Sleeplessness is one of the more frustrating symptoms of PTSD. It leaves you feeling sluggish during the day, and, at least in my own situation, angry that I can’t sleep when I’m tired and want to sleep. Oh, I’ve read all the reports on that things you can do to help yourself get through insomnia, and none of them work with the exception of one: surrendering to it. I have found that if I don’t fight sleeplessness, I can at least live with it.
My night generally goes like this: I am exhausted and want to go to bed fairly early since I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I average about 5 hours per night, if I’m lucky. So, around 9:00 pm, I want to crawl into bed and go to sleep. When I do, I’ll be fortunate if I can actually get three to four hours of sleep. It’s more likely I’ll wake by midnight or slightly before with my mind racing, sometimes drenched in sweat and trying to fight my way out of a nightmare.
Interestingly, what I’ve found helps the most is to not fight it. I simply get up when I wake up, whatever time it is, and I stay up for several hours until I’m tired again. I have several books by the bed, some crossword puzzles, and my ipad is handy. I can play some games, listen to music, work a few puzzles and relax, or I can lie there and curse my misfortune at being awake. Seems like a no-brainer to me!
I am fortunate in having several little dogs to keep me company, and since they sleep around 20 hours a day, they don’t mind getting up in the night to be scratched and told how wonderful they are. It makes it feel less alone and I find I go back to sleep much more quickly than if I fight it.
Next time you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, think about how you could use your time more productively. I am lucky in that I can sleep in the next morning if I want. I also acknowledge that, for me at least, it’s ok to get by on 5 hours of sleep per night. While I’d like more, I am comfortable during the day most of the time. Instead of fighting your sleeplessness, try working with it. It reminds me of the poster I once saw that said, “The best way out is through.” That’s true here; it doesn’t help to get mad and rage against the dark. Chill out, enjoy the extra time. It sure beats getting worked up over something that I can’t change.