This is another installment in my series Then And Now – Managing TBI Issues Over the Long Term
Lots of people with TBI have issues with sleep. They either sleep “too much” or they have trouble falling asleep and/or staying that way. I’m one of those people. After my last TBI, I was awake every morning at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. What a miserable time that was. I have also had a lot of trouble falling asleep.
Yes, I’ve been struggling with sleep issues for quite some time, and if you’ve come across this blog in the past, chances are you’ve heard me talk about it. I’ve tried everything from homeopathic sleep aids to Benadryl to stretching to progressive relaxation to working myself ragged to forcing myself to go to bed every night at 10 p.m. It’s been a continuous struggle, and I’m pretty sick of it.
Recently, I have started to do things a little differently, and it’s actually helping me to feel more rested and get more sleep. I also don’t walk around with dark circles under my eyes all the time, anymore. For about a year, I was looking pretty ragged at times. But now I think I’ve found something that works for me: breaking up my sleeping patterns with “starter naps”.
Conventional wisdom (at least in my mind) says that you need 8 continuous hours of sleep each night – possibly more – to be fully functional. Studies have shown this, and people have written about it.
But I’ve also come across mentions (primarily not in scientific circles) about sleeping in smaller increments, and getting up in between to do other things — getting no more than 4-5 hours of sleep at a time, but sleeping more frequently.
Now, I don’t think either one actually works 100% for me. The first one is almost impossible for me to do, because of my schedule and work life. The second one definitely would be a problem.
What does work for me, is lying down on the couch later in the evening, but well before when I really want to go to bed, and letting myself take a little nap for an hour or so before I actually go to bed. It probably sounds counter-intuitive, like I’m messing up my sleep schedule, but it’s actually helping me get better rest.
See, when I’m over-tired, I tend to stay up later. In fact, the more tired I am, the harder it is for me to relax and fall asleep. Also, I don’t much care for the idea of going off to bed at 9:30 at night. I really don’t want to – I want to stay up and watch television and hang out with my spouse. And even when I do go to be early, I often wake up early, like around 3 or 4 in the morning, and then I can’t get back to sleep.
So, after dinner, when we’re sitting down to watch a movie, I’ll watch for a while, then I’ll be so tired, and I’ll lie down on the couch where I can watch lying down. Pretty soon, I’ll be asleep, and I’ll rest for maybe an hour or two… sometimes three. When I wake up (say, around 1 a.m.), I still feel tired, and I really feel like going to bed. So, I do.
And I sleep through the night — even till 7:00-7:30 a.m. sometimes, which is new for me, after not being able to sleep past 5:30 for quite some time.
Not only do I get sleep earlier in the evening, but I still manage to get another six hours — which is what I used to get without a “starter nap”.
All in all, I think I’m sleeping more than I have in the past. I’m just doing it in different bits and pieces. The important thing is to not tell myself I’m doing things “wrong”. This works for me, and it’s helping. So, I’m sticking with it as long as it works.