The Great Sleep Experiment

Sleep is an elusive entity at the moment. For roughly 3 weeks I have been unable to sleep through the night, following recovery of full details of some pretty unpleasant memories. It seems I wake as soon as I hit R.E.M. sleep (so after about 2 hours) and then am wide awake for a while, and then sleep for another 2 hours or so, and on and on. 

Any dreams I do manage are short, confusing, and end very quickly (with me waking). This is unusual for me as I usually have long and complex dreams, filled with imaginary worlds and interpretable meanings. But these… are just baffling. Perhaps I will understand them eventually, but for now, I feel like I’m just blocking something out. Stuck in a place of non-acceptance of reality.

And it’s exhausting. R.E.M. sleep (dreaming sleep) is crucial for proper cognitive functioning. I live in a half-asleep, half awake daze, 24 hours a day. I manage 2-3 hours of meaningful activity a day (if I am lucky) and I struggle even more than usual to find motivation for basic self-care, let alone other things.

It really sucks as I have a lot going on right now, and I would really, really like to be able to be fully awake to engage in my life. I am reaching the end of my tether with it and really have got to the point where I will try anything. Sleeping pills are no use as they also block or reduce R.E.M. sleep, and quetiapine, my only other option, has, in the past, resulted in me becoming stuck in a state of sleep paralysis, half awake but unable to escape from dreams. I do not want to relive trauma through dreams in this state of mind if that is what is coming!

My therapist suggested that I try a rather unusual (or so it seemed to me) approach, of recording myself saying positive affirmations (to counter the fears he thinks are keeping me from sleeping) and playing these on a loop all night.

I tried it last night, although I felt really silly doing it. And I thought it would annoy me and I’d turn it off. But it didn’t. It played very quietly all night. I still woke up, but I have to admit to feeling soothed by the faint sound of my own voice, and to falling back asleep more quickly and with less frustration or anxiety. 

So tonight is night 2 of this experiment, which I hope will help me break out of this cycle of avoiding reliving traumatic memories. The aim is that by reminding myself I am safe, grown up, and that dreams and memories can’t hurt me, I will be able to anchor myself in the present and so be able to deal with anything that comes up with acceptance and compassion instead of fear and self-attack. 

Here’s hoping…