Monday, May 6, 2013



I think I've forgotten how to sleep for more than 4 or 5 hours at a time.

This is a side effect of my second life that really challenges me. I can feel the anxiety I've held at bay all day bubble up when I wake up in the middle of the night. It waits for these dark, quite, vulnerable moments to get a good foothold and then it's a battle between me and the anxiety.

I breathe deeply, in for four counts, hold for two, out for four counts. It only takes one or two cycles of this for my body to tense up again and my brain to swirl with worries. So I repeat the process again and again. Sometimes I can short circuit the anxiety and I fall asleep again. Sometimes the anxiety wins and I give up on sleep and read my book until the sun rises and then I get up.

The anxiety that tries to take over my brain isn't even specific worries. It's not like I wake up and think about all I need to accomplish the next day, or how I'm going to get through some difficult upcoming event. It's just generalized anxiety in a physical form. A racing heart, tense muscles and adrenaline-soaked brain synapses.  It's a fuzzy, non-specific "life is in flux and I feel scared" sensation that sinks down from my brain into my chest and gut.

I want very much to not become dependent on medications to sleep through the night, but the truth is, without meds, It's 50/50 odds at best right now. Half the time I sleep a relatively decent amount and the other half of the time I barely sleep at all. I've adjusted to this in that I don't freak out about it as much. I don't think that I won't be able to function the next day and I don't cancel stuff so I can lie around and somehow make up for the deprivation during the day. I just keep going. I don't freak out as much in the middle of the night, faced with the fact that sleep just won't come to me. I've learned to let the insomnia in and adjust to it. I learned to think of it as extra reading time or something that won't last anyway.

The problem is, I know the one way to avoid it and that's the meds. So I want to take them every night, but I don't because I want to remember how to sleep on my own, so I'm trying to wean myself off them.

Maybe I need to consider that weaning myself off right now isn't as important as sleeping but I wish I could remember how to sleep without them.

How the hell do you sleep through the night again? I can't remember. I used to be really good at it.


  1. It is one that everyone on this site has to deal with--sleep. Waking up at 5am every day I would like to change. I don't fall back to sleep again. Having a buisier and active day does help at night. Eating more correctly can be a factor also--which for me food doesn't' have the interest, and times I have to force myself to eat. I struggle every day with this since my wife passed away.
    Peace be with you..

    1. I'm so familiar with the food thing, too. It's gotten much better and then it's come back, just like the sleep issues.
      This process is so incredibly hard. Peace be with you, too.

  2. Anxiety and sleep. Yep. That sounds like a widow/er problem.

    I’m at almost 3 years and thought I had the anxiety feeling under control.
    (You describe it so well!
    ‘It's a fuzzy, non-specific "life is in flux and I feel scared" sensation that sinks down from my brain into my chest and gut.’)
    But on Saturday I felt the anxiety come back for a while. For the most part I know why it was back but it was still frustrating. (And in hindsight I see now that I had it for many years before Dave died.)
    The only benefit is now I recognize it as a low. When I’m alone I take solace in the fact that I know I will feel better soon enough. (In some part I think it’s hormonal for me.)

    For the most part I haven’t had difficulty sleeping, but I don’t think my sleep is very restful. (I’m still tired for hours in the morning even after a solid nights sleep. I recently got an iPhone app that records noises while I sleep. So I can tell if I’m restless, or sleep talking, or if it’s the dog that’s continually waking me up. It can’t fix the problem but it can make me more aware of what the problem is.)
    I believe sleeping is crucial in staying healthy.
    I also on occasion take Melatonin. (I use sublingual strips you put under your tongue. They’re supposed to be absorbed more readily and so act quicker.)

    As anonymous above said, healthier food, and plenty of exercise is also key. (I have a dog that absolutely needs to and loves going for walks. So, he keeps me moving all year round.)
    It’s all a delicate balance.

    But don’t beat yourself up about sleeping meds but it’s good that you’re seeing if you can wean yourself off of them.
    A few months ago I was so sick (viral cold of some sort) and it lasted for weeks. And I WASN’T sleeping because of it. I couldn’t think or function properly because of lack of sleep. I caved and took sleeping pills for about a week. (Although I seem to recall that they didn’t evening work all that great. When they wore off at 3am I was wide awake.)

    Anyway, best of luck Cassie in your quest for sleep!

  3. I am the exact same way. And I've decided that I don't care if I am dependent on the meds because it's what I need to survive a broken heart. Being sleep deprived makes everything so much worse.

    1. Good way to put it.

  4. Cassie ..... it's been over 5 years since I've really slept consistently well. And that sucks.
    I also had no problem sleeping in my "before" life. And yes, I too struggle with the decision to take the meds/not take the meds.
    My dr. firmly believes that sleep should be the priority. Always. It affects every other area of our life and our body. Intellectually, I know that. And I know that she thinks it doesn't matter if I'm on these meds for the rest of my life, much like the cholesterol meds I take. But emotionally, I want to be more like I was "before". I don't want to be dependent on another damn medication. I know that I used to be good at sleeping ...... so shouldn't I be able to do it again?!!
    Here's a salute to all the rest of you who are up at night ...... with us.

  5. I know that I have sleep issues because there is no one sleeping by my side. It's the worst part of my day, every day, going to bed. Sets me up most nights to not sleep well. I walk the house and yard, gaze at the stars, know he is out there, and wish it were my time to join him.

    1. Oh my, I so relate to your post! I hate going to bed and always look up at the sky and wish I could join her! Sucks... This is not my life

  6. When I have your problem, I find that a relaxation meditation helps. It often, puts me back to sleep. A great website for this is called the fragrant heart. There are lots of different ones to choose from for free. You can buy them for your Mp3 player or just give a donation to help the creator out. I also have gotten meditations from the Chopra Center too. I know that meditating has helped me to heal and to find a sense of peace within my grief.

  7. I wish I had something helpful to say, but I don't. Just count me in on the lack of sleep issue. I take melatonin just about every night now. In the beginning, I had some heavy med that I SO looked forward to every night. It was such a relief to be able to just shut down at the end of the day and know I would stay that way until morning. But, the doc's won't let me take the good stuff for the long term. Too bad. So, it is just a constant problem to get enough rest. Napping during the day doesn't help me as it just screws up the night sleep even more. Just part of the new normal, I guess. Another rock in our sack........

  8. I have been taking Xanax for sleep for seven years while my husband had been fighting cancer. He passed away this past April and I still need them. If I don't sleep I cannot function. My doctor has had me stay on them because of all the stress for the past seven years. Now I am so lonely and heart broken. Do what you need to to get sleep.

  9. 1) Exercise to exhaustion, meaning work yourself hard. I call that feeling "chronic adrenaline overload syndrome" (CHAOS) and running it out like running a hyperactive dog or kid helps.

    2) A very warm bath can help.

    3) SSRI antidepressants can help, some of them are better for treating anxiety than for treating depression. Here's the thing: grief and trauma mess with your brain chemistry. These meds can help get your brain chemistry back closer to what it was "before."

    I used to fall asleep within minutes and sleep all night. Now I could sit up all night. Crawling into a glaringly empty bed has consistently been overwhelmingly difficult because at that moment you can't deny the reality. Bed used to be nirvana and now it's purgatory. Stark contrast, not conducive to peaceful rest.
    Without sleep, everything is so much worse. Do what you need to do to get some.