Somewhere I read that there are 3 million cases of insomnia in the United States alone every year. While I'm sure that everyone experiences an episode of sleeplessness once in a while, there are many of us who find it to be an almost chronic condition.
Insomnia, just to be clear here, is defined by having difficulty falling asleep, staying sleep, or waking up too early. It is not depression, though can be one symptom of a depressed state. Advice and a thorough physical by your doctor should rule this out.
Leaving you with the not-terminal nor life-threatening nighttime insomnia.
Frustrating, exhausting, and puzzling as to what causes this when you are tired and want to sleep.
And the older I am the more I wonder why the Sleep God hates me.
Articles say that insomnia affects more women than men. And it affects older people more than the young. So there...hits a lot of us for two unchangeable reasons, We're female and getting older.
So I'm writing this post to try and make your own insomnia easier to live with. I speak from experience on ways to try and ease the frustration of being awake when you really really want to be sound asleep.
A number of situations are thought to contribute to this frequent wakefulness. Not always proven, but highly suspect.
Number one is genetics. In my case, I blame my mother's genes for keeping me awake. And my sister, Marlene, is awake often enough in the middle of the night that she suggested we call and talk to fill up an hour or so. Same genes from Mum, you see.
Other reasons are known to be frequent shifts of work time. My sister, T-Lou and her husband both worked night shifts, she in a hospital and he as a prison guard. They both had insomnia for a week after any change in their daytime sleep routine, such as a mandatory weekend family reunion.
Other reasons suspected are a bit harder to deal with like work stress in general, or problems at home, something temporarily traumatic. This is harder to pin point but can become easier to live with over time.
If any of these reasons fit you then you are not alone. In addition to 3 million fellow insomniacs, history has recorded quite a few.
Many have mentioned their own long nights chasing sleep: Abraham Lincoln, Vincent Van Gogh, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, and Winston Churchill whose insomnia merged into the daytime depression he called his "black dog."
Some things you might do to forestall hours awake are improving your sleep habits in keeping to a bedtime routine and crawling in to bed at the same time every evening. Others are better fitness in general, meaning more exercise, even just walking around the block in the evening.
Our mother's solution was to sit up in bed reading a dictionary as she loved knowing derivations and precise meanings of words. This habit made her our go-to for vocabulary homework, keeping us lazy little scholars.
My own middle of the night habit is a small glass of milk, sometimes with Bailey's Irish Cream, which I am not recommending here because its whisky wallop is stronger than the soothing cream. Great stuff, but not if habitual. I sit up and read a good book until my boozy head droops down over it.
Sleeping pills are also not recommended for longterm use. And always with a doctor's advice. Having any physical problems cared for may also help you sleep better. And being aware of the effects of any medications you are taking and discussing with your doctor might help avoid recent insomnia.
Avoidance of using phone or computer, any electronic thingies, before bedtime is said to be better for your brain to slide through theta brain waves, alpha, and reach its sound asleep delta level.
More suggestions and explanations are offered at this Mayo Clinic website.
The simple truth about insomnia is that you must find an easy way to live with it or around it that works for you. If a general improvement in your overall health and routines doesn't give you better sleep, then perhaps the best way to deal with it is to just stop worrying about it.
I do understand how you would like to sleep worry free like children and puppies every night. But if that doesn't happen no matter what you do, then lean into wakefulness as part of your life and make the best of it.
Remember if it is not every night then it is not hurting you to sit up and read for an hour or so. Have some milk or a little glass of something more adult and stay calm, thinking good thoughts, like gratitude for your otherwise healthy life.
I know this sounds Pollyanna-ish, but gratitude has a beneficial effect on your mind and body, perhaps letting you relax into an acceptance of insomnia as an infrequent part of your life.
Effortless and unimportant!