Insomnia Has Caused Me Anxiety All My Life – But I Finally Found A Cure

If there’s ever a thought to keep me up at night, it’s not getting enough sleep. Apparently, people aged 60 and over are more susceptible to insomnia, one possible reason being that their internal circadian clocks aren’t working as efficiently as they used to. In fact, research suggests that in middle age, the average person loses 27 minutes of sleep per night with each passing decade. To me, that equates to more than two episodes of Schitt’s Creek. Crikey.

The annoying thing is that a dog’s fatigue doesn’t automatically equate to immediate sleep. I’ve never found it helpful to float lavender or sip herbal teas. One thing that helps, however, is listening to voices at low volumes, especially soporific if I don’t understand the lingo. Enter Inspector Montalbano. Ah, that singsong Italian accent. I can sleep easy knowing that Salvo solves the case. I’m sure the actors would be thrilled to hear that their creative efforts are being used to cure my insomnia. Deputy Commissioner. Good mark.

I recently discovered a myriad of ambient sound and “white noise” recordings on YouTube; you can listen to 10 hours of stormy weather, road traffic in a tunnel, frogs and crickets, or a babbling brook – the last one just makes me have to pee. There are also soundscapes of city life. As I live in London, I don’t need it. It seems that every time I’m in a deliciously deep sleep, two guys walking within whispering distance come down the road, chatting so loudly that their conversation penetrates the double glazing. Then there’s the car driver whose music is so booming, the Mazda is essentially a Marshall amp on wheels.

“Sleep hygiene” is the term now used in relation to factors that can be adjusted to help you sleep better. At first I thought it referred to how often you wash your sheets. I must say, however, that freshly ironed bed linen helps. It’s the best thing about a hotel room. Although I don’t understand the dish towel on the floor. Or the one-size-fits-all slippers that turn my walk into a scramble. They might as well say on the cover card: “Enjoy your stay and please have fun with our compliments”.

I think it can be beneficial to make the room completely dark. Finally, I ended up fully appreciating the intricacies of the headband. Especially since our board replaced the old-fashioned streetlights with lighting straight out of the opening credits of Sportsnight with Coleman (you have to be at least my age to get this reference – if not, imagine turning on the stadium floodlights to an eye-catching crescendo, and you’ve got the picture). The problem is that I can’t stand any light anymore. Even the little red dot of a DVD player distracts me.

Another problem I have is called ‘sleep maintenance insomnia’. If I fall asleep quickly, I inevitably wake up at 2am and within seconds my Google brain answers the night’s burning question: “What do I have to worry about?”. With my personal search engine humming, it usually comes up with an answer. A lot. It starts with something I have to remember to do, so I’m faced with the dilemma of focusing on the memory, which wakes me up even more, or writing it down. However, emailing me is a disaster because I can’t ignore any unread messages. Digital devices have a lot to answer for. We’ve elevated them to bedside life support.

At that point, my worries gain ground, each scenario I think about is scarier than the last. At 2:45 a.m. I experienced more drama than the Christmas edition of EastEnders. Sometimes, however, I manage to distract myself by rehearsing what I might say at an upcoming meeting if the other person becomes totally unreasonable, a turn of events that springs entirely from my imagination. Or even less helpful, I review what I might have said in an argument that took place five years ago.

My final gesture is to bring gratitude into play. I tell myself that if I was on the plane right now, my feet wedged between the glass and the seat in front, my kneecap wedged against the armrest, my teeth still tasting red wine and coq au vin, I would kill for this glorious and spacious bed. But no.

I continue to be as picky as a princess detecting peas – until it’s only 20 minutes before the alarm goes off, at which point I’m finally cold.

The other night, as a last resort, I visited sleepfoundation.org. Instantly, a pop-up window slid across the screen. It was a contest to win a mattress. That’s a great prize – provided, of course, you don’t have insomnia. They even display the number of entries as they increase. I guess I could just count them until I…


Do you suffer from insomnia? Let us know what helped you in the comments section

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