Tylenol PM or something stronger I would have taken that.  Even Benedryl would have been an option.  Instead, I fell back to my action plan, but with the ultimate self-stimming tool - the internet.  So I grabbed my laptop and propped it against my knees.  It's nice having my little netbook.  I could even watch movies or TV shows on this thing right now if I wanted to.  I could research random things for the short story ideas I've been knocking around for over a month in my head. I can carry on conversations with other insomniacs, check the NASDAQ, catch up on world news, and plan next week's menu. All of this, I can do in the middle of the night on my lap.  It seems wrong. But then again, we do live in the future.  Things will only get stranger.  Maybe they'll come up with more useful and pervasive ways to address insomnia.  Hell, maybe they'll get rid of the red-eyed wonder altogether.  That would be amazing.  Give that man a Nobel prize!  Crime stats suddenly drop! People are suddenly nicer!  Healthier! Happier!  All for a little sleep...

Alas.  I'll have to settle for sacrificing an hour in the middle of the night to the goddess of sleep.  When my eyes start to itch and my lids begin to droop, I know I've given her enough time to transition back to the world of dreams.  I really like dreams.  They're so much more interesting than mundane living.  I would much rather spend time with them than reading about stock movement.

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