Monday, 12 July 2010

Resetting the clock

I have written before about how my automatic response to stress or distress is to simply get busy. For me, mental and physical activity, and lots of it, is the only way to keep the bad thoughts at bay.

If there is one thing that will set me off on a downward spiral, it is a sleepless night. Lying in bed, fruitlessly trying to get to sleep with thoughts buzzing around my head takes me to a bad place very quickly. So I go to bed tired, read myself to a complete standstill and then sleep.

Mostly it works. And it means that stuff gets done, too, which always makes me feel better. The only problem is that bedtime has gradually got later and later. I will get to about 11 pm and find myself wide awake, and so start doing something like a bit of sewing, writing a letter or tidying a cupboard. Then, before I know it, the clock is reading stupid o'clock and I really ought to get to bed. Even then, I still have to go through all my winding-down rituals and by the time I finally get my head down it is half-past stupid and the birds are thinking about waking up.

All this was fine when I was still not working - I could just get up a little later. As I am now back in my office nearly full-time it is starting to be a problem as I am so tired during the day and my concentration is shot to pieces. My clients have been very understanding on the couple of occasions that I have played the Widow Card, but it is getting rather old as an excuse. It doesn't do a lot for my self-respect either.

I just don't seem to be able to break this cycle and get my sleep pattern back to something that resembles normality. I am never going to turn into a lark, but I really wish I could work out how to get back on track.


  1. Ugh, that sound awful! Poor sleep is torture and really affects the quality of our days. I hope you find a way to improve things, but am afraid I have no useful suggestions at this point. I, on the other hand, react to stress by withdrawing and becoming near-catatonic, sleeping most of my life away and feeling miserable about all that I'm not getting done and how everything falls apart while I'm busy avoiding it.

  2. J have you tried a natural herb relaxant like valerian? Could you start the nightly rituals earlier and at least be in bed reading by a particular time? It may not produce sleep but it will be physical rest.

  3. As you may have read on my blog, I spend my days doing very physical work. I expend a lot of energy on fixing up this old house. I try to stop and have dinner between 7 and 8, and then turn on the moth lights to photograph moths between 10 and 12. However, I'm often so tired by 11 that I have to turn off the lights and call it a day. I sleep very soundly at night. That's not my "normal" me though. If I weren't working on the house, I'd be up all hours of the night - not really from stress, but just because I seem to be such a light sleeper. Anyhow, I guess my only idea would be to try to find something very physically demanding to do for awhile each day - something that really makes you feel very tired and ready to sleep. I'm not much for doing exercise just for the sake of doing it, so I'd probably look for some other way to expend energy - something to work on around the farm, and try to squeeze that into your day - although it sounds like you're already doing enough, if not too much!

  4. @FM: Thanks for the sympathy. A couple of days under the bedclothes sounds rather nice right now!

    @Rose: No, I have never tried valerian. It is something to think about - if I felt sleepy earlier, then it might encourage me to go to bed! Although I suspect it is more a matter of finding a way to break the bad habit.

    @Bev: I am not surprised you are ready for bed early with the amount you have on your plate atm. Although your moth pictures are worth waiting up for - they are absolutely stunning. Exercise just for the sake of it does help. I tend to be a little better on the evenings I go running, but that isn't always possible unfortunately.

  5. Thank you for sharing, I feel the same way and it is hard getting up when I can't get to sleep. I take benadryl because it makes me sleepy this helps me get though the night and to get to sleep earlier.


  6. Hugs to you, Hallie. I am so sorry for your loss and the fact that you are joining us on this awful journey. At this stage you need to do what you can to sleep, so if benadryl works, then go for it. The days are hard enough to cope with - if you haven't slept they are even worse.
    J xx

  7. Terran00:45

    I well remember those days and send big cyber-hugs your way. Looking back, on my part it was just a matter of slogging thru it. I think it took a good couple or three years before normal sleep patterns resumed. There's so much to've received quite a shock to your system. As frustrating as it is, you are doing important work subconsciously. I hope this makes sense.

    It does help to have a bedtime routine. Even if you are still wakeful, you are ├žonditioning yourself to relax and eventually it will become easier to rest/sleep.

    Melatonin is also a natural sleep aid that can be quite helpful. You can find it in the vitamin/ natural supplement section of your grocers or pharmacy.

    Most of all, be good to yourself. The world stays upside down for a while and it takes time to make sense of everything.

  8. Thank you Terran. It is good to know that the sleep thing improves eventually. I think you are right in that I need to fix a bedtime routine - and start it earlier.
    I have a feeling that melatonin isn't available in the UK without a prescription, but it is certainly worth investigating as this may have changed.