I never slept through the night. Ever. Since I was a kid I’ve always woken up around 3 in the morning, lay awake for about two hours and then fall back asleep only to have to rise before I’ve feeled refreshed.
Two times per year I would sleep through the night, those were real gifts.
I never knew the reason. Untill a few years ago, when I got so ill and found out I can solve these weird kind of puzzles by using a non-logical approach. All I had to do was take a notebook, dedicate it to a particular problem in a friendly manner – i.e. decorate the notebook – and jot down thoughts about the subject. Without having any idea where it’s going.
Over the course of a few months I would follow different lines of inquiry. I studied up on Chinese organ ritmes, on bloodsugar levels and glycogen supplies in the liver. On sleep hygiene, on subconscious attitudes towards life and on rituals to alter those.
That’s how I solved the puzzle which intricities I could not have phantomed beforehand. Here it is:
- Lying awake from 3 to 5 is because of a cortisol peak. It takes that long to clear the system. If you are wide awake and not merely drowsy that’s another indication cortisol is involved.
- Cortisol is a daily flux, you’ll need to influence your days if you want to influence your nights. Maintain low stress during the day.
- Maintain low bodily stress during the nigth: no drink or food after half past six in the evening; no insuline peaks after one o’clock midday; no high insuline peaks ever; no trashing of the tummy by eating too many gluten, vegetables or whole grains; wear ear plugs; wear a sleeping mask; accomodate for dust sensitivities etc.
- Remove all interuptions (turn away the clock with its lights; put distance between your bed and that of your thrashing spouse; educate cat to let you be <— exhaust her during the day plus consistent commands during the night; lay phone far away or shut it off completely; silence the fridge if its rumble comes through; put out wireless; apply for traffic restrictions in the neighboorhood; donate carpets to the stomping neighbours; insert sponges into the gutter because it drips; whatever sillyness bothers you give it a solution. And train yourself not to be bothered, remind yourself the sounds and disruptions are not aimed at your personally. The neighbour and his bladder are just growing old, bless his heart.
- Maintain low mental stress: feel safe. Leave worries to the day time you (put them on a piece of paper, actively divert your mind when you start thinking about them <—– have diverting subjects at hand such as a puzzle magazine or thoughts about what to knit or what to dye or how to design your ultimate home/treehouse). Have no major things on your mind during the day that overflow into the night time you. Ambitions, career strategies, office politics, social nastiness. Leave them to the day. Remove them from your life (give up job, give up dreams, remove yourself from nasty people and city life).
When I learned to balance these various things I started to sleep through the night. First one time, then more nights in a row. It really was an acomplishement!and so rewarding. It is amazing, I feel so refreshed in the morning. After 30+ years I learned a new habit and I sleep through most nights.
Which brings me to today, late Summer 2012. I’m awake again. Every night. For about two weeks now and that indicates a structural shift in something. Again I feel the debilitating tiredness during the day, it will take about three o’clockin the afternoon before I loose enough of the sluginess to actually be able to function (get dressed, brush teeth, nothing fancy).
things going on: bought waffle iron and have been eating too much gluten; started blog and may be too exited; was in the city and loved it, made all kinds of plans and designs for hosting a booth on the Wool Spinners Market next month; was very ill in August and feel like I need/deserve to make up for it; was very ill in August so now hormones may surge the other way (lots of estrogens and testosteron)…
Yeah, I’m probably too exited. Causing sleepproblems in the night and sleepiness in the day. Time to break the cycle and seriously slow down during the day. And do all the things to eliviate the nights.
Of course the fun part is that during the night I’m really really REALLY awake. ready to roll, baby! All systems go! Shall I jump out of bed and start to repaint the kitchen? i could! Or I could write a blog post.
Of course it’s only during those two nightly hours I feel awake. All other hours I’m paying for it. Literally because the corisol peak has used up all cortisol normal people use to rise in the morning. Which is why the insomnia is not desirable, no matter how alive I feel during that time.
It reads so easily, the bullet points above. But behind a few words there can be a whole world of thoughts and experience. For example “feel safe”, one of the requirements for peace of mind, is just two simple words. To get to it is quite a journey!
– first I had to notice I did not feel safe. This is a difficult thing to pinpoint when you have known no other way, when not-safe is equal to being-you.
– After that I pondered this ‘not-feeling-safe-ever’ and I realized I lack a basis feeling of safety. A feeling I presume a lot of people do have. To assume you are safe, that no meteor will come crashing down, that you do not have to be on high alert all the time? This is news to me.
– Somehow the ‘I am safe modus’ was not properly ingrained in my nervous system. Probably because of how I was handled as a newborn. In combination with my talent for being very sensitive (I pick up on all and every impulse). As a result my nervous system sees no difference between physical and psychological impulses and whether they are a threat or not. My body feels threatened all the time, by noise, by touch, by thoughts.
– Luckily there are ways to deal with the nervous system later on in life. One is a mental approach (develop new attitudes towards life and actively exercise them). Another is physical (learn to be touched, to be held, to be embraced). Another thing I did was have a healer do some rituals to emphasize my safety. My nervoussystem/subconscious loves a celebration by an authority figure ;)
when I was really ill and did not know what hit me I used the two hours at night that I was bright and coherent to read the medical stuff I mentioned in the previous post and sort out what was going on. I would leave notes and instructions for day-time-me, when I would be too sluggish to even know my name. A simple to-do list was very welcome.
I remember nights where I had to sigh deeply because instructions to day-time-me had to be so basic, it was like coaching a 2 year old.