Friday, March 14, 2008

Counting sheep - FP's insomnia soundtrack

Macbeth knew all about insomnia. From the moment he knocked off old Duncan, sleep became a serious issue in the Scottish royal household. Just after the deed, he hadn't even had time to wash the blood off his hands, when the panic attacks were already setting in:
Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep," the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast...

And his good lady wife, having egged him on to top the old man, starts having sleep issues of her own, as she becomes a white-faced somnambulist desperately trying to wash the blood from her own hands. I suppose Shakeaspeare was getting at the fact that sleep is a kind of barometer of the soul, of the inner workings of the mind. Now I wouldn't consider myself to be an insomniac. Not really. But when I have huge amounts of work, as now, I often annoyingly find myself waking up at four in the morning going through lists of stuff and planning strategies to deal with it all. Listening to this week's list, I realise that I've sub-consciously created the musical equivalent of a duck-down pillow. It's music to try and slumber off to. Except that by the time we get to the Dutronc song, I seem to have given up trying to sleep...
But what we really want to know is: Who are the real insomniacs out there among you? And how do you deal with it? Any tips on getting back to sleep?

free music


goneforeign said...

You don't need to go back to sleep, you woke up 'cos you've had enough. I wake up every night between 1 and 3, I then spend the most creative time of my day laying there thinking and then I get up, often between 4 and 5am. I spend a couple of hours reading online and then by 6.30 - 7 I'me ready to start it all again. Take advantage of those first hours of wakefulness, they're the best hours of the day.

scarymonster said...

I can't agree with GF, I'm afraid.

I often wake up after three or four hours sleep, usually famished and eventually have to get up and have breakfast. I avoid the studying and work-related activity that's probably engendered the overactive state of mind - latterly, this has involved 'spilling and other work-avoidance type surfing.

I usually manage to get back to sleep about two hours later, but about 12 hours later, exhaustion catches up and (if I'm not at work) have a nap for a couple of hours.

So tips would be most welcome, 'spillers.

And FP, an instant 'favourites addition' on deezer, thanks. Phats and Small sounds nicely very "Teardrop"y and (being a Mazzy Star fan, but not a Chemicals one, that Hope Sandoval track is a wonderful discovery).


nilpferd said...

If I remember the advice of the nilpferd matriarch, a psychotherapist who spent a while working in the health practice at a university, you need to plan ahead if you want a good night's sleep.
Give yourself a work-free, relaxing hour before putting your head down, and don't have any distractions in the bedroom- it should be for sleeping only. (Sex is ok, of course- actually recommended as it will relax you.) Stick to regular bedtimes, make sure the room is well ventilated and cool, the pillow comfortable, the bedding fresh. Your body responds to light and dark, so make sure you are out and about during the daytime and dim or reduce room lighting in the evening before you prepare for bed. Cut out stimulants in the evening such as coffee, instead investigate herbal teas or milk drinks to get you feeling drowsy. If you have recurring pain which is keeping you awake, see a doctor or dentist.
Work habits are also important- set yourself clear deadlines and stick to them. Procrastination often leads to worries which plague you through the night, you need to give yourself a break when it's time to sleep.
If you don't sleep alone, coordinate your sleeping patterns as far as possible with your partner, so that one isn't waking the other up by coming to bed late, or watching TV in the other room. Habit is important- once you find a routine which helps you sleep, ie a warm drink and half an hour of relaxing music, or a bath- then stick to it. Lying in bed, check your body to make sure your muscles are relaxed. Are you gritting your teeth? Is your tongue jammed against the roof of your mouth? Often, in anticipation of yet another sleepless night, your body will be tightened up. Go from head to toe, tense every muscle you can identify and then relax it. Check that your whole body is completely relaxed when you're finished.
The problem can also be stress related, work, study or relationship concerns plaguing you through the night. Don't be afraid to address these problems if necessary, often talking to a counsellor can be of enormous help. A problem shared, etc.

Frogprincess said...

Stunning post from Nilpferd - all very logical advice. I've been turning to Ovaltine for a hot soothing drink lately but I admit that last night I sloshed back 2.5 glasses of very good Margaux and have had a brilliant night's sleep.
GF I realise that as the years go on - we actually need less sleep and am prepared for that to happen. Good advice from you to not necessarily regard it as a bad thing...Who knows, eh? Perhaps my "Oscar winning screenplay" will be written in the wee hours of the morning.....?
Scary I knew knew knew you would like the Phats and Small track. Yeyyyyyy!

glasshalfempty said...

I'm delighted to say I'm almost always asleep as my head hits the pillow, and sympathise with those who don't enjoy this luxury. I've read that if the cause of wakefulness is a churning mind (work or whatever) then keeping your eyes open in the dark helps turn off the churn, and get you to the 'can't keep your eyes open' stage. Also, if you're in need of a nap in the day, make sure it's short - more than 15-20mins and you'll go too deep and wake up feeling worse, but a short nap is very reviving. And they do say alcohol makes sleep quality worse, fp...

goneforeign said...

Re. my comments above, I'm sure they're personal and that everyone's different. I endorse the glass of wine, that always makes me dozy and it's true that your body 'knows what to do': regardless of what I said about waking in the wee hours, I just woke up at 7.45 after going to bed at 10, my body knew there was some 'catching up' to be done. Many years ago I bought a bus and converted it into a travel van, I'd never done anything like that before, I had to deal with wiring, plumbing, welding, fabricating etc; it took every spare minute for two years and I didn't hardly sleep. Every night my mind was so active that I'd lay there for hours thinking, designing and planning, but mother nature worked it out, I'm sure that there must have been some long sleeps in there.

goneforeign said...

Just a p.s.
I used to worry about insomnia until I learned to enjoy it and take advantage of it.

Mnemonic said...

If you fall asleep on the sofa watching tv, so long as you don't need to take your contact lenses out and you are warm enough, shut your eyes again straight away and stay there the rest of the night.

If you are definitely awake, one technique is to get up for half an hour and then repeat your going-to-bed rituals (clean teeth, make ovaltine, lock the doors, whatever). This one is from my old psychiatrist.

Alcohol, a couple of glasses good, lots of alcohol bad (you are probably unconscious rather than asleep and will come round within about 3 hours).

If, over several months, you fall asleep OK but wake up deathly tired at 2 or 3 in the morning, too tired to read or get up but wide awake, only to fall asleep again at 5, this may be a symptom of clinical depression and should be treated with your drug or therapy of choice.

steenbeck said...

I've been meaning to respond to this but I've been too tired. Malcolm has his third (!) stomach virus of the winter, up all night with the puking. Today I'm a wreck and he's chipper as hell. I agree with most things everybody's said--milk (Warm or cold), sex, a reasonable amount of wine, all good; caffiene, too much wine, bad.

The one thing I've discovered, which is probably common knowledge, is not to fret about not sleeping. I used to panic that I wouldn't be able to function the next day, but I always can. And, as goneforeign suggested, I try to think about pleasant things, or something creative I'm working on. And I've actually grown to like that moment when I can feel myself slipping into a dream, even if I slip out of it a moment later.

Frogprincess said...

Again, very sound theories. I like the idea of getting up and doing the going to bed routines. I may try that. I didn't want to worry anyone - I just have, due to rather exceptional circumstances, the exact double of my usual workload until mid April. It'll all calm down by May. I'm going to Cannes so I'll try and bring you "all the dirt n' all the filth n' all your favourite gossip from the festival"

DarceysDad said...

Well I'm here at my usual time, and yes, I'm a sufferer. Stress plays its part, (I don't cope well with it), but I've had a lifelong inability to fall asleep quickly even once in bed. Drove my parents insane when I was a kid.

Some small additions to the suggestions above, some from experience and some from medical advice:

- Turn the alarm clock face away from view. Watching the passage of time is apparently VERY counter-productive.
- "No caffeine after three; no food after tea" [That's the Northerner's evening meal, not the mid-afternoon cucumber sandwiches btw]. I'm pretty good at following the first, appalling at holding to the second!
- Temazepan is a BBBAAAAAADDD thing! Threw half of my one&only prescription down the toilet. I'll live with the lack of sleep, thanks!!
- Lullaby playlists can work, but only if you're sleeping in the spare room, natch! Anyone got any tips on how to remove the earpieces (before your eardrums bleed) without waking up again?
- And my final strange one that works a treat for me: play something mindnumbingly boring on your mobile. From experience, shoot'em-ups or Street Racer with sound effects = bad; original low-tech Tetris or Snake on silent = good. Seriously, I'm heavy-lidded inside ten minutes.

S'pose I ought to go try it now, got a long day's decorating on Sunday.

G'night all.

Becca said...
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