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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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

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:

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

Pass On The Lurve

So I’ve just come across a fabulous blogger called Manic Mum ( via Super Amazing Mum whom I follow).

Basically Manic Mum (MM) met Super Amazing Mum (SAM) 2 years ago online.  They both started blogging at the same time and as newbies together they bonded.  They weren’t friends in real life however have become so.  MM has gone through the most horrendous personal nightmare and SAM jumped in without being asked and from what I have read was there when she was really needed and they now are real life best buddies.  Their families are friends, their kids are mates, and they stay at each others houses and call each other up to laugh, cry or just for a chin wag.  So, because MM loves SAM so much and appreciates their friendship she wanted to start a “Pass on the Lurve” link where people in turn write about someone they’ve met blogging that they now count as a true friend – what a great idea.

Their story really moved me.  You see, I’m just a newbie. I’ve only been blogging for 3 1/2 weeks and I’m sitting here wondering whether perhaps in 2 years time I can look at MM’s post and add my own link to someone I meet in this humungous world of blogging.  Maybe it’s someone I’ve already met or someone lurking on the outside currently but might jump in as a follower very soon!!!  Whatever happens, I would really really like to come back to MM’s post in a few years and who know’s, someone might find it and write about me too!

So if you have someone that you would like to write about please please pass on the lurve

Thanks for reading x