I started dealing with insomnia in 1993. For those who haven’t ever dealt with it, it’s about like you’d imagine. I could be exhausted, but I still couldn’t fall asleep. After a couple of months, it could last until the next morning. I was a missionary at the time, and my mission president happened to be a doctor. He said “sleep when you can.” That was a relief, because I was big on guilting myself at the time.
When both my kids were small, and in their first year of life, I would get so “jacked up” trying to stay awake during the day with them that I would end up like a robot but still unable to sleep. I’d read about Scandinavian royalty years ago that had a strange disease that would leave them unable to sleep, so eventually they’d die of exhaustion. (So comforting, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone???)
Somehow, at least for me, I think it paired up “nicely” with the extreme fatigue that started around the same time. Also while a missionary, I fell asleep on my bike several times. I was so tired once while riding home with my companions on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, France, that I’d stop my bike for just a second, put my head down, and sleep a bit. Then I’d start out again.
Both during my divorce (about 10 years ago) and ever since, if I’ve tried to do too much, I end up exhausted, and at least a dozen times I’ve ended up sleeping for more than 30 hours at a stretch. Anytime I woke, I’d still be what the French would call “crevé,” or spent and exhausted, as if it were still 3am and I’d been hit by a truck the day before. This started again when I tried to go back to school three years ago.
A doctor tried to put me on a sleep medication (that I don’t remember the name of) during my divorce that knocked me out for 24 hours and made me feel glued to my bed and unable to get up. Obviously that didn’t work. Since that time I’ve been too afraid of trying any sleep meds. Finally, last April (2014), when my doctor was changing my meds, I asked if we could just try a sleep medication. So, he did. And it’s worked. I still get insomnia sometimes, but nothing like the past 20 years. It was hard to get used to, and my right eye twitched for the first couple of weeks, then stopped. I felt like a zombie the first week.
Somehow the last time I saw him I either misplaced my prescription for my sleep med, or I forgot to ask him for one. Sometimes he calls it in instead. I had to do without it this past weekend, but I was okay. In the past, if I didn’t have it, I didn’t sleep. But I did sleep. I was….normal? 🙂 Then when I was at the clinic on Wednesday, I found out that they had accidentally printed it out at a different clinic. So I decided to try to go without it until my next appointment. Oops. I didn’t sleep last night. My days and nights are mixed up again.
So, the classic way to get over it when you mix up your days and nights is to either
- After being up all night, stay up all day to, then in theory you’re back to normal
- After being up all night, sleep through the day and then the next night. Then you’re back to normal.
In theory, these work pretty well. Of course, even when they work, your body is a little confused and you feel sort of funky. The second (sleep all day and all night) has worked for me when I’ve been extremely tired. The first has been the strategy that’s worked best for me when my mind is just off. Unfortunately, sometimes (like last week or the week before, forgot which it was) after being up all night and all day, I still couldn’t sleep the next night: then when I feel asleep the next morning, I had really intense nightmares all day.
However, I blame myself for this for not keeping better track of whether or not I had a refill for my sleep medication. And who knows, maybe I’ll fall asleep within a few hours. I’m not going to try until I feel sleepy, though. Ever lay in bed for an entire night without sleeping? Not fun. Better to get out of bed and do something.