The Predictably Unpredictable Schedule of Insomnia
Last updated: April 2023
If there is 1 thing you can count on when you have insomnia, it is that you cannot count on anything. Sleep schedules vary wildly. The only constant is that I always feel tired no matter how much sleep I get. The degree of tiredness changes, but the tiredness is always there.
I have had insomnia most of my life. I can go from getting 3 hours of sleep to getting 10 hours without feeling any difference in how tired I am. Sometimes I feel less tired when I get 4 hours of sleep than if I manage to get 8 hours. I cannot predict how much sleep I will get, and I cannot predict how extra sleep or a lack of sleep will affect me. It varies.
Quality of sleep matters
For quite some time, I was getting an average of 5 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I felt completely refreshed and sometimes I felt like I had not slept in days. Then I was suddenly able to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep at night. I thought I would feel so much better, but I did not. I felt less rested.
Insomnia makes absolutely no sense. It does not seem that the amount of sleep I get decides how I feel. This unpredictable schedule and its effects made me realize that the amount of sleep does not really matter. It is the quality of sleep that matters most.
The unpredictability of sleep quality is frustrating
Unfortunately, the quality of sleep is also unpredictable. If I reach a deep enough sleep to dream, those dreams usually leave me exhausted. I do not consider that quality sleep, even though that is supposed to be the most restful sleep state. I prefer dreamless nights. No matter how many hours of sleep I get, I feel more rested when I do not dream.
Do you prefer sleep with or without dreams?
That is the thing about the quality of sleep. It is different for everyone. Some people say they feel more rested after reaching a dream state. Others do not. Some people feel well-rested with 8 hours of sleep. Others do not. If I manage to sleep 8 hours, I always wake up feeling like I need 2 or 3 more hours of sleep.
Trying to predict sleep patterns and quality
I would love to be able to predict my sleep patterns, but it would be more beneficial to me to predict the quality of sleep. I could plan around days when I feel more rested. This would allow me to be more productive. Alas, we cannot predict any of it. We are stuck dealing with a state of constant exhaustion with a few surprise days of increased energy here and there.
Of course, my ability to focus does not seem tied to how many hours of sleep I get. I do feel better when I get somewhere between 4 to 6 hours of sleep, but I have noticed something. On those nights, I wake up more frequently. I think waking up prevents me from reaching a dream state, and that wards off the exhaustion caused by dreams.
Making sense of how insomnia affects sleep quality
I am still trying to find some way to make it all make sense. Perhaps it is not so much that I am trying to predict the unpredictable. It is more than I am trying to understand how different factors affect the quality of sleep and how it makes me feel. Maybe if I can gain a better understanding of it all, I can find a way to regulate my insomnia and tame some of the worst days.
How do you assess your sleep patterns and quality of sleep? Has it helped you get more sleep and feel more rested? I would love to hear how you cope with the constant changes of insomnia.
Do you think insomnia has an impact on your mental health?
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