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

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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:

The Gallery – Frightful

The Gallery is the brainchild of Sticky Fingers.  Every Friday 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.

So this weeks prompt is ‘frightful’.  I’ve looked through a lot of the other entries and obviously as it’s halloween that has been the focus of a lot of people’s pictures.  As I wrote in an earlier post I’m a bit bah humbug about halloween so I have no such photos so I’ve just spent the last half an hour looking through past pictures on my computer trying to find something that would sum up frightful and I found one that I thought fits quite well.

Frightful – frightful parenting

Earlier this year some great friends of ours got married in South Africa.  My husband was an usher and therefore part of the wedding party which meant he sat up in the front pew.  That left me trying to keep the children entertained and quiet for about 45 minutes.  I’m a HUGE fan of weddings and the actual ceremony and even more so when I love the couple as much as I love this couple.  So I thought about it when we were packing for our holiday and I decided to invest in 2 pairs of headphones that I could plug into my iPad which would allow the children to watch tv (which always keeps them quiet) but obviously with no sound coming out.  It worked an absolute treat and they gave me 45 minutes of quiet while I watched a magical ceremony.

The reaction from others was a mixed bag. The majority thought it was a great idea and were going to follow suit in the future but a few looked in that way that told me they thought it was ‘frightful’ parenting 🙂

Thanks for listening and I look forward to next weeks gallery with a theme of Autumn.

Knowing Me Knowing You Meme

The purpose of this meme was to bring bloggers together, to learn about the person behind the computer screen.
The Rules:
  • Nominate five other blogs in your post ( All must have less than 250 subscribers)
  • Post five random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the five questions that the “tagger” has asked you, and then list your own five questions to ask others.
  • Let your five friends know you have tagged them by commenting on there blog/tweeting them.
My Five Random Facts
  • I gave birth to both my children in my Sitting Room
  • I was London Schools high jump champion 3 years in a row
  • I’ve suffered from insomnia for 7 years and apart from when I occasionally take a sleeping pill I never get more than 3-4 hours a night
  • I was in the Olympic Stadium for Super Saturday and saw 3 GB gold medals in 40 minutes
  • I spend 2 hours every week helping at my sons school

I was asked to answer the following:

Is there a moment in your life which was utterly life changing?

Oooo this is a hard one.  I don’t want to say meeting my husband or having my kids because although they were obviously life defining moments I want to think outside the box ….. I think maybe it was watching my Mother-In-Law battle and eventually die from breast cancer.  She was the most phenomenal woman who was so brave and positive with an amazing outlook on life.  She died 3 weeks before our eldest was born which is just devastating as she really would have been such a wonderful Granny.  She died at home with all of us around her and she has left an enormous hole in our lives but she really does live on in our memories.  I speak about her everyday with our children and my daughter’s love of everything girlie and pink definitely comes from her.  I think she has made me realise that nothing in life should stop us being happy and enjoying what we’ve got when we’ve got it.  Life is just too short….

What was the first single you ever bought?

Carless Whisper – Wham

Why did you start to blog?

I’m an insomniac who has a lot of spare time at night so I started to blog and make my crafts to keep myself sane.

Would you rather be happy and poor or sad but rich?

No question – happy and poor

What is your favourite film and what do you think that says about you?

Love Actually, Notting Hill, 4 Wedding and a Funeral – that I’m far too soppy!
So, onto the 5 people that I want to tag:
My 5 questions to you are:
  1. If you had 24 hours to live and money was no object what would you do?
  2. If you could change one thing that you’ve done in your life what would you change?
  3. What has been your favourite holiday and why?
  4. What would your choice of last meal be?
  5. What would your dream day with your kids be?
Thanks so much for reading and thank you very much to Mumtales for tagging me
I look forward to reading my tags replies

Reasons to be cheerful – it’s the end of half term

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my children and love spending time with them but we’ve just had 2 weeks of half term and that’s only 6 weeks after 9 whole weeks of summer holidays.

My youngest only just started Nursery in September so this is my first experience of having my own time and I’m absolutely loving it.  Truly truly loving it.  It’s only 15 hours a week but it’s been a joy.  For the first few weeks I did very little.  I had grand plans of sorting out the house and their bedrooms and our office that I was changing into my craft room however in truth I watched a lot of Sky Plus!!!!  Anyway, come the end of September I started up Pressies by Pebbles and since then I’ve been spending my time crafting and blogging and generally getting excited about my new business.

So for the children to have been at home for the last 2 weeks, it’s kind of halted everything just as I was getting into my stride.  We’ve had fun swimming, playing in the park and snuggling on the sofa watching films but they’ve also frustrated me.  They are both enormously tired after a busy first half term and therefore are very short fused and hence leaving me a little frustrated.

So, although I feel guilty for saying this, my reason to be cheerful this week is because come Monday they will be back at school and nursery and my equilibrium will return 🙂

I’m linking this up with Reasons to be Cheerful over at Mummy from the Heart

In-Laws or Out-Laws?

I think this is a very emotive subject for most relationships.  Very very real for any couple but I’m going to talk about it from a woman’s perspective.

Mother-In-Laws-Present out laws

When you start dating someone the last thing on your mind I suppose is “Will I get on with his family”, and even as you get more serious and therefore spend more time with his family, it’s only in short bursts so therefore all very amicable!

So at what point do you think we start thinking about the family that we’ll be “adopting”.  When do we think “can I live the rest of my life with them being part of my family”?

Since getting married 6 years ago and now being a parent I have spent many many many hours with  friends discussing their in-laws (or in some cases out-laws) and I have to say in more cases than not it’s a negative conversation.

Starting with marriage, the mother-in-law can get too involved with wedding plans and makes decisions that the bride doesn’t want.  Then onto children where there can always be a view on what to do and how to do it.

Then, another real issue, does the husband stick up for his wife in front of his parents or take what he feels is the easy ride and lets it go only to have it in the back from his wife when behind closed doors?

I will always remember the first time I met Mr P’s parents.  I was feeling absolutely awful, I had a really really bad cold but I had to go to theirs to stay for the weekend.  We arrived mid evening on the Friday night and had supper straight away.  I kept on having to excuse myself to leave the room to blow my nose or sneeze and found it really really difficult to make conversation.  Anyway, after supper I went upstairs on the pre tense of going to the loo but in fact I locked myself into the bathroom to phone my Mummy to have a cry about how awful I was feeling.  When I opened the door to go back downstairs my darling mother-in-law was standing there with her arms open and just gave me the most wonderful cuddle, she then took me to my bedroom and put me to bed.  She came back up with a hot toddy and kept on coming to check on me throughout the evening.  I will never forget this to this day.

I won’t say it’s always been absolutely perfect.  We had the discussions after we got engaged as to numbers and which family and friends they could invite.  I had to take a deep breath a few times and let my husband sort out the situation.  But none of these issues were major just a bit annoying at the time.

I would love to be able to sit here now and say that I’ve also had some difficulty with her since I’ve had kids but unfortunately I can’t as very sadly she died 3 weeks before my eldest was born having struggled with cancer for the previous 18 months.  She would have made the most phenomenal Granny and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not sad about what she’s missing out on.

However, I am now left with an amazing father-in-law (he was always great but I think maybe a bit more amazing now).  If she was alive I’m not sure he would have stepped up to the mark with the Grandkids as much as he has.  But here is a man who never changed his own children’s nappies let alone looked after them on his own and who is now on his own with no help.  However he regularly has our two for the weekend to allow us to go to weddings etc.  He’s never ever tried to advise me on how to parent, he’s just been there to congratulate me on the job i’m doing with them and to be there to support me when I need help with the kids or a glass of wine to be poured etc.

So when I sit with my friends who are quite often talking about annoying things their in-laws have done I just have to sit back and offer sympathy but thank my lucky stars for being blessed with mine.

Are you lucky enough to have in-laws or do you have to put up with the out-laws?  And if out-laws do you find yourself fighting with your partner as they’re not sticking up for you like you would expect?

Halloween – bar humbug

So I’m going to admit it …. I just don’t get trick or treating!

When I was younger my parents didn’t allow us out to trick or treat and at the time I thought that was highly unfair – especially as we were normally in bed when my friends were knocking on our door having fun.

halloween trick or treat family

We were allowed to dress up after school and Mummy would make us a spooky tea of sorts but that’s where the fun ended.

Therefore you would assume that I would not conform to my parents ideals and instead grasp Halloween fully – but oh no. I’m just as bar humbug as my parents.

My children are still only 3 and 5 but I’m rejoicing that its half term so they won’t know about it and I won’t need to even dress them up! My curtains will be closed and the porch light won’t be turned on tonight which is a sign to say “go away I have no sweets”. That reminds me, my mother used to give out one raisin each and she used to cackle when telling us the next morning that she bet she wouldn’t see the same children the following year, and yes she was right!

So am I down right cruel (a lot of my friends thing I am) or are you going to join me being bar humbug?

Thanks for reading x

How important are date nights?

So so so excited as we’re off to the cinema tonight to see the new Bond movie.

We are both HUGE Bond fans having spent a lot of our early courting years snuggling under the duvet and watching back to back Bond films.  Mr P even admitted one day that he learnt some of his amazing foreplay moves on Mr Bond himself – ha ha ha how that made me laugh!

james bond date night marriage children

So anyway, the babysitter will come at 7 and we’ll go and enjoy a lovely supper in ‘Brixton Village’.  Most of the restaurants there are BYO and we’ve got our eyes set on the lovely Thai Restaurant but we’ll have to play it by ear as we can’t book so we’ll need to find somewhere that will feed us quickly so we can be back at the cinema for 8.30 to purchase the prerequisite popcorn before the film starts.

Since having children 5 years ago we’ve gone through phases of having regular ‘date nights’ and not.  We are normally ruled by Mr P’s work schedule but he’s quite good at pushing even the important things aside to allow us our weekly night out with just the two of us.

On a normal evening Mr P gets home from work about 8 ish and we’ll eat supper straight away and then he will work again until we go to bed.  He will be sitting with me on the sofa in the sitting room and I’ll be crafting away with the tv on in the background and although we’re together it’s just not the same as getting out and having each others undivided attention.

I can honestly say for us and our relationship it’s so so important that we have our time out of the house with no distractions and I can notice the difference when it doesn’t happen.  It’s not that we necessarily argue more but we definitely niggle at each other when we don’t have the chance to talk things through.

So I had better post this and go and brave the elements outside again and join Mr P with putting the garden to bed for the winter while we get excited about our date later.  You never know, Mr P might learn a few more moves!!!!

Thanks for reading

How many children do you want?

“How can you say there are too many children?  That’s like saying that there are too many flowers” Mother Teresa.

Do you want a Von Trapp brood or a comfortable number that seems easily manageable?

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post I’ve been in the lucky (well I think lucky) position of always knowing how many children I want, and luckily Mr P has agreed with me.  Two children works for us and that belief has never changed.

We have, however, just had my nephew and niece to stay (my brother and his wife were at a wedding for the weekend).  They are 10 and 8 and are just the most lovely children and are a joy to look after.  The amazingness for us was that we have had a very very chilled weekend.  From the moment they walked through the door they played with our children (aged 5 and 3) continually.  Hide and seek, drawing, puzzles, football, lego, mummy and babies – literally every game under the sun they played.  Mr P and I just didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

I ended up finishing 3 craft projects that have been hanging over me for the past few weeks and Mr P got some paperwork done which means he hasn’t had to do it this afternoon after my niece and nephew left.

So… I totally understand that if they were our children full time that they perhaps wouldn’t play so nicely or for that long together however I can see the argument of 4 children.  The first 2 go to school when you have the second 2 and then they can all keep each other entertained when jobs and chores need to be done!!

Is that too simplistic a view? Probably.  A lot of my friends who have gone from 2 to 3 say that it’s because they just didn’t feel their family was complete yet.  No ulterior motive, no babysitters on tap, just because they knew they wanted to be a Mummy of 3.

So what has made you stop or carry on?  Money, number of bedrooms, can’t stand the thought of going through pregnancy or labour again or did you keep going for the other sex even though stats aren’t on your side?

This is a debate where there’s no right or wrong however if you are lucky enough to be able to choose the number, how many children do you want?