Battling the beast

I have been battling this monster as far as I can remember. I wake up with a haze, annoyed and exhausted every morning. It’s engraved and has become part of who I am and has been one annoying companion.

Insomnia is not my friend.

I am no stranger to sleeplessness. Being awake for most parts of the night, tossing and turning become a daunting reminder that insomnia is TORTURE. It’s almost like my days are reversed, I wake up with heavy eyelids and go to bed like I just had a cup of coffee. It’s a strange and lonely place in this world when you are fully wound up and most of the world around you is sound asleep.

At the end of a tiring day, I expect my mind and body to shut down. Instead, I am fully aware of my surroundings all night long. Every single sound magnified a million times over – the wind, the leaves, the insects – everything. It became worse when my job needed me to be on call – the loud pager is like a powerful jolt in my ears, and the anxiety you feel when it actually goes off seems like a strong hiss before I close my eyes. Then reality catches up, you get up and start preparing for the day, albeit, one crucial factor – sleep. Thank you insomnia, I had fun – not!

a girl who can't sleep

When it all started

I have a vague memory of how this came to be. It must have come from somewhere. Could it have been a childhood trauma that perhaps triggered a little snip off my sanity? Probably some bad lifestyle? I really don’t know – all I know is that it’s been ages since I had a deep and restful sleep. I would bemoan the following morning, forcing my eyes shut while I cower under my sheets, falling deeper and deeper into anger and frustration.

Insomnia and Anxiety

I have this inclination to get anxious if things get overwhelmingly chaotic, at least in my perspective. My anxiety has waxed and waned through all of my emotional cycles. When I’m up on cloud nine, I get a few hours of sleep; if not, I’ll be in the rabbit-hole again.

My obsession to do things right makes me nervous and worried. I worry about the outcomes of projects and decisions – what if it fails? What if I don’t succeed? There’s a lot of what-ifs. This in return contributes to overworking my brain 24/7, broadcasting plans, wishes and scenarios keeping sleep beyond my arms reach.

When you fight this inner demon of anxiety and restlessness, it could get emotionally messy. I was trying so hard to eliminate what’s already part of me – that it felt like I am losing myself. There were times where I get easily annoyed with the simplest things, I couldn’t concentrate on work, and I take every single frustration out to my husband, there were months of fights and blame, being annoyed and bad mornings. I had to control this monster!

Related Post: How I jump-start my mornings

Acceptance and Compromise

If you can’t beat it, tame it! Since I can’t make it disappear, I just have to look for some compromise that can help me work around my insomnia. I have learned to pace myself when dealing with this enemy and find what works as I go. Studying what works for me and my habits. I also learned few points or two from talking to doctors and reading articles about conquering insomnia.

My husband is the master of sleeping anywhere and at any condition – being a medical student, he worked for 36 hours straight, got few minutes of power naps and few hours of shallow sleep, he had to adapt. It’s like changing his sleep DNA to where he can quickly shut down after closing his eyes. Superpower! So I learned a thing or two from him.

Having been married to a doctor also has its perks, knowing the occasional over the counter medications, meditation and having just someone who would tell me to stop glaring at the bright LED screen before sleeping would help.

I have never really liked the idea of taking a pill to “shut down”, it’s scary and unnatural, so I opted out of taking medications and find alternative solutions. Amongst all them, these 5 tricks helped me sleep a little better:

Prepare – I have to feel drained by nighttime completely. To do this, I must refrain from taking naps during the day, stay away from sugary drinks and caffeine. I also do not eat at least an hour before my bedtime

No gadgets – I TRY not use devices 30 minutes before hitting the hay. The effect of gadget screen can disrupt your sleep initiation. So I try to avoid using them.

Meditate – I had to learn how to clear my mind. To shut out intrusive thoughts is by far the hardest one for me. The way my mind works is in total conflict with this approach. But when I do this right, it works. I set the foundation by trying to find the most comfortable position – focus on my breathing until every single muscle in my body becomes relaxed and weightless. It starts from my head down to my toes.

White noise – I choose the kind of white noise that reminds me of peace and relaxation. This helps pacifies the sounds of the night that might distract me from getting into the sleep zone. The repetitive audio puts me in a soundproof bubble of tranquil.

Lights – In my personal opinion, light has a profound effect on my sleep process. I prefer to have a nightlight on at all times. I find it reassuring that, when I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, I can see a little of my surroundings and not to confuse me.

Unlikely friend

In general, Insomnia has always had a bad reputation. Having dealt with this, you tend to develop the ability to see another side of insomnia – the good side. Insomnia helped me with things I couldn’t finish in the morning like term papers with closing deadlines, brainstorming on projects, ideas for work and books to finish reading – these are only a few of them. This is another side of an over-thinker in my opinion, that when I do ride the waves of my hyped-up nocturnal thought processes, I end up with an excellent game plan the following morning.

I am not imposing that insomnia is not a debilitating disorder – because it truly is. What I’m trying to say is a night or two of wakefulness comes with a smidgen of goodness. It all boils down to attitude and perspective. The way you see the good in the bad is what makes something tolerable.

A girl who STILL can’t sleep

Regardless of what I have said, I do still have bouts of sleepless nights, I still wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, and I still feel tired and exhausted in the morning, but I have already come to terms with this unlikely friend of mine. I’d like to think I have the best of both worlds. The world where I walk with people and the other where I swim in a sea of contemplation in darkness and of course, my husband’s snore. Despite the fact that it’s still there and it might never go away, one thing I know for sure – insomnia will never get the best of me.

“3 am is the best friend I never had – it knows most of my secrets.”

Related Post: How I jump-start my mornings

Are you having sleepless nights too?

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