Tag Archives: insomnia

I’ll take a Migraine, Please.

To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,

This is my second day without much of a migraine.

I won’t say that it is gone, that would be lying, but it has slipped into the realm of <1 most of the day, which is close enough. It is there, but it isn’t having as much negative impact and apparently my mind and body are thrilled.

So, thrilled in fact that I was blessed last night with not one, but two forms of insomnia. 

  1. Can’t get to sleep.

That was fun, and very fruitful, went to bed early (9:45 pm), read a few chapters of a light mystery that I’d picked, curled up and…. Didn’t sleep. The brain wouldn’t stop working and the body started tossing and turning. Sometimes when I read poetry it makes me sleepy – you have to work so hard to make all the connections – so I went out and found The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot and read that…

It didn’t help.

So, read some more poems. Then went to find History of Witchcraft in England by Wallace Notestein – originally published at the turn of the last century ca. 1900. Unfortunately it wasn’t as dry as I thought… and it was after midnight when I finally tried to sleep again.

Not sure when I got to sleep, but I know when I woke up.

  1. Can’t stay asleep

I don’t really mind the first form of insomnia. Once you get to sleep it is over. But the second one gets me every time. Usually I don’t have a specific time that I need to get up at so when this happens I tend to sleep in, late. But I’m tired of losing the whole morning. No matter how much I try and convince myself that it doesn’t matter as long as I get the hours in – it still does. So from 4:00 am on I woke and dozed, had wild dreams, dozed, had more wild dreams… and so on and so forth until my alarm went off at 7:00 am.

Did I mention I was tired of losing the morning?

I am, so all week I’ve been working on getting back to a more normal sleep pattern… it hasn’t worked and I’m wondering if I should just give up. I have lots of research to do and late at night is a good time to read, surf the net, and correlate data since I just can’t seem to get up early to save my life.

This morning the dreams were so vivid, and I would jump right back into them after a period of waking. Sadly after being up for an hour I absolutely no memory of them…

That is another side effect I’ve experienced before. When I really start to get into a story my subconscious wants to come out and play all the time. Some mornings, like this one, it is too good to miss… so I didn’t get up until almost 10:00 am.

What a slouch.

Maybe this guilt is a holdover from my childhood.

My Dad is a morning person. Up by 6:00 am and busy busy busy. He isn’t restless in his busyness and rarely commented out loud on my teenage tendency to sleep till noon… but the reproof was felt nonetheless – whether it was real or imagined I don’t know.

Oh, well… I’ll probably keep trying since it feels wrong and probably keep failing because 2:00 am to 10:00 am seems to work well for me.

Besides, I really can’t complain can I? The whole reason all of this is happening is because my migraines have lessened and my productivity has increased.


~ Tess


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My Last Vice

Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass

Sometime last week I realized I was my own worst enemy.

I’ve been suffering from insomnia and migraines but I haven’t stopped drinking. Any idiot knows that those three don’t play well together.

The problem was that until recently I couldn’t see the affect the alcohol was having on the migraines because it was so slight. It bumps an existing migraine about 0.5 on the pain scale. You know that scale. The one the doctor always asks you. “On a scale of 0 to 10 how much pain are you in?” When you are having daily migraines in the 7-9 category the increase in magnitude of a 0.5 just isn’t enough to register.  

My daily migraines are closer to a 1 so now I’m noticing.

It is the insomnia that is the real kicker. Some days a single drink will cause me to wake up every hour or so. But wine and scotch are part of my lifestyle. They are part of how I view myself.

Funny – I’m sure that is similar to how smokers feel.

We have so many hang-ups around drinking in our culture I have a feeling many of you are out there labeling me. Label away. I’ve been referring to myself as the “family alcoholic” for some time now. I’m one of the only ones who drinks.

At least I’ve discovered that I’m not addicted, but I don’t have an addictive personality so that wasn’t a surprise. I can stop and I can limit. I just like to drink. I love the adventure of tasting new wines and visiting old scotches. Only now I need to make the decision about when and when.

It’s all about health.

Health is one of those things that I like to manage myself. Now I know that for me to sleep well and limit that minor bump on the migraine, I have to limit my consumption. Sometimes one drink is too much but often I don’t know until the next day if I’ve caused a negative impact.

Logic says that I should be saying good bye…

The thing is I’ve changed my diet, my exercise program, where I go and who I go out with, all to limit my need for drugs to manage my health. Alcohol is my last food related vice. I never had many but they are all gone. The fried egg sandwiches, nachos, soft drinks, aged cheese, fresh baked bread, and goldfish crackers are all things of the past. There is nothing left to comfort myself with or use as a reward system.

That was what the scotch was for.

Scotch is the ritual that allows me to relax. It was what helped me handle the stress when everything in my life was falling apart. Just the smell of a good island scotch makes me smile. There is enormous power in the wafting scent of peat and seaweed, a strange sort of something that my brain responds to with pleasure.

My scotch brought me happiness when few things in my life did. Often it was less than a glass. Sometimes when I had a migraine I would simply pour enough in so that I could smell it.

I need sleep, but I love my scotch. I wonder if there is any way I can keep my vice and still provide my brain with its much needed downtime?

Moderation in all things I suppose.

We shall see.

~ Tess

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To Dream, Perchance to Do

I’ve been thinking about the difference between those that Do and those that Dream.

It started with Relic by Preston and Childs. Their characters who get too involved in outcomes end up dead. They become so involved in the dream of success that they become overconfident and make mistakes. Quite a moral to the story don’t you think?

Then I’ve been distracting my overactive brain with doses of Stargate SG-1. It was one of their ‘humorous’ episodes that got me. Dreamer geeks who want to be part of the team part II. The moral of that story is that you can be really smart and incredibly inept all at the same time. There was also an element of stick-to-it-ness. No matter how long it takes you keep going until you have a solution.   

The last few days I’ve been fighting with my subconscious and with the ongoing insomnia. I’ve had a hard time sticking to my schedule and finding the Doer in myself.

I’ve succumbed to the Dreamer.

The Dreamer thinks that it is okay to sit and watch TV or read for hours. The Dreamer loves to slip into a fantasy and stay there all day. If you’ve ever wondered where writers get their ideas here it is. I can spin out fantasies all day and my subconscious does it all night. It is practice for creating new worlds on paper.

But as long as I am the Dreamer nothing gets written. The Dreamer doesn’t need to achieve because the dream is the achievement.

I need to balance that out with the Doer.

The Doer despises the Dreamer in me. Finds it a weakness and doesn’t understand why it can’t take control and simply Do. It despises others when it finds they succumb to the Dreamer within themselves. The Doer doesn’t want to be associated with people who don’t achieve.  

I can’t become one or the other I need the balance.  

Balance is difficult.

I need the Doer to achieve and the Dreamer to create. I keep trying different ways to motivate myself – to get the Doer to whip the Dreamer into shape. Things work, but never for very long. No one said this would be easy but I wasn’t expecting this strange duality.

I wasn’t expecting the last few days.

Maybe I should have been. In the early work of Jung on personality types (what eventually became the Myers-Briggs test) he talks about the Intuitive personality as being very close to the subconscious. Intuitive is N in Myers-Brigs and is one side of the spectrum that defines how we process information. Sensing – on the other end – is an A, B, C approach to information. Intuitive is more like A, 13, Epsilon – a web of data points that the Intuitive somehow pulls into a cohesive whole. In a negative sense they often seem scattered. Seen in a positive light they have the ability to draw lines between data that others don’t see.

I’ve always felt that the Intuitive aspect of my personality helped me although sometimes I wish for a more organized brain. I can see patterns but I don’t always know what to do with them. Sometimes I’m so busy seeing into things that I don’t pay attention to the obvious, otherwise known as being oblivious. I’m good at that.  

The more I’ve connected with the Dreamer within myself the more the Doer has lost ground. The more I realize I need both of them.

Do you think I can ask them to play nice together?

Today is the first day I haven’t felt a little lost to reality. Like a therapist my subconscious has made me look at my life and my choices in new ways. Was it worth the three days I lost to know these things?

I’m not sure. But here I am, and there is work to be done, worlds to create, and words to write. I need my Doer to help me stick to things and to keep my mind in the present and not start weaving possible futures. It’s hard and I’ve learned things about myself that I don’t particularly like.

I’ve always believed that we can choose who we become so I’ll take this information and run with it and see if I can stop despising myself. Knowing has always been the first step to change.  

I know… an odd post for the day. But it has been an odd week.

~ Tess

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In Search of… Information on Insomnia

Since I had yet another fun filled night of dreams and delusions I decided to do some research on insomnia. Nice to know that I’m not alone – 20% of the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lifetime.

Unfortunately the really interesting bits are locked away in scholarly journals I don’t have access to (I’m hoping there is a “yet” in there). But with a little judicious Googling I was able to find some additional information in the hope that tonight will be better

The Three most Common Causes of Insomnia

Snoring, Stress & Lifestyle

First – I’m going to assume that I don’t snore. In 20 years of relationships I’m sure someone would have mentioned it. So I don’t have to worry about that.

Second – Stress sounded like a good target. Part of their description is “When the mind is occupied, it is hard for it to shut off and sleep.” They mention reliving events, conversations, etc. All that good work stress stuff. Like when I started a new job and used Excel for the first time all day long. I dreamed about spreadsheets for weeks.  

This article recommended that I use aromatherapy or background music to quiet my mind. Nothing that smells is a possibility in my life but I could try my “soother” I love the sound of thunderstorms and that may successfully occupy my brain and let me sleep.

I’ve decided for the next several weeks to give up all alcohol and to limit my caffeine to coffee in the morning and tea only until 3 ish.

Third – Well, yes… I don’t maintain a normal schedule anymore, I could probably cut down on caffeine and alcohol, and although I have a new mattress I could use new pillows.

I’ll try and maintain a normal schedule – I wanted to get to bed early last night (10 pm) and it really didn’t work.

Oh, and melatonin and some chamomile tea 30 minutes before I go to bed sounds easy enough.

And then for the bad news article… if the “sufferer has experienced continuously broken sleep patterns for more than four weeks…a symptom of something far more serious – clinical depression.”

Lovely – I’ve been in this state for at least six weeks and probably more.

Interestingly enough the same article hinted at another player in the insomnia game – allergies. Well, I’ve got those in spades. Wonder if they might be adding to something going on in my life?

Oh, and then I found the article that stated even “extreme joy” is a stressor. So maybe it isn’t stress but the joy I feel in my new life and my subconscious is just trying to help me out with so many ideas for stories I can’t stay asleep.  

The article did go into some of the science behind my lack of sleep.

“Furthermore, chronically elevated levels of cortisol and its precursor, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), can make sleep shallow, fragmented, and unrestful; delay the onset of sleep; and produce more frequent nocturnal awakenings.”

Oh, we are getting somewhere that sounds like me.

“Do you observe a nightwatch, awakening to muse or meditate some time during the late night or early morning? That’s normal, too, and it can be richly rewarding.”

Yes, my whole night is one long nightwatch – with ideas tumbling out of nowhere. Please no one ask me how creative people get their ideas after this. I’d actually like a bit fewer of them.

I’m so liking this writer – however he wants me to buy his book to discover his secret to good sleep without drugs.

But there has to be more information out there that isn’t locked away in scholarly journals and books I can’t afford to buy.

Sleep Foundation  has a list of things you can do for stress induced insomnia.

  • First, set your bedtime and your wake-up time according to the number of hours of sleep you are getting currently. For example, if you are sleeping only five hours a night (even though you usually plan to spend eight hours in bed), set your sleep time for that amount. Then gradually increase the amount of time allotted for sleep by 15 minutes or so every few nights. The idea is to “squeeze out” the middle of the nighttime awakening and gradually increase the amount of sleep you will get during the night.
  • Spend some time “winding down.” A person with insomnia needs a “buffer zone,” a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down to allow the alerting mechanisms to decrease their activity so that the sleep systems can take over. I suggest that you start winding down two hours before bedtime. Stop all work and end phone calls to family and friends, as often they are activating. Watching television is all right in the evening. However, an hour before bed, I recommend reading or listening to music.
  • Finally, focus on conditioning yourself for different sleep behavior. Insomnia is painful for people—it can take control of their lives. When someone suffering from insomnia walks into their bedroom, they often feel anxious, uncomfortable and tense, as they know from their experience that they might spend the night tossing and turning. They need to set up a situation so that they like going to their bedroom. The bedroom should be visually pleasing and very comfortable. One should use the bedroom only for sleep, sex, and changing clothes, pleasant activities, and if awake in the night should leave the bed and bedroom and spend “unpleasant” times awake in another room. “Waking” activities such as working on the computer, talking with one’s partner, talking on the phone and watching TV should take place out of the bedroom.  

No stress when I enter my bedroom. But I probably should get up rather than toss and turn when it gets stressful in the middle of the night.

Lots of food for thought and I’ll muse on these for a little bit longer and see what I can change quickly.

Here’s to some good night’s sleep!

~ Tess


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Miles to go…

I’m having trouble sleeping.

I have no idea how long this has been going on. Every night I wake up. If I’m lucky it is once, if not then it is constant.

The first clue that this has become a problem is my cat, Minerva. She usually sleeps on me or against me. Since the beginning of the year she has moved to the bottom of the bed. She is a very persistent personality so I’m sure it’s taken her quite awhile to change her habits.

How long?

Yesterday my lack of sleep, the restlessness and the strange dreams combined to make it a very weird day. I should have stayed home so as not to inflict myself on others but I didn’t have a choice so I went out and probably negatively impacted a lot of people. Thank goodness for my girl friends. They took me out for drinks. It helped. I came home took a melatonin and thought things would be better.

Last night was worse.

Last night it felt like I didn’t sleep at all. I was restless and my brain kept going a million miles an hour. It used to be that when I was like this it was over something at work – but now it is all stories, dreams, fantasies, and delusions. My mind is filled with the strangest thoughts and at night they try to escape from me. No one would want to live in the worlds that I experience when I dream yet they are not nightmares.

I promised myself that if I felt that incredible restlessness I would get up and write. But that didn’t happen. It was a low level night. A constant buzz of dreamscapes but I always felt like I had a chance of falling asleep, but then I would wake up.

The thing is, years ago when I had horrible insomnia I did a bunch of research and changed a lot of my habits. Bed is for bed, it is quiet, cool, and I only sleep there. I used to read in bed for hours on end but I read that can be counterproductive for an insomniac. I stopped drinking caffeine late in the day, don’t drink right before bed, and created a ritual to help my body move from waking to sleeping.

But it’s been years since I had that kind of insomnia….funny I didn’t notice this happening besides this is different.

As long as I don’t have another day like yesterday I think I’ll be fine – but I wonder what is causing this. I don’t remember ever dreaming like this, even as a child. Sometimes there are hundreds of images and stories in a night that I flip through none of them a repeat.

I’m not sure what to do because deep down I wonder if this is a byproduct of releasing my imagination and I am afraid of what might happen if I try and squelch it.

The logical part of me is telling me that I need good sleep!  

I usually go for the logic – so melatonin, no alcohol, and yoga for relaxation before bed. I’m feeling really ambitious I’ll add in some meditation or breathing exercises.

And if that doesn’t work…. *shrug* I’ll just write about it.

~ Tess

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