If there is one weird trick to get back to sleep, I don’t know what it is – but I think it’s like a unicornasaurus: mythical.
I wasn’t sure if I was just starting a (sub-)manic phase. Well, definitely yes. There have been several things I would have expected to make me “drop” down out of (sub-)mania, but they have not had that effect. Instead, the (sub-)mania just hums along like an unstoppable* freight train.
So I am awake in the quiet of the night, punctuating the stillness with typing and pushing back the dark with the soft glow of a screen.
I’ve tried several methods to handle these periods. Before I started to recognizing this as a “sub-manic” period that has a symptom of disruptive sleep, I thought of this as a sleep problem: waking up in the middle of the night. I have some sleep problems, this was another symptom. When it inevitably went away it was because I had conquered that problem with the right mix of actions.
Years ago, I didn’t fight it at all. In much more of a “fixed mindset” about myself, I thought: “I just have insomnia.” Which is somewhat true, but even still I can make change and have some effects.
Some things I’ve tried:
- Fighting the “Sleep Problem”
This was trying to treat it as a sleep problem. Trying to do things to be able to sleep through the night, or get back to sleep when I awoke.
Working with lights, timing of going to bed, what activities doing in bed, working on better sleeping habits, evaluating noises, light, temperature and other environmental issues …
I would try a few things and then the sleeping problem would just “go away” at the beginning of next phase of cycle. So it seemed like a win. But I learned that what “worked” one round usually didn’t work the next time.
This is really a sub-category of fighting. I didn’t get into a lot of sleep medications, just light over-the-counter (OTC) solution, but I know there are people who medicate to sleep more or less for their entire lives.
- When Awake: Relaxing Activities
I tried various techniques to relax. This was still “treating a sleep problem” but the different here was that it was aiming at the acute “sleep awake” moment. So reading, or listening to relaxing things. I might get up for awhile and read and then go back to bed. Various common methods for dealing with sleep issues.
- Treating the “mind racing” Symptom
Since the waking up in the middle of sleep was often accompanied with a mind racing with a million thoughts, I tried to treat that symptom as well. Thinking that maybe that was the root of the problem.
I had a way to write down the thoughts, so I could deal with them later by getting them out of my head (still a good idea). I tried various methods so I could avoid light while doing this. I tried being careful about my pre-bed activities: aiming for a calm mind.
- “Roll with It”: Get Up
Getting up for a period and doing something is straight-forward. If you think of a sleep problem, then this might be accepting the problem or giving in. You might restrict what you do.
But since I don’t see this as a sleep problem at its core, I don’t stress about what I do or don’t do when I get up. When you’re awake during the daytime, you have ways of deciding what you’ll do – same rules apply here.
I think that a lot of the sleep hygiene and training mechanisms are helpful. And sometimes probably some of the awakeness periods can be lessened with such techniques. But it is a bit like treating a leaky hose by applying tape to the leak in the hose. It can be work and you can spend time finding the right tape. But turning off the spigot is a lot more effective**.
That last method – getting up – is what I am doing now. I had tried this previously for periods of time but hadn’t been doing it recently***.
I’d like to think that along with “rolling with it”, I’m also trying to deal with it on a deeper level. In the hose analogy above, I’m seeing the leaking hose and thinking: “I really should turn off the water”. And I’m trying to figure out the cause of the water and ways to slow it or turn it off.
If you have a method that works for you, I would love to hear it as I need more good ideas to try.
This is the music that fills my head this morning.
* For now. I know this is is unstoppable just for now – for this phase of the cycle of the cyclothymia (“sub bipolar” / “sub manic depressive”).
** It’s a metaphor, it breaks down quickly. In this case, even if you turn off the spigot, you have to do something about the leak in the hose. Yes, I know, it’s very imperfect. Which analogy would you suggest?
*** For one thing, I hadn’t been having such strong “awakening” issues recently.