Sleeplessness is where coronavirus stress shows

I FEAR THE FEELING OF FALLING ASLEEP

I have to confess that I’m not normally an easy sleeper.

Partly because late evening I feel almost human (it’s not real – I don’t make good decisions then, and I can’t write then).

And partly because every single morning is a struggle to get myself into a state where I can function at all.

Here at the retirement community I’ve had the ability to sleep later in the morning, and to take naps whenever I need to (or should) take them, I have been able to compensate – and get enough total sleep during a day so that I’m not a complete zombie (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is literally torture).

But it’s mostly fear

I have learned, grudgingly, to give in to the sensation of losing control of my own mind – because I try to master my fears.

But I have never liked the loss, and I fight it – especially when I’m tired and my decision-making faculties are diminished – and I can literally force myself to stay awake if I think something bad is going to happen that needs me to be coherent to deal with it.

This is NOT improved when I wake up in the morning and something new hurts.

Or I find the body position I’m in has resulted in one ankle pressing the skin and flesh on the other ankle into something completely flat that aches and cramps as the blood returns, quite painfully.

Or the medicine that I took right before sleep has decided to dissolve in the back of my throat and wake me with uncomfortable pressure in the middle of the night.

If I could skip sleep

I would. Almost every night.

But I feel worse without it.

And I know intellectually that sleep is so critical that a form of torture is to not let people go to sleep.

I also take 3-5 half-hour naps during the day to rest my brain: if I haven’t had enough sleep the night before or days before, those naps can turn into deep sleep with nightmares during the day. Even with an alarm.

The lockdown and the coronavirus make it hard to let the day go

The tireder I get, the less I can use my mind to suppress the things that are worrying me – as they are worrying everyone on the planet right now: my personal situation re medical services, the lives and careers of my children, and of my family in Mexico. The uncertainty of tomorrow.

Knowing we haven’t had a case here (probably), and wondering if we will – given the news that the virus rips through senior communities leaving devastation in its path.

Since it’s a constantly changing situation, we can’t relax into a new routine, because nothing is routine now.

So I have trouble sleeping.

I’ve tried most ‘solutions’

But I either can’t take them (I tolerate very few meds) or they require me to do something at a time my brain isn’t capable of it.

And you can’t cure existential angst – it’s real.

Meanwhile, I brush my teeth, make sure I have something I can eat in the middle of the night, do my stretches for restless leg syndrome, say my prayers – so that when I reach that point every night where all of a sudden sleep is worse than continuing awake, all I need to do is lie down.

And the battle to stay asleep begins.

Because it’s never a one-time decision.

Things that keep me from staying asleep:

  • hunger
  • uncomfortable binding around any part of me
  • anything bumpy under me
  • pain
  • worry
  • a thought in the middle of the night that must be written down
  • sometimes (!) fiction
  • being too cold or too hot (repeat several times each night)
  • gut pressure (what the heck did I eat?)
  • thirst
  • the sound of the firetrucks and ambulances coming to the lobby
  • outside sounds (do they really have to do these things mid-night?)
  • rain
  • husband’s breathing
  • funny tastes
  • a muscle that twitches every ten seconds for hours
  • etc.

I can now consume cottage cheese in the middle of the night without waking – much. Which then requires that the next chunk of ‘sleep’ be done sitting up a bit.

If I’m desperate, I turn the computer on and play sudoku or something – after about an hour and a half (one sleep cycle), my body is given permission to try again.

And eventually it takes. And sometimes I can sleep enough into the morning to almost have a decent number of hours’ worth total sleep.

I don’t think it will get better for a long while – the world has turned and is now essentially unstable.

Who wants to go to sleep when it might be your last time awake?

Which is silly, because ‘going in my sleep’ is my preferred method of checking out!

Because I’m not ready. Honest. I’m in the middle of a novel, the middle of a trilogy, and finishing them is the plan.

Even if ‘plan’ has become a joke.

Hope y’all do better at this sleeping thing than I do.


 

10 thoughts on “Sleeplessness is where coronavirus stress shows

  1. joey

    I’ve never been a good sleeper, and in the last few years, I’ve gotten better, but not good. Not consistently good. I have no advice.
    I used to fight sleep so much, I’d trigger a panic and wake over and over again. Tough times.
    However, I feel extremely grateful, because when I wake, before I move, I am literally the most comfortable I will be all day. As soon as I rise, the hands have to work and the pain begins. And it stays on until sleep comes again. THAT makes getting up awful. However, my grateful comes that not as many things keep me up as do you. Your inability to get comfortable seems much worse than anything I’ve experienced. I feel for you.
    I hope your community remains a healthy haven ❤

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Dunno about the community, but at least they are really doing their best. I think the reports of places where the virus went through a nursing home or even place with independent living have scare those in charge.

      If you have recalcitrant pain, I’m going to say this once, and then never push it again, but I now take low-dose naltrexone every day, and live with a LOT less skeletal pain. It’s a very different approach (and not mental – it just works differently – I hate people who try to tell you it’s all in your head). It retrains the endorphin system.

      If interested because pain meds aren’t doing their job, look it up.

      I really hate when people tell me to take or try stuff, so I won’t push it, but I’ll blog about it when I’m sure I’m at my proper sweet spot.

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  2. Sharon

    Sometimes I eventually fall asleep listening to an audio book or a rain sleep video on youtube but that does not always work unfortunately. At least an audio book can take my mind off other things, I am not a fan of audio books but I have found they can help with trying to get to sleep.

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      1. Lloyd Lofthouse

        Gone for a few hours, maybe? Have I mentioned Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea? I mentioned one of the vets in my support group, I think, yesterday, but there’s another one, younger by twenty years or more, who served in Somalia right after Black Hawk Down. He was a Special Forces medic. I convinced him to try the Kava tea and he reported back he hadn’t slept that soundly for decades.

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  3. Lynda Dietz

    My sleep schedule has been knocked out of kilter for weeks now. Every time I think I’ve finally gotten a decent night’s sleep and am on my way to resetting, the whole thing gets shot that night by not being able to fall asleep before two or three a.m. again. Now that the weather is getting a little nicer where I live, I’m hoping to get outside more and wear myself out a bit.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’ve tried exhaustion. Exhaustion doesn’t even mean good sleep for people with ME/CFS – getting a good night’s sleep has always been part of the problem: we can’t.

      I compensate as well as I can, and really enjoy it when I occasionally get a good one!

      It doesn’t help to add aging to the mix – people often have trouble who never had it before.

      So I sleep late, nap a lot, do the best I can – and was doing reasonably well at that when this virus hit; I expect it will get better in time, again – for a while.

      I have the sense not to worry about sleeplessness per se any more. Just do it!

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  4. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I belong to a combat PTSD support group through the Concord Vet Center, and one of our members served in Special Forces for two violent tours in Vietnam. For decades he has had a lot of trouble sleeping. Nothing the VA tried worked. Then something new came along and the VA paid for it only because of nothing else worked. He had a magnetic therapy of some kind where they put this helmet type device on his head and the device taps his skull and sends magnetic waves into different parts of his brain depending on how they preset the device. I can’t remember what this new therapy is called, but Jim finished the therapy a few weeks before COVID-19 attacked, and he said this magnetic thing helped him a lot. He was sleeping better, felt rested, and wasn’t as stressed as he has been for decades.

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