Terminal insomnia

“There is a gulf fixed between those who can sleep and those who cannot. It is one of the great divisions of the human race.”–I. Murdoch, Nuns and Soldiers

For the last several years, I have suffered periodically from terminal insomnia. That’s a scary name, isn’t it? A better one is “early rise” insomnia. I simply wake up too early. Today it was 4 a.m.

As I’ve gotten older–older, not old, mind you–I have lost the ability to sleep in; making it past 6 a.m. is a rare and notable achievement. I also seem to rarely be able to sleep more than six hours. That might sound good enough, but living in a tropical climate with extreme temperatures I find I need closer to eight. I almost never get it. I’ve always been a morning person, so I can get a lot of work done in the morning and enjoy doing so, but many days by 1 p.m. I’m washed out. In recent months I’ve started to take naps in the afternoon; thankfully my schedule allows it, and while I’m not particularly good at sleeping during the day either, even 10 or 20 minutes helps me recover the rest of the day. (Today, unfortunately, is one of those days when I will not have the opportunity.)

The bad thing about this type of insomnia is that there is precious little that can be done about it. I have no difficulties falling asleep at night, so most of the advice for the more common type on insomnia doesn’t apply. Last night I just couldn’t stay up and was out before 10, which pretty much guaranteed the early rise. There’s no medication for this sort of thing, and I wouldn’t want to try sleeping pills anyway. I don’t have caffeine after 6 a.m. (not a typo). On days I’m not too exhausted I exercise, which helps some, but mostly it seems to increase my overall sleep requirement.

My insomnia seems to be connected with intense, vivid dreams. This is a constant thing practically every night, and all the members of my family have reported the same thing as long as we have lived in our present city. (When we travel to a different city, the dreams lose their intensity and frequency.) I remember last night’s quite well; it was so stupid. I was managing a radio station, overseeing a program expansion, juggling budgets and personalities. Okay, so I know why I was dreaming about budgets, but otherwise it was so pointless. I woke up at 3, fell back asleep uneasily and dreamt some more until I woke again, fully alert, at 4. This is a very typical pattern.

So, that’s why I’m able to write and get a post up before 5 a.m. I will now scurry around and try to get some work done before the rest of my family and the sun rise, then hope and pray that I can get through a rather busy Thursday.

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