Sleepless in Toronto

For the last week, I have had a lot of trouble sleeping. A lot of people with PTSD have sleep problems – insomnia, nightmares, sudden waking, etc. In the past, this has not be such a problem for me. I have always had a strong startle response, so I’d wake up with any noise, but other than that, I could sleep. And no nightmares, thank goodness.

Now the longest I can sleep is a few hours at a time. I go to sleep, wake up in two or three hours, then am up for an hour, then back to sleep, then again awake after three more hours of sleep. Very annoying. I don’t have bad dreams – I just wake up kind of super alert and blank.

Needless to say, this is exhausting. I’m walking through my days very very tired.

I’m trying not to nap. I looked up sleep in my PTSD workbook, and it says, whatever you do, no naps. Very difficult.

Also I am to get up at the same time each day, and go to bed only when tired. And I’ve been taking supplements for relaxation, and also the old-fashioned (drowsy making) anti-histamines. Nothing is working very well – I can get to sleep, but not stay asleep.

What I figured out yesterday is I think I’m holding too much in and not feeling much. So I lay on the couch, watching TV, and tried to let whatever was waking me up out while I was awake, with some success. I believe I need to feel, and I can’t – I’m in a kind of stuck and frozen state. So I felt a bit, and had some somatic type symptoms that I often get.

I also did some yoga, about half an hour, and tried to let myself feel whatever I could, and let myself groan and shake some. Sounds crazy but I was more relaxed afterwards.

I slept a bit better. Still woke up every few hours, but got back to sleep faster. Today I was still very tired. In the afternoon, I just didn’t care anymore about the ‘no napping’ rule, and crawled into bed. I lay and read my book, and then just lay there, but did not fall asleep. Which is good. Though usually I find it very easy to nap.

Oh sleep, oh sleep, where are you? It’s interesting how obsessed I become with something I usually take for granted, once I no longer have it. Like someone thirsty, or starving. Then water or food is all the mind can picture.

Art: Vermeer, A Maid Asleep

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4 comments
  1. Ellen: I'm on a bit of a sleep-lite phase now although not as bad as in the past.I tend to find that when I'm sleeping poorly like this it's because underneath the surface I'm coming to terms with something and that something has not quite enetered my awareness. I've found that at night is when a lot of healing work happens – when the conscious mind is less able to repress stuff – and that often manifests as this restlessness and blip-sleeping. All I can suggest is that physical rest is a little more important than sleep and so if you are in bed and find you are waking up then don't sweat it but instead try just lying still on your back and breathing slowly – i.e. a typical Yoga death pose. It will help you naturally fall back to sleep sometimes. Sometimes sleep doesn't come but the physical relaxation helps the next day.Mike.

  2. Ellen said:

    Hi Mike,It's good to know you have gone through the same kind of thing and have lived to tell the tale :-)Maybe I am coming to terms with something – the sleeplessness was triggered by my therapy session, so perhaps I am. I will try the death pose. cheers, Ellen

  3. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,Broken sleeping patterns are very exhausting. Like the advice you cited I tend to only go to bed when I am tired otherwise I am lying there for hours restless. Hopefully the routine will pay off and you can get some rest.I did read one bit of sleep advice that may or may not help. That was to listen to the background sounds while you close your eyes. I haven't tried it though.All the bestNechtan

  4. Ellen said:

    Hi Nechtan,It's funny, because a sign I always notice after I have become relaxed, say during meditation, or yoga, or listening to music, is that I suddenly hear background sounds like cars going by. Maybe listening for those sounds deliberately is relaxing too – worth a try. Thanks for the comment

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