To sleep or not to sleep: that’s an insomniacs question

I have been sitting on this blog post literally since I started blogging 6 weeks ago.  I feel I have to/want to write a post about insomnia and my sleep journey however it’s a very very difficult topic to write about without me getting sucked into what has by far and away been the worse thing I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. However, I’m hoping that if I do write this post that other sufferers will know that they’re not alone in this scary, insanity inducing sleepless world, and you never know I might be able to suggest something that you haven’t tried before.

Insomnia counting sheep

My insomnia journey started in January 2005.  We had just taken a long haul flight home from a holiday and I remember like it was yesterday turning to Mr P (my then boyfriend) and saying that I just couldn’t shake off the jet lag and I wondered why it was taking so long… I never did shake it off, but it wasn’t jet lag.

For about the first 6 months I just lived with it.  I could always get to sleep however I would wake up in the middle of the night and then no matter what I couldn’t get back to sleep. Looking back at my sleep diaries I think I was probably getting about 5 hours sleep at this time which although left me tired, very tired, was copeable (is that even a word?) and life did continue as normal.

By the end of 2005 however I was starting to struggle.  I went to the GP who wasn’t very supportive and prescribed sleeping pills however I didn’t want to go down that route as I wanted to solve my insomnia and not just plaster over it.  I read up on the internet and ticked off every sleep hygiene box:

  1. Exercise regularly but not just before bed
  2. Avoid napping during the day (no matter how tired)
  3. Avoid alcohol as much as possible (struggle with this one!)
  4. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bed (I don’t actually drink tea or coffee so this wasn’t a problem)
  5. Block out all noise
  6. Don’t go to bed hungry or on a full stomach
    etc etc etc

I also at this time started doing acupuncture.  I had read up on insomnia and a lot of people had solved their sleeplessness with acupuncture so I went in with high hopes.  I saw a lovely man every week for a month or two but it just didn’t make a difference.  I think I would have continued for longer at this point but we were getting married in the April and my mother-in-law had been diagnosed with terminal cancer so I just didn’t feel I was in the right head space to be spending that much money on something that wasn’t working immediately.

I remember going on my Hen weekend in March 2006 with my friends and breaking down on them because I was just so tired.  This was the first time that I’d told anyone outside my family.  I hadn’t consciously kept it a secret but I didn’t want to be seen as a moaner saying how tired i was the whole time.  They felt the most important thing was that I wasn’t tired for my wedding so I went back to my GP who prescribed me 2 weeks of sleeping pills for the run up to my wedding.  I slept and it was amazing but I always knew it was a temporary stop gap.

The next few years are a bit of a blur as to when I did what but basically my sleep deteriorated further without a nights break.  I had my eldest in September 2007 and life was hard.  Having a newborn is hard enough without having to exist on 3 hours sleep a night and without napping during the day.  By this time we were trying more and more things to help me with my quest of saving my sanity:

  1. Hypnotherapy
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Chinese medicine
  4. Cranial osteopathy
  5. Magnesium tablets
  6. Melatonin tablets
  7. Increased exercise
  8. Nytol/herbal nytol
  9. New mattress (my old one was a Tempur mattress which made me very hot and staying cool is a big yes for sleep)
  10. Switch off all technology a few hours before bed
  11. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday
  12. Keeping a paper and pen next to my bed to write down my thoughts
  13. Keep a sleep, food and activity diary to see if I could find any pattern
  14. Changed my diet

I was becoming increasingly infuriated with my GP’s as well as I felt I had more knowledge than them and I was getting no help or referrals no matter how much I begged.

It also was continuing to get worse.  By October 2008 I was down to 45 minutes – 1 1/2 every night, every single night, week in, week out.  I then referred myself to the London Sleep Clinic on Harley Street.  It was here that I was taught about the insomnia technique of Sleep Restriction.  Basically I was only allowed to stay in bed for 5 hours a night.  I would go to bed at midnight and when I woke up if I couldn’t go back to sleep within a guestimated (as I wasn’t allowed a clock in the bedroom) 15 minutes I had to get up and do something relaxing (this is when I started sewing and crafting).  When I felt sleepy tired I could go back to bed however 15 guestimated minutes later up I got again until I felt sleepy tired and this continued until 5am when I wasn’t allowed back to bed and my day began.  As I never went back to sleep basically from 1am – 5am I was up and down like a yoyo which was beyond exhausting and such a very very lonely experience.

We found out I was pregnant with our daughter about 3 weeks into my sleep restriction training.  I had such hope and the doctor at the London Sleep Clinic had said that I should start seeing changes within a few weeks that I continued thinking that life would be improving very soon.  But it didn’t.  It just got worse.  Coping with insomnia is hard enough as it is however coping with insomnia and doing sleep training and being pregnant and having a toddler was beyond difficult.  I kept going and kept hoping until the April (I did sleep restriction for 15 weeks straight) when Mr P and my mother stepped in and said enough was enough.  I was sending myself insane with tiredness and it wasn’t fair on anyone.  We decided that while I was pregnant I was to get as much sleep and rest as possible even if it meant going against the rules.  I still didn’t nap during the day (as if I did I wouldn’t then get a minutes sleep at night) but I rested a lot and at night I would stay in bed reading rather than getting up.

I had also by this point found a GP who understood me and knew I wasn’t exaggerating and did her hardest to help find solutions.  My family and I saw her a few times to work out what we could do when our baby was born.  She researched sleeping pills that I could take while breast feeding so when my daughter was born we employed a Night Nanny who would work 4 nights a week and between her and my husband they would do all the night feeds while I slept in the spare room and took 14 nights worth of sleeping pills.  The first week it enabled me to get about 6 hours sleep a night and I was feeling a bit more sane and again I had hope that this is what my body needed to remember what it was like to sleep.  However by the 2nd week my body had got used to the sleeping pills and by night 14 it was only allowing me about 3 hours sleep.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I was on a seriously high dose of sleeping pills and even they didn’t work.  I then stumbled along with the help of family and a few pretty phenomenal friends and just about kept my head above water.  However, life with 2 children and getting no more than 90 minutes sleep every night just couldn’t continue.

My GP was continuing to be on my side and found a Psychiatrist at The Maudsley Hospital who focussed on sleep problems.  I was referred there and due to having such a young baby I was bumped to the top of the queue and therefore started seeing her in January 2010.  She agreed that the only way I was going to beat my sleep was to try sleep restriction again however this time she was going to arm me with some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tricks to hopefully allow me to cope better.  I also realised that I had to do something with my mornings from 5am as staying on my own when the rest of the house was asleep wasn’t going to be good for me mentally so I signed up to do a Triathlon in June 2010.  So at 5am every morning I would either go for a run, cycle or go the gym and have a swim.  it was bonkers but it kept me going.  The mornings when I didn’t go made the day so much harder.  Somehow having this focus gave me a positive reason for being awake.  Again sleep restriction didn’t work and after about 6 months I stopped.  I just couldn’t cope.  I was becoming a bad mother who was too tired to do anything and that was making me so sad and depressed that it just wasn’t worth it.

So since January 2011 I’ve been taking anti-depressants.  My GP had done some research and found some that have a side effect of helping sleep.  They work.  I’m probably now averaging about 3-4 hours sleep a night and I’m coping.  I started on the lowest dose and after about 10 months they stopped working so my GP increased the dosage and they started working again.  I’m in a stage at the moment where I can tell that the dosage is wearing off and my body is getting too used to it as my sleep is deteriorating.  I’m wary about upping the dose again as the next dose is the highest dose and then what happens when they stop working – that just doesn’t bare thinking about.  My daughter is now 3 and so my big game plan is to get her to school and once she’s there I will start sleep restriction again as I will have more time in the day to cope without the kids.

There are two people who have, without fail, been my rocks – Mr P and my mother.  Their lives have had to change dramatically in order to help me and support me through the last nearly 8 years of hell.  My mother has cancelled plans at the drop of a hat to come and help me with my days and Mr P has basically had to hold the family together and stop it all breaking down.  He’s had to cope with his stressful job by day and his stressed wife by night.  He is beyond amazing and there are literally no words to describe how grateful I am and how much I love him.

Whoever invented sleep deprivation as a form of torture was spot on.  Suffering from insomnia isn’t about being tired constantly because although I am that somehow isn’t the hard bit.  It is how it affects my mental health that makes it so hard – it basically sends you insane. There is no other way to describe it.

And… breath.  Phew, I’ve written it and I’m still here and not crying :)  It’s been a long old road and I know there’s a long long way to go however I do believe I will become a better sleeper some day and I believe the only way to solve it is with sleep restriction technique  however I have to be mentally strong to start that again especially if it may well take up to or over a year to make a difference.

I’m going to have a quick read through now and then just press ‘publish’ otherwise I might chicken out.

If you are reading this and nodding your head as you’re going through the same thing or know someone who is, please get in touch – either in the comment box or via email.  Ask any questions and I’ll try and answer.  Also if anyone has any other advice please please fire away. You never know, there might be something out there that I haven’t tried and that might be my solution!

Here are a few websites that have helped me with my insomnia journey:

London Sleep Centre
Talk About Sleep
Insomnia Lane

Thank you so much for reading

More Than Just A Mum

I’ve just come across a fabulous blogger called Kate Takes 5 - she has some really interesting posts and definitely makes you think while reading them.  Her latest post is titled “More than just a Mum” and talks about one thing she did before she was a Mum that she’s really proud of.

It got me thinking, and thinking, and thinking.  What did I do before I was a mother?  That’s scary, I’ve only been a Mum for 5 years but I’ve already forgotten my past life – and that’s just horrible.

So I wracked my brains a bit more and I came up with something that I’m really proud of.  It’s not the most exciting thing that I did pre kids but I’m really proud of myself for it…. I was a kick arse Salesman!  I had quite a few jobs before kids but all of them were sales based – advertising sales, internet sponsorship sales and then finishing in recruitment.  I hit and exceeded my targets without fail (and trust me I didn’t always work that hard!!!) and I had total confidence about what I did.  I knew I could walk into a room and make people listen.  I wasn’t the most business like person but I was very commercial and very very truthful and people seemed to buy into me and whatever it was that I was selling.  I’m beyond proud of this and as it’s now been over 5 years since I last worked and I’ve lost this confidence.  I don’t know where the self-esteem has gone but it’s gone.  Friends and acquaintances will say it’s still there and they are shocked when I voice my sadness that I’ve lost my vavavoom but I know I have.

I haven’t given up though.  Although I can’t imagine that I’ll ever go back to that work life but now the children are growing up I’m slowly but surely getting my identity back and feeling more confident and I know I will be kick arse amazing at something some time soon.

Please head over to Kate Takes 5 and read some other kick arse pre Mum stories

Thanks so much for reading

Ranty Friday – my lack of patience

I have a lasting memory of my childhood after Parents Evenings with my parents coming home saying that the feedback was all good, I worked hard and participated well in class BUT I had no patience and rushed everything.

ranty friday lack of patience woman shouting

I used to laugh and roll my eyes when my parents told me to slow down as I never found it to be a negative…. until now.

I would like to think that I’m now described as a crafter and if there’s anything a crafter needs is patience. Everything is a little bit fiddly with a lot of glue and far too much paper so it’s very easy to get frustrated! So basically it’s quite an amusing mix – me and craft.

Not only am I crafter without patience but I’m also a parent!! And surely patience is at the top of the list when you’re being accepted into parenting school :) Well somehow I got in.. twice!

This week therefore I’m ranting not about other people but about me. I think I’m an ok sort of girl but at the top of my list of things to change (other than my fat tummy of course) would be my lack of patience.

What do you find it difficult to be patient about?

Thank you so much for reading and please please head over to Mummy Barrow to read some other Ranty Friday posts.

The Gallery – Autumn

The Gallery is the brainchild of Sticky Fingers.  Every week she gives a prompt, an idea, a notion and we have to go out and take a photograph using that prompt. Or just use a photo you already have.  I then have to  post it on my blog and write about it.

The weeks Gallery is Autumn.

girl boy garden autumn leaves rake

I’m a huge gardener.  My parents are/were huge gardeners and although I don’t really remember actually gardening with them as a child I do remember being in the garden watching them spend hours keeping our garden looking perfect and the enjoyment they had out of it.

We are very lucky in that we have a big garden and the kids and I spend many many hours out there having fun.  Mr P’s jobs are mainly fixing the fences and putting the leaves into the wheelie bin.  My job however spans from mowing the lawn, weeding, planting, cutting back and basically making sure it looks gorgeous and even though I do say so myself I do a pretty good job.

I have a very complex diary that I’ve written myself after a lot of research and am continually updating it that literally tells me by the week what I should be doing with the garden i.e. planting bulbs, cutting back the roses, feeding the grass, replanting etc etc.  This is with a huge amount of advice and help from my mother and father in law who are both enormously knowledgable.  I also have an amazing friend who is a gardener and she helps me put the garden to bed in the Autumn and wakes it up in the Spring.  I’ve only known her for a few years but she and her partner Steve just rock – if you live in South London please please look Helen and Steve up at http://www.gardenia-gardens.com/

I love the time I spend out there with the kids.  They each have small spades and rakes and share a fab wheelbarrow (bought by Grandpa) and can honestly spend hours moving soil from one place to another or help me with the watering (when there’s not a ban!).

So it’s been a joy this week putting up my Autumn photo for The Gallery.  It basically sums up not only Autumn with us clearing up the leaves but basically the whole year as we spend so much time out there enjoying it.

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to hearing what the next Gallery theme will be.

Reasons To Be Cheerful – new friends

I’m sitting here tonight in our Sitting Room with a glass of vino and full stomach!   Mr P and my mother (who’s currently living with us) are in the kitchen talking American politics and although it’s interesting, I feel I’m a little politics out having spent the whole day reading and watching it.

So I’ve grabbed the chance for a bit of peace and quiet and wanted to write my next blog post.

I feel I’m in the very lucky position of still living in the area that I was bought up in so a lot of my school friends still live very close to me.  So although when I was pregnant I knew that I was going to meet new people and socialise with new people I never realised that I would make such seriously amazing friends.

I did NCT with my eldest and have made 2 friends there that I will have for life.  They were my absolutely saviours in the early days when things are so difficult and confusing and now we are back to being women in our own right (rather than being confused Mummy’s) we can laugh about those days and move on and enjoy each other and our interests etc.

I then had my daughter two years later and initially I didn’t make any friends with children her age and this didn’t matter until my eldest went to nursery when I felt it would be good for her to mix with same age friends.  I turned to my local forum and joined a book club that after one week turned swiftly into a Friday afternoon wine club!  Not only are the kids inseparable but so are the adults.  What’s lovely is that not only do the Mummy’s get on well but luckily so do all the husbands.  I see this group of friends every week and we regularly having dinner with with all the partners.  We are also totally there for each other through thick and thin and know that we can leave our children with each other in case of emergencies or daytime babysitting without hesitating.

That moves me onto my 3rd set of new friends that I’m so very very lucky to have met.  Our eldest started school this September, however he had been at nursery last year with all the same children so we’ve known each other for over a year now.  I think we are so very lucky with the group of Mum’s – very down to earth, like their socialising, love their children but aren’t ruled by their children (if that makes sense) and most of all make me smile and we have such fun.  They’ve been so supportive with this blog and my new crafting business and I don’t know what I would do without them.

So, for this weeks “Reasons To Be Cheerful” I have a big smile on my face and say, definitely my new friends.

Please head on over to Mummy From The Heart to read all the other R2BC entries.

Reasons to be cheerful

Discovering New Blogs

Lynn C Schreiber over at Salt and Caramel has created a Discover New Blogs meme.  This is a great idea not only for new bloggers to go and shout about themselves but also for the more experienced bloggers to find new writers that they would like to read.

So following the rules that Lynn has set out:

My name is Sally and I’m a SAHM to two children, a boy who’s 5 and a girl who’s 3.  I also have a wonderful husband who works far too hard, is the chef of the house and is the rock of our family.

I started blogging 6 weeks ago.  The main reason for this is that I suffer from insomnia.  I don’t mean a few nights here and there of no sleep, I mean 7 phenomenally hard years where at my worst I was getting 45 minutes every night (this lasted for nearly 2 years and that was while I was pregnant and had our 2nd child.  At it’s best it’s 4 hours a night  (which is where I am now).  This has sent me pretty loopy in the past (and still does occasionally) however now that my youngest has started nursery 15 hours a week I am just able to cope so much better than ever before.  Anyway, I’m waffling, the reason I started blogging (and crafting) is basically so I have something to do at night when I’m awake and no one else is.  It keeps me sane and I’ve found that I’m really really enjoying it.  Not only am I enjoying blogging but I’m loving the whole social media world – it’s quite addictive isn’t it?

I think I am most proud of my very first post Hello Everyone - basically because it was my first.  It took me a long time to decide whether I was going to “come out” i.e. be myself or whether I was going to write under an alias.  However my most popular posts have always been my Ranty Friday one’s – I think everyone likes to read a good old rant :)

The post that I’ve had the best response to is my most recent Silent Sunday post.  I wasn’t surprised as it was just after I came out to my friends on Facebook so I knew my hits would increase over the next day or so.

 

Some blogs that I like to read:

http://winecantcurebackpain.wordpress.com/

http://mamamarmalade.blogspot.co.uk/

http://2under2.co.uk/

http://aspie-girl.blogspot.co.uk/

http://stumblinginflats.com/

http://pockettpause.wordpress.com/

http://londonloafing.com/

Unfortunately as I’m on free WordPress I’m not able to show the blog hop here so please click through to Salt and Caramel to see some other new blogs.

Thanks so much for reading and thank you Lynn for starting.

Writers Block – after only a month!!!

So I’ve never been a “writer”.  I didn’t take essay subjects for A-levels and did Internet Computing for my degree so basically I haven’t written properly for nearly 20 years!

As you may well know by now I started this blog just over a month ago now to help keep me entertained at night while I’m awake (I suffer from severe insomnia and it’s literally been over 7 years since I last had a good nights sleep).

writers block blog

Anyway, my blog is public, i.e. all my friends and family know about it so there is a certain sense of being careful just in case my Mummy decided to read it.  However I also want to be very honest with everything I write and it all comes from my heart and I think as I’m not a “writer” it actually comes out as I speak – if that makes sense – i.e. I don’t edit it afterwards it’s just like I’m talking to you!!!! – and yes, I do talk a lot.

Four weeks in and I’ve come to a bit of a halt.  I’m loving the weekly meme’s such as Ranty Friday and Reasons To Be Cheerful that gives me a topic to write about as that helps me focus.  I had a night at home tonight and I had such high hopes of starting a few posts (for those that don’t blog you can write a post but set a publish time and date in the future or start a post and then come back to it to finish).  So I had thought I might start a few posts as I’ve got a busy rest of the week ahead but I sat here with my supper, glass of wine and rubbish on tv and I came up with nothing, absolutely nothing.

So I asked my Twitter friends if they had any ideas:

Mummy’s on the wine said: “no other than sit back and it’ll come! I find if I schedule myself to blog I can’t think of anything…”

Ms Mummy of two said: ” i went people watching in a cafe and also watch something you don’t normally watch on tv and read other blogs !”

MistySrsly said: “I nosy in on people’s conversations haha”

Aspie-Girl said “What you need is lack of sleep, extra sugar, caffeine and a sudden urge to share. It’s like being drunk with a keyboard”

What would I do without Twitter.  As with my blog I’ve only been ‘doing it’ for a month but I can’t remember life without it.

So… I’m off to people watch, nosy in on other people’s conversations, sit back and relax ….and I already do the lack of sleep and drinking too much!!!

Thank you for all my help and fingers crossed something highly interesting and amusing will be published tomorrow :)

What really grinds my gears….

I was tagged by the fabulous Clare Lou Allen, who asked me to share things that grind my gears. The meme rules are to simply link back to the meme creator, & the person who tagged you.

So here I go, what really gets on my goat…….

  • People who don’t say please and thank you
  • Inconsiderate drivers
  • People talking under their breath but loud enough for me to say “pardon” but them to say “oh nothing”
  • My mother’s eyebrow raises when I pour myself another glass of wine (she’s currently living with us so this is happening A LOT)
  • My sons fussy eating
  • My daughter’s stubborness (that she gets from me)
  • When I’ve spent hours crafting a picture only to realise that I’ve stuck everything upside down from where the hook on the back is (happened twice in a row)
  • Competitive mothers (or fathers)
  • People that don’t appreciate the amazingness of Home and Away!!
  • Dog owners that don’t pick up after them – AGH

I’m sitting here getting more and more annoyed as I’m thinking about all those little annoyances in life….. so I’ll stop now and pass the buck onto some other lovely bloggers…

The lady who came up with this fab idea is Mummy of Many Talents at http://mummyofmanytalents.wordpress.com/
And I’m tagging the following and going to ask them what really grinds their gears: