When I Can’t Sleep

Today, Sadje asks in her Sunday Poser what we do when we can’t go to sleep. Now I must say I only occasionally suffer with insomnia nowadays. As a child, teen and young adult, I’d suffer with it a lot more often. When in the psych hospital, I even tried a handful of different sleep medications until they all stopped working and I just accepted lack of sleep. The one sleep medication I remember that actually worked for a relatively long while if I didn’t use it more than twice a week or so, was zolpidem. I liked that one best, but I actually still have a kind of psychological longing for the floaty feeling it gave me.

Anyway, now that I only occasionally suffer with insomnia, I usually still don’t like to just lie there and do nothing. The nice, floaty feeling on zolpidem would’ve helped with that at least. Rather, I usually get up and do some reading on my phone. Of course, I know that electronics are supposed to keep you awake and this may be the case for me even without the blue light (being that I keep my screen completely black). Indeed, I don’t usually find that reading helps me fall asleep, but at least it helps me pass the time until I’m naturally tired enough to fall asleep. Or until it’s morning.

I wanted to go off on a tangent here and talk about other sleep issues too. The most annoying of these is finding myself in a half-sleeping, dreamlike state where my mind seems to want to do things but my body won’t. This experience, which some people I know have said might be sleep paralysis, is extremely frightening. It usually happens when I take a nap, which is why I avoid taking naps if I’ve had this experience recently.

Which gets me to fear of sleep due to nightmares. I experience nightmares that actually affect my daytime functioning at least a few times a week. I don’t always remember my nightmares exactly and I’m not even sure those I do remember count as nightmares, as sometimes when I’m in them they aren’t fear-inducing. They however do trigger my PTSD flashbacks, if that makes sense. They usually are very vivid. I have had this issue more since starting on my antipsychotic, but now that I think of it, it’s probably more of an anxiety or PTSD symptom. I am really hoping the topiramate, which I’ll hopefully be starting within the next week or two, will help with this.

14 thoughts on “When I Can’t Sleep

  1. It sounds difficult that you deal with nightmares so often and that they affect your functioning so much.
    I have pretty bad sleep paralysis myself on a fairly regular basis and the state you described sounds much like it indeed. For me sleep paralysis episodes are also most likely to happen when I nap, or generally fall back asleep after being awake for a bit, like a couple hours, so that’s one reason why I avoid napping too. I also have like proper mini nightmares or creepy hallucinations when this is happening as well as so called false awakenings, which can be super scary. You dream about being awake and living your normal life which feels realistic down to the most mundane detail, which makes you think you are awake so it’s very deceitful, and then at some point something really horrifying happens that makes you realise you can’t possibly be awake. You can have multiple such false awakenings during one “session” so that at some point you can start wondering whether you’ll actually be able to wake up properly and if so, will you be able to differentiate it from the ones before and say that it’s real, or perhaps these horrifying things you dream about will keep happening in your real life too. Doesn’t help that those dreams, hallucinations etc. that I have during sleep paralysis are closely linked to my real life fears and anxieties so that such dreams can influence the way I feel for days afterwards, and I totally get it that you’re afraid to go to sleep after such a thing, whether it is the case for you or not that it relates to your actual fears too. I am now able to control it but as a child I would sometimes be really scared of sleeping for a while after it happened.
    I know that for some people what helps is sleeping/napping on their right side, apparently it somehow makes it better or prevents it completely but I don’t have this experience. You could also try if you can wriggle your toes at least a little bit when you feel you can’t move, or move at least one small muscle in your body, it sometimes works for me to wake me up or at least feel a bit more in touch with reality and the awake part of my brain. And it’s very important to breathe deeply, even though for a lot of people it’s easier said than done, similar to a panic attack I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. That false awakening thing really resonates with me. I’ll try if lying on my right side helps, as currently I fall asleep in about every position except that one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope you’ll feel some difference. 🙂 Even though like I said it’s not really the case for me, I’ve read and noticed it very starkly myself that the worst thing you can do for sleep paralysis is to sleep on your back, as it somehow makes it feel a lot worse and increases the chances of it happening. I often get a very unpleasant floaty/dizzy feeling when it’s starting and it’s way worse on my back.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, thank you for explaining this. I don’t think I’ve noticed a difference depending on what position I sleep in, but then again I didn’t know until yesterday that it might matter.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nightmares can totally ruin sleep, that is if one can remember them afterwards. Sleep meds help but as you said, once our bodies get used to them, they stop being effective. Thanks for sharing the Astrid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting! Yes, sleep meds, at least benzos and Z-drugs, which are most commonly used for sleep, are very addictive. I’m glad I’m not currently on any of these.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post. For the last 2 nights, I’ve awakened myself from bad dreams. If I’m half awake, I can do that. It’s irritating because I then can’t go back to sleep and I’m tired.

    Liked by 1 person

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