I suffer with insomnia, I have done since I was 13 or so, in other words a long time. It is a constant companion. It never goes away. There are times that it is worse than others, but it is always here.
So first some context. I average around 3 and 4 hours sleep a night, occasionally 6 or 7 but usually 2-3. That isn’t always all together. Quite often it is in bursts, not a constant sleep. Some days I struggle to get to sleep, others I drop off straight away then wake and struggle to get back to sleep. Sometimes I have broken restless sleep.
Some definitions now. An average adult will sleep 6 – 8 hours a night, we are told to aim for at least 7 hours. If you sleep less than 7 hours a night then you are sleep restricted. If you are awake more than 20 hours in a day then you are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation used to be used as a form of torture.
That said, how does it feel to live with so little sleep?
If you think about when you have had a really busy, really long day. At the end of a stressful and busy week. When you feel absolutely tired beyond normal. Struggling to even make it to bed. That’s how I wake up most mornings.
My arms and legs usually feel really heavy, sometimes movement is an effort. Standing up from sitting takes a ridiculous amount of effort. My thought processes are quite slow. My attention span is very very small. My memory can be bad.
Walking which is something I really love, can feel like such a huge effort, a small hill, or a set of steps can look like a mountain.
I zone out, lots. This can make me appear quite rude. Also I spend a lot of time with very low mood. I am irritable, overreact to things. Take things way out of proportion. I’m quick to anger (which is quick to pass).
Aches and pains are constant. It’s rare that I achieve the recovery/recharge element of sleep. That wonderful recuperation that leaves you waking feeling fresh and good.
On the rare occasions I do sleep a little better, I often wake feeling worse. Think sleep hangover and you are not far from how I feel.
That’s how I feel most of the time. I keep cheery, I try and stick to commitments, I force myself to stay focussed, busy and productive. Really I want to cancel my plans and sit in a place feeling sorry for myself.
One of my great pleasures is reading. To sit in a room with a book music on low and lose myself in another world. Follow the authors imagination and immerse myself in another world or read a book to better myself or learn a subject. I can be a voracious reader. A good book I can read in a day.
At the moment I am reading a book by one of my favourite authors. I have been looking forward to it being published for a long time. I have had it for 7 weeks now and am barely three chapters in. I can only read two or three pages at a time before my concentration goes.
There is also a link between insomnia and overeating. When you sleep your body regenerates, recuperates and rebalances. Part of this is redressing the balance of various hormones in the body. There are two hormones which affect eating. One tells us we are hungry, the other tells us we are full. When we don’t sleep well these are not rebalanced.
This means that I can eat a full meal, even a 3 course meal, and afterwards still feel hungry. Literally straight away I am aware of this, and sometimes I can control it. But other times I can eat a full meal, then eat more. Then have sweets and snacks.
This then causes more issues. My self confidence is always low when I am tired anyway. The more I eat and the bigger I get the more aware I am that I look worse (I am not vain, but I worked hard to lose weight and bulk and don’t want to return to that place). My self control and will power are low when I am tired. Making this more difficult is the fact I feel full but my brain is telling me I am hungry.
So there you have it. A little insight into how my insomnia makes me feel. No real reason, no expectation on my part. The term insomnia is used a lot, I talk about my insomnia a lot on social media and in my blog, and I really just wanted to share what that means to me, and how it affects me.
I titled this post walking through the fog, as that is how a lot of my life feels. In a future blog I will talk more about how my insomnia affects me emotionally.