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To Sleep, Perchance To Dream; Or At Least Just Sleep

Updated on February 6, 2017

Here We Are, In The Dark

OK, so it's not completely dark right now. I'm staring at my computer screen, typing away because I'm really not sure what else to do at this time of the morning.

Thankfully, I have a certain rhythm that I fall into every morning, so at least I'm not at a total loss for words, but simply being up at this hour - it's now shortly before 5:30 am, and I've been up about an hour - puts my options of things to do on a very short list.

I'm not a big fan of doing dishes by hand, but since our dishwasher's toast right now, we've been handwashing dishes. I find that somewhat therapeutic, but when everyone else in the house is asleep, including my 12 year old and nearly-8 year old, I am loath to start inadvertently making noise lest they wake up, especially since they don't have to be awake til 7:30 at the absolute latest for school. I'm out the door by then, since high school starts nearly a full hour earlier than it does in elementary school.

Having spent most of my day Sunday getting caught up on laundry, my heart just isn't into laundry yet again, so again, that knocks another thing off my list of possible activities.

What's that? Go back to sleep, you say?

Here's the problem. The easiest way I can explain it is that my brain works something like a rolodex - for those of you who might be wondering what that is, it's a device with a bunch of cards attached to it and it spins like a stand so you can simply turn it in order to find the card you're looking for. It preceded the task lists that we see on our smart phones. Well, as soon as my eyes open, my brain is almost instantly awake, racing through the various items on my to do list, whether they are real or imagined. I try to relax to go back to sleep, but then my brain adds insult to injury by sparking my anxiety. What if you miss this? comes the thought from some recess of my brain. What if you miss that?

There are also, of course, concerns that in going back to sleep, I may sleep far too late and end up racing to get to work on time. So, unwilling to fight my own brain, I wander out of bed and head for the kettle, my mind still buzzing.

There's another problem, though - even though I like to think that I'm being somewhat effective when I'm awake this early, and the quiet is indeed lovely, there's far too much thinking going on and not enough relaxing.

My Life So Many Days

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Anxiety And Sleep - Like Oil And Water

I'm one of the many who happens to have anxiety. Even now, writing this, there are thoughts pushed to the far recesses of my brain, like a background app that needs refreshing now and then. I know that is what causes my racing brain at weird hours of the morning.

People have even suggested that I take melatonin in order to stay asleep, but one of the unfortunate side effects of melatonin, which is a lovely all natural substance that controls your sleep and wake cycles, is that sometimes, it causes nightmares when taken orally. I'm still not sure if the nightmares caused by my taking melatonin is the result of the medication I'm on, or if it's just that I don't tolerate melatonin well. Regardless, I would take melatonin if I had problems going to sleep.

But that isn't the issue; I have problems staying asleep. Because I'm almost exhausted by the time around 8 o'clock at night rolls around, I usually crash hard and I'm good until around at least 2. By that point, I'm tossing and turning as I'm trying to go back to sleep after hitting the facilities. Sleep becomes very spotty, until about 4 or, if I'm very lucky, 5 am, when I finally give up, roll out of bed and make myself some coffee. I decide to write because writing is cathartic for me, as it is for most people. It's practically part of my wiring.

Now, it's gotten to the point where I see 4 and 5 in the morning more often than not. I can't nap during the day because I teach high school. Napping during the day is a bit awkward when you have a roomful of teenagers looking at you for information. I'm also probably one of the rare people who actually feel worse following a nap. I'm not sure if it's because the anxiety I have makes me worry about what I'm not doing or what the situation is exactly, but regardless, I feel punky and not great when I get up.

Try to understand that so many of us with anxiety struggle with sleep a lot of the time, and that as a result, we might be very caffeine addicted, easy to set off, and forever struggling with the balance of sleep and wakefulness. We may not always make sense about why we think the way we do, or why we struggle with sleep, and believe me when I tell you we are as aggravated by that as anyone else might be.

One day, sleep will hopefully come to play again - but it would seem that today is not that day.

Anxiety And Sleep

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