Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7: What To Do With A Relapse?

by Gregory
Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7

In The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7, we discuss relapse.  As with drugs, gambling, online shopping or other vices or “issues” relapses may occur at any time.    Even when the best of intentions exists, everyone slips up.  In the case of insomnia, it isn’t an addiction but may engender feelings of sadness, guilt, or worry.   So today in The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7, we will discuss “What do you do when you relapse?

The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7

It has been two months since my last installment of the The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles.  In that excerpt entitled “Restoration” I discussed, rather triumphantly, that my sleep had returned back to what it had been prior to the summer of 2016.  I was rather gleeful and optimistic that I had “nipped it in the bud” and turned a corner from my insomnia and the debilitating OCD routine that became ossified to optimize my chances of getting sleep.

In the last two months, my sleep has been okay.  Okay in that I will normally get in bed at 9:30pm and doze off watching Friends on my laptop on my lap.  I would normally wake up 2-3 hours later, have enough consciousness to gently place the computer on the floor and then fall asleep on my side.

Around 3:00am is when I would begin to awaken.  I would awaken and turn to my other side.  And this would occur about every 30 minutes but I would normally fall asleep.  If I didn’t fall asleep within a minute or so, I would put on my pre-arranged low volume boring history podcast which is on my Airplane mode-On iPhone.  

It is set up where I don’t have to grab my phone or needlessly have to see the time.  I click on the earbuds to turn on the podcast and normally that low volume podcast would put me to sleep for 30 minutes.  And then I would awaken, turn to my other side, and repeat that until about 6:00am.

Though this sleep pattern is certainly not ideal, it is good enough for me.  I have never been one of those types who needs 7-9 hours to feel refreshed. On these aforementioned nights where I would sleep well from 10:00pm to 3:00am, and then hodgepodge here-and-there for 3 or 4 30-minute segments I would probably amass 6 hours of sleep.  That works for me.

What happened?

You might be asking what caused this The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7 to be written now.  Well, last night I feel asleep as is with Friends on the laptop but I awoke at 1:45am.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t go back to sleep the remainder of the night.

What did I do from 1:45am to 6:30am?  I did the sleep restriction/sleep hygiene protocol recommended by CBT-Insomnia.  For example, I turned on to my other side but couldn’t fall asleep.  I tried the podcast on my side but couldn’t go down.  I learned from CBT-I that if you can’t fall asleep 30 minutes after awakening you should move to another place in your room or house to avoid connecting your bed with frustration and anxiety. (Learn more about CBT-Insomnia therapy by clicking link below or read more from the Mayo Clinic.)

So I moved over to the loveseat couch in my room.  Now once a week, normally on Sunday nights, which statistically is the night we get the worst sleep, I awaken at 3:00am and move to the couch.  On the couch, I might journal for 20 minutes, flip the red light bulb off, and doze off listening to a dull, low-volumed podcast, and then awaken at 6:00am. (Purchase red light bulbs below.)

In this case though, the “Love Seat magic” didn’t work.  I made a mistake and got on the computer after journaling.  Now I did have my blue-light blocking glasses on and had the computer on the lowest possible setting, but the mistake I made was going on Facebook.  You see if you go on the computer at night it needs to be something dull or at least, reassuring.  Like the Office or Parks & Rec.  Something like Facebook keeps you stimulated, especially when responding to people’s posts.

That wasted 45 minutes.  I that point I endeavored to podcast lull to sleep.  Didn’t work.  At this point it was 4:00am so I tried going back to the bed.  First with no music and later with music.  No good.  So I tried something I had never done before.  I went to my daughter’s room and cozied up on her papasan chair and used a chair to prop my feet up.  

Again, with CBT-I you should move locations every 30 minutes but also engage in low stress activities until you feel sleepy and then try to go back to sleep for 30 minutes. (Purchase blue-light blocking glasses below.  They are indispensable for those suffering from insomnia.) 

About the papasan chair.  I literally felt I was back in 1994 since papasan chairs haven’t been in fashion since the Gin Blossoms were big, but it is comfy.  My daughter was not staying with me last night by the way.  I got really comfy and played a quiet podcast.  Honestly I think I got 20 minutes of sleep on the papasan chair.  I was certainly hallucinating.

Now it might freak you out when I say I hallucinate.  It is hard to explain.  In the early hours of a morning when you haven’t gotten much sleep, you sometimes begin to see things when your eyes are closed.  I’m not saying I saw purple elephants walking through my room like I was on LSD.  

When your eyes are closed sometimes you see dark geometric shapes or you feel like you are traveling through space.  When this first used to happen back in 2016 it freaked the shit out of me.  Now, not so much because “What’s the point?”  Freaking out only exacerbates neurotic insomnia.

Today’s Lessons

So as I write The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7, you might expect I am a little worried. I maybe slept 3 1/2 hours last night and have arguably been up since 1:45am. The one good thing about having insomnia is that you have seen the absolute worse.  I literally went nights a year ago when I was getting 30 minutes to 2 hours a sleep for consecutive days.  That shit is bad.

The big takeaway from Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7 is it’s all about the mindset.  Yes, I didn’t sleep well.  But I will function just fine today.  I will be a little groggy but the cortisol will be cranked out all day to keep me functioning.  I will even likely go lift and do cardio.  But it’s about the mindset.  Yes, I slept poorly but it’s no big deal.  I will sleep just fine in the next couple of day.  Last night was a hiccup.

Even if you don’t think it and you are truly worried, NO GOOD COMES FROM CATASTROPHIZING.  We have talked about this in past The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles excerpts.  Catastrophizing, thinking the worst about your insomnia, only exacerbates the insomnia.  You think “OMG, I didn’t sleep well last night.  That means I won’t sleep well tonight.  I dread going to bed.  If I don’t sleep well tomorrow, they will have to drug me up and put me in a facility.  Who knows, within a week I might be dead from sleep deprivation.

Thinking like this doesn’t help you.  It will literally lead you to worse insomnia.  It might be better to think “I relapsed.  It isn’t good that I didn’t sleep well, but I will recover just fine.  I will never be hospitalized and certainly won’t die from this.    I will continue practicing good sleep hygiene and good CBT-I principles.”

Click HERE to read our article on Proper Sleep Hygiene.

I will likely have some form of poor sleep perhaps forever.  And I do worry that even though I sleep well 85% of the time, I might have problems keeping a significant other if my sleep doesn’t improve.  I lost my fiancée partly because I couldn’t control this round of insomnia. (Click HERE to read that excerpt.)

Perhaps, I will be one of those people who always struggles with insomnia, but honestly I’m not too worried.  A king size bed with my SO and a kind understanding from her of my condition and that I might need to move to a couch or something in the middle of the night will work well for me and is not too much of an inconvenience to her.

Either way, I must have faith in my abilities to regulate this debilitation and faith in God that it won’t get worse.  And look most of the time I sleep well.  I just have to remember that I had ONE BAD NIGHT and it’s a slight relapse and nothing more.  Thinking anything other than that by catastrophizing is completely unproductive.  Hope you enjoyed Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #7.  

(Note: Since the writing of this article, I have slept normally for 2 days.)

Have sleep problems? Listen to Holistic Health News episode on ways to combat insomnia.

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