Quarantine has Exacerbated my Insomnia

I’ve had chronic insomnia since childhood. Sleep came in waves and phases, never consistent, never reliable, never a relief. It was exhausting, to say the least, but a level of tolerable I adapted to out of necessity.

Over the last decade, my insomnia has been impacted by several rather significant things - Crohn’s disease, fertility treatments, pregnancy, new parenthood, and now, a pandemic. Each challenge has affected my ability to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to feel rested after sleeping.

From chronic pain to high doses of hormones, from bowel obstructions to growing, delivering and feeding a baby on-demand, some of the discomfort has come and gone; but other parts of these seasons have forever changed the way I look at (and think about) sleeping.

The early days of quarantine

When my state issued a Stay-at-Home order in early March, I had no idea what this would mean for our lives, our families, our routines, our jobs, our mental health, etc. I obviously didn’t know how long it would last, either. I began making adjustments because I had to.

Searching for a quiet, comfortable place to work meant being productive in my bedroom, and sometimes even in my bed. Taking calls and meetings began to happen in the same space that I now needed to use for both relaxing and sleeping as well, and life began to feel overwhelming and continuous and sort of like a blur.

New routines changed how I felt about my bed

Forcing my brain to focus and accomplish tasks while in the same space that I needed to unwind and rest meant that there was never really a pause in thoughts, even during non-working hours. Falling asleep at night took so much longer because my mind never shut off. And my bed stopped feeling as comfortable and inviting because I was spending so much more time in it than I wanted to be. I was so frustrated!

Insomnia while working and raising a toddler is hard enough, but the pandemic, and consequently the shift of our whole world into our homes for the foreseeable future has exacerbated my insomnia significantly.

Thoughts that keep me awake at night

And the mental energy spent on worrying about pandemic life and quarantine, both daily and for the long term, is more than I am able to put into words. It’s on my mind before, during, and after everything I do, and it’s loudest around 2 or 3 in the morning. When I wake up to go to the bathroom, and I get back in bed alone with my thoughts, they ricochet around like screams.

Will things ever feel “normal” again? As someone who is both immunocompromised and science-minded, will I ever feel “safe” resuming activities? How will I explain this to my growing daughter? How will I manage my business and my family's finances? How does anyone slow their thoughts down these days?

Disrupted routines and more unpredictability

We’ve now been living in this space for 6 months, and while many things have started re-opening, I fully recognize that pandemic life isn’t headed out the door anytime soon. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been “going to bed” at 8:30 p.m., but not actually falling asleep until after 11.

My alarm goes off at 6 and it’s felt so hard, every single day, to get up and get going. During the night I’m up more times than I can count - sometimes to go to the bathroom, sometimes I check my phone (big mistake, always), sometimes I hear my daughter moving around.

Each wakeup takes varying amounts of time to return to sleep, from 5 minutes to 3 hours, and the anxiety around the unpredictability has me reaching for anything I can to help during the night (meditation apps, white noise, essential oils, etc.)

If quarantine has challenged your insomnia, I’d love to hear about it below. Tell me what has helped, what has hurt, and what you’re still working through. You’re not alone!

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