Interrupted Sleep at Night
anonymous Asks ...
I keep waking up in the night with this feeling like something bad is going to happen and then it will take me hours to fall back asleep and I will just worry about everything so much. From my perspective at 4 in the morning my life is really a messed up place but by the time I am fully awake and on the go things don’t seem so bad anymore. This has been happening on and off for a couple of months and I do not know how to deal with it. I do not think I can take sleeping pills because it is usually not until 3 or 4 in the morning that I wake up and I have to get up by 7 to get ready for work. I am so tired all the time now and those hours before dawn are really miserable for me. What should I try?
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
There are many reasons why people have difficulty sleeping, and even more reasons behind those problems. For a full understanding of your situation and how to address it, you may need to consult someone who can go through a full assessment of your situation. In the mean time, people in situations like this can consider what they can do.
The person who posed this question raised the issue of sleeping pills. While some primary care physicians will prescribe these, there are physicians (including psychiatrists) who are specially trained to prescribe these. A conversation with one of these will help to determine if this could help you. It is true that most of these medications require you to have a sustained period of time to sleep after taking the medication and so many of them would not be helpful to take in the middle of the night, however a qualified prescriber may recommend taking the medication when you go to bed to help you sleep through the night.
There are methods that can be used to try to get to sleep that are different than taking pills. You may want to try some of these to see if they can be effective for you. One possibility is to drink warm milk (and honey). Another thing to care for this is to watch the temperature of the room in which you are sleeping. Similarly, is to watch the light in the room (this includes not only the main light but also trying to shield off the light generated by the numbers on alarm clocks or even the on/off lights on other electronics). Is your sleeping place somewhere where you also engage in other things, particularly things associated with the things you worry about?
Another strategy to use is to address the worries that are coming up. Keep a pad by the bed and right down the things that are worrying you and making you feel that something bad is going to happen. As you do so, tell yourself that these things will not be bothering you for the next few hours and you will deal with them in the morning. Then, do not dwell on it (if you have to focus on something else like counting sheep or counting backwards by threes from three hundred). One key to this strategy is that you have to go over the list in the morning - keep your promise to yourself.
Finally, all of these techniques are really just treating the symptom of not getting enough sleep. What you really need to do is to address the underlying worries and anxiety in your life. Some people can do this on their own or with those who around them. However, for many people, this requires the help of a professional. You may want to seek out a counselor or therapist who can help you in addressing what is worrying you in your life. If your company has an employee assistance program, it may provide for a limited number of free sessions in which you could address (or at least begin to address) these issues.