bleg: sleeping hacks

It’s 7:00 in the morning, and I’m in the office: showered, shaved, dressed, caffeinated. I was in bed by 9:30 last night. Then I woke up at 2:00. Then 4:00. Then 5:00. I finally just got out of bed at 6:00. I cannot go on like this. I’m too tired.

There are no loud noises in the night waking me up. I’m not drinking excessive caffeine, just one cup of coffee in the morning and one Diet Coke later in the day (usually just before or after lunch). I’m eating healthily. I’m exercising. I’m not on any new medications. Maybe it’s just the energy of the semester that’s keeping me wired.

I need some suggestions. What have you found helpful when you find yourself in this situation?

technorati: sleep, insomnia, bleg

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16 thoughts on “bleg: sleeping hacks

  1. I have the same symptoms with dull regularity for a couple of weeks then I go back to sleeping OK for a month or two.

    So: sympathy.

    I’ve never found it possible to follow the ‘just get up’ type of advice. I have to stay in bed, but I try to break the cycle somehow: put my pillow at the bottom of the bed and lie upside-down, listen to some quiet music to occupy my mind, or do a yoga breath exercise. Or hug the cat. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

  2. I have the same problem and the only thing that works for me is Ambien, half a tablet. I try not to take it every night, or even every other night, because I don’t want to get addicted. It seems, so far anyway, that one night of sleep through the night with a little chemical help gets my body used to doing that enough that I’ll sleep soundly for a few more nights without the Ambien.

    There are other sleep-aid drugs, of course, and you may not want drugs at all, but Ambien works for me.

    Also, I find Sleepytime tea with Valerian usually effective.

  3. I have the same problem early in the semester, and usually I unwind with a single beer, but that’s probably not the best advice. As Dr. V points out, tea can be a good sleep remedy.

    Sometimes I try thinking about baseball or football statistics or something equally unimportant (the postmodern version of counting sheep) and that usually bores me to sleep.

  4. Dr. V, I am seriously craving some Ambien. I’ve never used it, mind you, but the idea of being knocked out for a full 8 hours is awfully appealing. I also like the herbal suggestions.

    Chuck, I don’t even know any sports statistics, so that won’t work for me, but some kind of distraction would be good…superhero team lineups, maybe? Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon? And beer = good.

    Krista, I’m drinking chamomile right now and will soon be taking a hot bath.

    I got home at 9:00. This was an unusually long and busy day, but clearly something has to change about my schedule and/or work routine.

    I get so tired that my mood takes a nosedive, my patience runs thin, my sense of perspective goes out of whack. I don’t believe I’m doing my best as a teacher, as a scholar, as a colleague , as a friend when I’m like this. My bad traits get worse.

    I’m continuing to navigate the goals of this blog. Is this kind of post something I originally intended to be doing here? Does it matter?

  5. 1. I don’t think it does matter.
    2. An addendum: I also sleep better (and have more patience, better moods, etc.) when I’m having deep tissue massage done regularly. If that much pressure isn’t your thing, easier Esalen or straight-up Swedish are also helpful.

    That is all.

  6. To quote many a student essay: I have a problem that is similar, yet different. ;-) I wake up multiple times in the night, but only because my cats wake me up! So I can sympathize with the tiredness, but don’t have much to offer. Just the standard advice: try to create some space between the end of the day and going to bed; don’t work work work and then try to go to sleep; instead, give yourself an hour/half-hour of puttering around, cleaning the kitchen, clearing the living room, taking out the trash, whatever little mindless routines work for you. I’m a little OCD about needing the same routines before I go to bed every night, but I think it really helps to get one’s brain to turn off and stop racing around and around. (Also, I hear working out in the evening can make sleep difficult, depending on when you’re doing that.)

    Finally, not to pathologize this or anything, but sleep problems and irritability can be signs of depression…which I have no idea if you have any problems with, but I know from personal experience that moving to a new place and starting a new job can be awfully difficult.

    Will butt out now…

  7. Laura, somehow your comment was categorized as spam. Hmm. Shouldn’t happen again.

    I like the idea of hugging your cat. Please ship Baz to me post haste. Contact me privately for the proper address.

    Krista, massage is a great idea. I’ll look into it.

    New Kid, I’m avoiding exercise in the evening, and I am letting my brain unwind with some Netflixed tv before sleep (The Closer for awhile, and now House).

    I’m not experiencing any depression right now, though this summer was another story. My mood, when I have enough sleep, is quite good. I have definitely gone through major personal changes over the past few months, but I seem to be handling them okay. Thanks for asking, though.

  8. Yeah, I knew sports statistics weren’t your thing, but your suggestions might work. For me, the more banal the better (I follow sports habitually but I really don’t care). I’d say six degrees of Kevin Bacon would work.

  9. I’ve had similar symptoms on and off since I was 12. I’ve decided to go to the doctor and do some sleep testing. My regular doctor says that it could be anything from tension to sleep apnea. Not getting enough sleep really turns me into another person. Perhaps a doctor visit might help.

  10. Chuck, I actually did do Seven… er… Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon the other night, and it helped somewhat.

    Dogma, as you probably know, the sleep aid ingredient in Advil PM (and Tylenol PM, Benadryl, and Unisom) is Diphenhydramine. To take it easy on my liver, I try to avoid the stuff that has both this ingredient and a pain reliever if I am not in any kind of pain. So I’ve used Unisom and Tylenol’s “Simply Sleep,” both of which help to keep me asleep longer than I might ordinarily be. The thought of Ambien is not overwhelming, btw.

    Jim, a doctor’s visit is definitely in the cards.

  11. Some other natural/alt suggestions: valerian herb works well for some people (take 1 hr before bedtime) –for others it does nothing. Magnesium is a mineral many people are deficient in — 500 mg before bed can help you relax (it is also the ingredient in epsom salts, which you can add to your warm bath to relax muscles).

    Finally, there’s an amino acid supplement which helped me tremendously when I was having anxiety sleep problems a few years ago — it’s called GABA (gamma something you can look it up on iherb.com) — get the 250 mg tabs and you can play with the dosage (1 or 2 an hour before bed) — it activates the same receptors in the brain as valium, but is non narcotic, non addictive, and lets you dream, which some sleep aids don’t, which will make you feel rested but yet crazier. It gave me really peaceful and continuous sleep.

  12. Thank you for the suggestions, Mel. My sleeping has gotten better this past week, mainly from my having found my stride with my work schedule this semester, I think.

    I’m still going to make an appointment with the doctor, however.

  13. Thanks, George, for posting on this topic, and thanks to your commenters for the suggestions. I’m off to find some GABA now. I haven’t been sleeping at all for a couple of weeks now. I can’t take anything with Diphenhydramine because it knocks me out for hours and hours and hours. I once took half a dose of TylenolPM and literally spent 24 hours as a zombie.

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