I really feared I’d have to wear a Darth Vader mask for the rest of my life.
“Luuuke….you will never have a decent night of sleep ever again! And oh yeah, about that paternity test…”
That’s what went through my head when I brought home a sleep monitoring kit from the hospital a couple years ago. Do I have sleep apnea? Is that why I feel like crap during the day?
Turns out it wasn’t that, thank God.
The nurse told me over the phone matter-of-factly: “You have insomnia.”
Like about 30% of adults across this great planet, I don’t sleep well. It’s gotten progressively worse in the last five or so years. And it’s going to get worse the older I get. I predict I’ll get about 15 minutes a night by the time I hit 80. Who needs meth when you can just get old?
I am one of the insomniacs who can fall asleep just fine. My problem is staying asleep.
A good night is when I wake up three times or less. But it’s usually five or six times on a typical night. I’m lucky if I can get a solid 4-5 hours of continuous shut-eye and a couple of “naps” scattered through the rest of the night.
Here’s just a short list of the stuff I’ve tried to deal with this problem: pills, relaxation, meditation, more pills, quitting smoking, quitting drinking, limiting caffeine, herbal remedies, tinctures, Benadryl, and more pills. Did I mention pills?
So here I am, trying to figure out what to do now. I picked up “The Insomnia Answer” at the library a couple weeks ago, thinking it’ll be just another list of things I’ve already heard about online.
Its suggestion? Spend less time in bed, not more. Huh?
Yes. Sleep Restriction Therapy is my current flavor of the month. And let me tell you – it SUCKS.
The concept is simple. Exhaust the shit out of yourself to the point that your body has no choice but to slip into a comatose sleep.
Okay, that’s a little extreme. But it’s kind of what it feels like.
Logic tells you that if you want to get more sleep, go to bed early. And apparently that actually makes matters worse for people like me. Just because you dedicate a nine-hour window to shut-eye, doesn’t mean you’re getting nine hours of sleep.
Sleep Restriction Therapy is based on the belief that the more time you spend in bed lying awake, thinking about that TPS report you forgot to do or that jackass who cut you off on the freeway, the less likely you’re going to get those elusive eight straight, uninterrupted hours of sleep that seem to exist only when quaaludes are involved.
I won’t get into the minutiae of this therapy, but in essence:
- You figure out about how many hours you spend lying awake per night during a typical week
- Divide that number in half
- Subtract that number from the end of your night (or at the beginning of your night if you’re an insomniac who can’t fall asleep).
In other words, if you wake up at 6 a.m. and you lie awake two hours a night, you now get to wake up at 5 a.m. Yipee! Where’s the coffee?
So I’m now waking up at 4 a.m., in a house where no one gets up until after 5:30. I’m sure my spouse hates me. But hey, it’s more gym time, so there’s that.
I am not certain how long I have to keep this up before I see a difference. I’ve heard of people going at it for about a month before they turn a corner. So far, it has actually made things worse for me and there have been a few days where I probably shouldn’t have driven home.
Anyone else tried this method? Did it work for you?