I’ve always been a good sleeper. Sleeping at night has never been a challenge, and in fact neither has sleeping in the day! I always counted myself extremely lucky that I could sleep pretty much anywhere. I know second hand the trauma of insomnia and I know first hand what it’s like to wake up worrying in the night. The 3am Terror. Lying in bed unable to get back to sleep, my mind full of concerns which, 4 hours later, in the cold light of day, I do nothing about!
So I’m a good sleeper but I haven’t taken it for granted. I know, like many of us middle aged men, I need my eight hours, but I can survive on less (survive?), and actually I can make it through a week getting more and more tired as long as I know the weekend is a quiet one. On the flip side, I hate starting a working week feeling tired because I know how hard it is to keep going when I’m feeling tired. I am pretty consistent though, I know I need my sleep and I know I can handle most things when I’m not feeling exhausted.
Hence, when I say I knew something wasn’t right with THAT job, one of the first signs I noticed was a real change in my sleep pattern. And not in a good way.
Instead of the 3am Terror being an infrequent occurrence, I was waking up every night at 3am (almost like there was an alarm going off in my head) but instead of falling asleep again eventually, this time I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So I was effectively sleeping 4 hours a night! Thank goodness it didn’t occur to me to get sleeping pills. But I did use alcohol to “help” me relax before bed (I know, that should have been a sign in itself, right?) and although that did help initially, it really didn’t make that much difference.
More tired and just getting worse.
So the weekends took on a disproportionate level of importance as afternoon sleeps on Saturday and Sunday helped me catch up. So now, I’m eating into family time too.
When the job came to an end the relief was tangible. I nearly cried. But most of all that first night I slept like a baby. In an instant the stress had gone and with it the 3am Terror. My sleep pattern didn’t come back immediately though and I’ve had to work at getting a balance back to help me find my way back to what I had.
And the rules:
1. Exercise – a tired body is a critical factor to a good night’s sleep.
2. Less alcohol – sure, a glass of wine is a brilliant thing, but not every night.
3. No iPad or iPhone within an hour of bed – harder than you think but very important.
4. Start reading fiction again last thing before bed.
5. Eat earlier so I don’t go to bed with a full stomach.
6. Get “stuff” done in the day. Work hard and know that I’m being efficient with my waking hours.
My rules. And they’re working for me. I am getting back to normal. I didn’t realise the effect stress was having on me, but it certainly helped when it’s not there any more.