a woman in bed sleeping with a clock, a cup of tea, and a fan surrounding her

When Sleep Finally Comes

As an insomniac, I know I often use the words “never” or “none at all.” “I’ve been awake all night.” “For days on end.” But most of the time, an exhausting sleep still involves some sleep.

I have gone several days with no sleep at all and I know this is true because I don’t even get to bed - I’m super productive but dripping with fatigue for 72 hours. But when I’ve felt I’ve gone weeks with no sleep, in reality, I’ve had 20 minutes here and there. The occasional hour.

And my normal insomnia looks like a 2-hour sleep followed by several blocks of 20 minutes or an hour occasionally. It adds up to around 4 hours in all.

How much sleep do I need?

To feel truly rested, I need a minimum 4 hours of unbroken, solid sleep. Followed up with a couple of hours of dozing.

It’s currently a busy and stressful time for me, so I’ve been in a fitful, restless, an hour-or-so -here period of time. But last night, I doubled down on one of my meds and got a solid 5-hour sleep. Maybe even pushing 6. Then I dozed and lazed in bed and another 2 hours. This is an outstandingly good and restful night.

I feel great.

Acknowledgeing the sleep we get

I think as insomniacs, it’s really important to acknowledge that sometimes, sleep does finally come. We do get some rest. There are people - non-insomniacs - that sleep solid 8 or 9-hour nights. That is truly incomprehensible to me. But I’m glad for them.

There are people like me who get the occasional 4 to 5 hours of solid sleep and some extra hours of dozing on top. There are people who never manage more than 2-hour blocks. And there are days where a lot of us are functioning on 20-minute power snoozes.

Attitude matters

Mentally it improves my relationship with sleep to be happy, contented, and excited by 4 unbroken hours. Wishing for the holy grail of 8 unbroken hours just adds sleep anxiety to my already long list of reasons why sleep comes hard to me.

Attitude can be everything. When I believe something is impossible, I have a different attitude to when I believe something is possible. There’s a piece of hope that lingers and encourages the good practices - the old trick of good sleep hygiene, then personal rituals like the right linen, the air temperature of the room, well-timed medications, stretching, and whatever other little bonus extras might work for you.

We all have something that helps a little bit, but if you believe you’re in for a night of complete wakefulness, it is harder to put those practices in place and to slow down the mental angst around sleep.

Enjoying contentment while it lasts

And when that magic night comes, I wake up feeling great. Like this morning. I’m on a short break to a beautiful island so I have no alarms or appointments. I had my solid almost 5 hours sleep and now I’ve dozed in bed for a further 2 hours. I’m completely and utterly awake, listening to the sounds of birds, the ocean, and someone with an electric something-or-other out there.

I have a sense of peace and accomplishment. I look forward to the day ahead. I know this won’t last forever but while it’s here, I want to soak up the contentment and allow my body to wallow in the comfort of restfulness.

When sleep does finally come, I feel great. And it’s worth celebrating.

How would you describe your attitude about sleep or insomnia? How do you feel when sleep finally comes? Share with us in the comments below.

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