The sleep nightmare

It was about four years ago that I started having sleep problems. I’ve never had a problem getting to sleep at night and I never really wake up in the night. What I do is wake up really, really early. And I can’t get back to sleep.

I’ve always been an early bird or a morning person, even as a teenager. Getting up early with kids was never a problem for me. But somehow they stopped getting up early and I carried on. In fact, I got earlier and earlier.

I suspect that when my sleep problems first started, I was probably waking up at about 5.30am. Believe me, I would LOVE to wake at 5.30am now. It varies a bit, but 5 would be about normal for me now. And every now and then I go through a bad patch and it gets earlier.

Right now, I’m in a bad patch.

Altering the clocks was a nightmare for me. I was waking at 3.50am, but after about 10 days it settled to around 4.45am, which is still ridiculously early. I wake at 4.45 as regular as clockwork. It doesn’t matter if I got to bed at 10.30pm or midnight, I will still wake at 4.45.

Now I’m stuck in an even worse pattern. For the last few mornings I’ve woken at 3.30 on the dot, then dozed until about 4.10. And then I can’t get back to sleep!

Lying there wide awake, knowing you should be asleep, is a really miserable feeling. I used to find counting in my head helped me to go back to sleep, but that doesn’t work any more. I should try reading a few pages, to see if tiring my eyes out will make me tired enough to go back to sleep. But I don’t have a bedside lamp as there’s no socket by my bed. I’ve asked for a battery operated lamp for Christmas.

When I was waking at around 5.30, I didn’t really worry. Some people just need less sleep than others and I’m clearly one of those people. I like getting up early. I find the time first thing in the morning to be the best time of the day.

But I’ve seen articles and TV programmes over the last few months that say EVERYONE should get eight hours. A lack of sleep is like a ticking health time bomb. Margaret Thatcher and Ronal dReagan both prided themselves on only sleeping three or four hours and they both got dementia. This article I read, from someone who has studied sleep for over 20 years, think there’s a definite connection.

But HOW am I supposed to get eight hours? Or even six?

I suspect not running is a problem as I’m less tired physically. I do walk instead, but don’t cover anything like the distances. My work has been incredibly busy recently, which means I’ve only been managing one 1.5 mile walk a day (some days when it’s quieter I will manage three walks). I’m still getting over 10,000 steps with all my general rushing around. But, for me, that’s not enough. I’m a 20,000 steps kind of person.

I suspect the lack of sleep is also making my work harder to cope with. I’ve wanted to be busy for so long. All through last autumn and winter and into spring I had very little work. Some months I just worked for two clients and was earning barely half what I needed to earn. Now my work is really busy and I find myself working for four or five clients a day. It’s what I’ve been waiting for, but I feel overwhelmed by it. Because I’m tired.

I need to find a solution. I just don’t know what. I think I should have a routine of sleeping in the spare room for a couple of nights a week. My first night went well, with me waking at 5.25am. In my world, that’s practically the middle of the day!  And I must look into meditation. Although I’m terrible at relaxing, so I will probably struggle with it.

I do all the stuff you’re supposed to do – I don’t have caffeine and I don’t go on screens in the evening, I have fairly regular bedtimes and getting up times, but still something isn’t right.

spare room, bed, sleep, the sleep nightmare, insomnia

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. That sounds really grim. Have you looked into going to a sleep clinic? One of my friends here had a lot of success with changing her sleep habits that way. And there are always medical options …

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    • I’d never thought of a sleep clinic, it sounds a bit extreme. But then again four years of waking up so early is pretty extreme too! I still need to explore the meditation, then if that doesn’t work I should look at more serious options!

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  2. I suffer from awful bouts of insomnia but I have trouble falling asleep rather than staying asleep so I appreciate that it’s not quite the same thing. Mine is definitely linked to anxiety so at least I know *why* even if I can’t fix it. It must be hard not knowing why as how can you begin to fix it?! Have you tried taking a magnesium supplement? I find that can help. Plus I taught myself to rest rather than torment myself trying to sleep if that makes sense. Laying there quietly and doing gentle breathing exercises can be helpful for me.

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    • Sorry to hear you suffer too. Thanks, I haven’t tried magnesium, so I will give that a go! I do start worrying about things as soon as I wake up, but I don’t think that’s actually what wakes me in the first place, it’s just what stops me going back to sleep! Like you, I do try to rest now and I resist getting out of bed too early. I used to just get up after a few minutes, but now I will stay in bed until at least 5.30.

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  3. Oh gosh that must be a total nightmare. I hate those articles that tell us how terrible things are going to be if we don’t get enough sleep. I just haven’t got time to get enough sleep! Sounds like sleeping in the spare room worked for you, hope that leads to a solution for you. At least you can put a lamp in there and read to get back to sleep if you need to. There are those light things people use aren’t there, that wake you up gradually with natural light, not sure if they would be any good? I hope somebody will come up with a workable solution for you.

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    • I reckon I would be awake long before the light thing started working! Hopefully you will have more time to sleep when both kids are at school. I have time to sleep (well, time to sleep about seven hours anyway), I just can’t do it! x

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  4. I don’t have any advice but wants to drop by and say it sounds really hard going and I hope you get to a point again where you can be waking at a more reasonable hour for you.
    The only things I could think of are possible stress and or anxiety or worry keeping you up.
    I’m currently not asleep at 5 after being woken up at 4 by my bleeping fore alarm and in my desperation to get back to sleep I’m hoping reading some.blogs will help!
    Good luck

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    • Thanks very much! I never read blogs or look at my phone when I’m awake, I always think that will be game over! I at least try to rest, but I’m usually worrying about something silly that I have to do that day. It seems really important at 4.45am, but when I get up I realise it wasn’t important at all!

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  5. I have no advice as I think I could sleep all day sometimes (I love my sleep), but it must be really miserable for you Sarah as I am sure it affects your day to day life. Could you have a word with your doctor who could maybe help or refer you to somewhere ? x

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    • You sound like my husband, he could sleep for Britain! It’s not always miserable for me – if I make it to 5 I’m quite happy, but when I’m waking at 4.30 for a few days I do start to get stressed and it definitely does affect my life on those days. I probably should go to the doctor, since it’s been four years now! x

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  6. I don’t know how you’ve coped for so long. If meditation doesn’t help, definitely try and sleep clinic. Anything is worth a try if you’re feeling it’s impacting you.

    I have little sleep (usually around 6 hours a night), but that’s because I blog late, then read, then wake at 6.35 just before my alarm. But I am a really deep sleeper and don’t have any issues falling asleep or going back to sleep after sorting out N when I’ve got the time to sleep longer.

    Hope it improves for you

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    • Thanks very much! I always wondered how you fitted in so much blogging when you work full time!
      I guess I’ve coped for so long because I probably don’t need as much sleep as a lot of people, so if I wake at 5 it’s not a problem, it’s only when it gets earlier than that it starts to have an effect on my life.

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  7. Sarah,

    I wish I had a simple answer to your problem, but unfortunately I don’t. I also wake up early — but I go to bed probably a lot earlier than you do. Seven hours of sleep is about my limit. Occasionally, if I’m fully awake extra early, and I feel rested after a good night’s sleep, I get up and tackle some paperwork. Doing that wouldn’t suit everyone, of course. You tweeted this morning that you’d slept until 05:30 — let’s hope this sets a trend.

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