I always thought that after a few nights lying awake, sleep would eventually come. It would be the only option left. I thought staying awake repeatedly would mean the body and mind would crave sleep.
But it doesn't work like that. Something chronic insomniacs know all too well.
There are a number of reasons why I struggle to sleep – some are part and parcel of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – they include:
- Racing, incessant thoughts – which mostly aren't my own – crowd my head. Those who suffer with DID know what this is like.
- Stress and worries – My brain does not shut down with the worries of my life.
- Pain – Migraines and body pain.
- Nightmares – Which have been present for decades. I don't worry about these nightmares, but my subconscious obviously does.
The relentless stream of talking in my head is mostly my alter personalities – over 15 of them. They don't understand time and don't appreciate or comprehend that their conversations at midnight are bad for my sleep. Sometimes they talk to me and other times I over-hear their conversations. It's like listening to people talking in the next room.
Most of the time I quietly say to myself, 'Please stop talking as I'm trying to sleep, we can return to this conversation when I wake up.' Or at times when I'm cranky and tired it's been, 'Seriously, just f*cking shut-up.' We've all been there, right?
Other times I just wait it out until my medication kicks in.
I'm left mostly with medicated sleep. It's been this way for a while and it's certainly not ideal! I've worked the dose of my sleeping medication down, trying to train my body and brain to fall asleep with less. It's working to some degree.
But, if I didn't take something to sleep then I would lie awake until the sun comes up. That's not an overstatement! I'm talking about lying in bed, watching the room become light as my eyes adjust, listening to any and every noise in the house. Those 5 or 6 sleepless hours are the worst, as other suffering sleepless-people around the globe would know.
The tossing and turning, getting up to get a drink, going to the loo, reading in the lounge room, or listening to music with earphones. Carefully trying to make sure I don't wake up the other members of my family. I've tried meditation, relaxation exercises and the well-known practice of counting sheep.
I've put in place routines for sleep. No caffeine of an evening, limited screen time before bed. Listening to talking books in the hour or so before bed. Having a hot shower. Making the bedroom comfortable, with good airflow and not too hot. Reading, or doing quiet activities. Making sure lights are off or dimmed in that last 60 minutes. Coloured light globes, aromatherapy, lavender under my bed, lavender plants outside my window. Sleep teas, chamomile teas. Taking Melatonin, etc, etc, etc.
It's a circle of frustrated exhaustion. The lack of sleep wears me down and is a major trigger for migraines. I cannot bear to lie awake for hours, night after night. It's distressing and by about 3am I'm in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks, anxious and a right mess of nerves.
If I don't fall asleep – with or without assistance – by 2am, then the morning brings pain and a really cranky wife and mother. Throbbing migraine, grumpy person, the woman I see in the mirror is not very nice or happy.
There is also the issue of one or more of my personalities being an active night-owl. I have had this happen with tell-tale signs like things being moved in the house during the night, or a few times my laptop, which had full battery charge the evening before, being flat in the morning.
Medicated sleep is not good sleep, but at least it is some sleep. One day I hope I'll have a 'normal' sleep cycle, and my circadian rhythm returns. When will that happen? Who knows?
You can read more from our guest via her Wordpress blog, The Many of Us.