Sleep has always been difficult for me. Or, if at one point it came easily, I don’t remember it. I know that I’ve had continuous issues with insomnia since at least high school. It’s not only difficult to fall asleep, but it’s very difficult to stay asleep. One night last week I felt as though I would never get comfortable and my FitBit can attest that I only slept for about 4 hours. (I do not fully trust the FitBit, because I know it records as “sleep” times when I am just lying quietly, waiting for my alarm to go off. It has even recorded my “wake up time” as after my alarm goes off, which I am almost always awake for anyway. So I usually take about an hour off the estimate it gives me.) I am definitely a night person, and I’ve found I sleep the heaviest between 7:30-9:30 in the morning. If I slept well the night before, my natural wake up time is around 8:30am. Ah, the woes of work schedules!
I know I’m not the only one with sleep issues. But like depression, insomnia is totally unique for every person that experiences it. Some people fall asleep easily, but then are restless during the night. Some people just can’t fall asleep no matter what they do. We have all experienced times when we lie awake, thinking about everything we need to do the next day, every time we ever did something idiotic, or every way in which our lives are slowly crumbling apart. I tend to experience constant weariness during the day, but no matter what time I go to bed (9pm, 11pm, 12:30pm) I almost always feel more alert at night than I ever did during the day. It doesn’t make any sense.
One issue that I experience is that even when I DO sleep, oftentimes my nights are filled with incredibly vivid dreams. Sometimes they’re pleasant, sometimes they are terrifying, and most often they are somewhat in between. There are often many different scenes and some I can remember better than others. I will wake up with a vague feeling of anxiety, or the desire to remember something that seemed important. My dreams are cinematic and filled with the smallest and most mundane of details. And those details sometimes linger. I once dreamed I was lying on my back in the sand. One of my hands was resting on my chest and the other was in someone’s lying next to me. But as I started to wake up, I could distinctly remember feeling my arm both in the dream position (my chest) and in its real location (by my side). I can remember hearing bells while walking along a rocky shoreline, or seeing red train cars lined up in an indoor station, the platform filled with children in school uniforms milling around. I have created elaborate situations and backgrounds in great detail, populated by friends and family and strangers. And I wake up feeling like I didn’t get any rest, because my brain spent the entire night coming up with this meaningless nonsense.
Why, brain? What is going on? I do believe that some dreams do have meaning, and can reflect things that are going on in our real lives. Anxiety can pop up in our dreams and lead us to discover something we may not even be aware of in life. The same goes for fear, sadness, or even joy. I know not all dreams do this, but many give our brains a way to work something out in our subconscious that is not immediately obvious. But just like I believe in SOME astrology and SOME planetary influence on mood and behavior, not everything is going to be revealed or dictated through our dreams.
So then what is the purpose? Some people never remember their dreams, but mine are almost always vivid enough for me to remember details throughout the day. And why is it necessary to remember these trash dreams that have nothing to do with anything? Not only is my memory affected by lack of sleep, it is also hanging on to worthless details about a dream I had ten years ago rather than the title of the book I wanted to recommend to someone. (I know there are differences between short term and long term memory, but I know too little about neurology to speak with any authority on any of this.) It just seems as though my brain could be spending more time and energy on things it actually needs to be used for, like work and reading and writing, and less power on junk dreams.
I’m not really looking for suggestions here. I have tried most of the remedies that health and science recommends, and haven’t yet found a good solution. I’m working on tracking my sleep so that I can hopefully find patterns in the data.
In the meantime, I woefully await the days I can sleep in and finally feel a little more rested.