So, you’ll have to forgive me. This post is, by its very nature going to be a little “me” centered. And possibly, at times, slightly incoherent. With a high probability of misspelled words. (though I’m counting on auto-correct to handle most of that. (and thank god for autocorrect, right?))
My sleep has been very broken up recently. And that’s really saying something since I have a 5 month old at home and she’s not the cause. No, she’s sleeping a solid 10-12 hours a night. I’m down to roughly… 3. Maybe 4 or 5 if it’s a good night. But those 4 or 5 are in 2 hour stretches, broken up by fitful waking and a lot of tossing and turning. I’ve not seen 3am this frequently since I was pulling all-nighter’s in college. But it’s been ongoing for about 3 weeks now and that’s long enough for me to (finally) accept that I’m in a bad-sleep-holding-pattern and I’m going to have to do something about it.
Sleep deprivation – whether it’s an inability to fall asleep, waking throughout the night, or waking too early – can, and often does, have multiple causes. An old lumpy mattress? Yep, that could cause some discomfort. Dealing with pain or illness? Mhmm, your sleep isn’t going to be as sound as you’d like – even though that’s probably when you need it most. A snoring partner or bed-hog pet? Don’t get me started – we’ve all been there. Also, in case it’s not readily clear: having an espresso an hour before bedtime probably won’t help your cause.
But sometimes the cause of our sleep issues aren’t as clear as environmental interference. One of the greatest causes of sleep disturbance is stress. And know what makes you feel even more stressed? Only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Trust me. It can be an endless cycle. But worrying about things that go on in our life – concerns about work, relationship issues, did I remember to set the alarm/pack my children’s lunch/switch the laundry? – is a common occurrence. When these things start to stress us to the point of interfering with our sleep, though, then it’s time to show that stress who’s boss.
So start by creating a bedtime routine for yourself. Make sure it’s a routine that supports relaxation and doesn’t serve to stimulate your brain. (You know, in case you’re the type to lay awake thinking endlessly on all those above-mentioned things.) Take a bath, listen to soothing music, read a book – whatever it is that puts you in a calm and peaceful space. Familiar with the power of meditation and guided imagery? Go for it. Use purposeful breathing as a means of slowing your heart rate and let the rest happen naturally. Make sure you’re starting your process early enough to be ready for sleep by the time you want to be asleep. And make it consistent so your body gets used to the routine and it becomes habit.
But, wait, that’s not enough, you say? Okay. I get it. That last paragraph was really the entry-level approach to dealing with this issue. And if you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still lying in bed an hour later, then get up and find another way. Maybe you try journaling all those thoughts that are endlessly cycling through your mind. Maybe you email your therapist and see if you can make an appointment to sort through some of your stuff. (it’s okay, we all have stuff.) Or maybe you call your doctor.
If you’ve been experiencing an ongoing sleep disturbance for 2 or more weeks, it may be time to reach out to a professional. There are many organic causes of sleep disturbance and many ways of treating it as well. Maybe you consider a supplement or medication. Maybe there’s an underlying issue like sleep apnea. Other underlying medical conditions, like anxiety disorders and clinical depression, can also be a contributing cause to disturbed sleep. A purposeful approach that integrates your medical professional of choice, your therapist, and maybe a nice cup of sleepy-time tea isn’t a bad place to start. Trust me, this isn’t the time to google-diagnose yourself. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day – or night.