For as long as I can remember now I have had trouble sleeping. Getting to the morning and feeling worse than I did before going to bed in the first place on some days. Waking throughout the night at the slightest sound, it has gone on for years.
Since the arrival of my first sleep app, or activity tracker / sleep monitor , I have seen on screen just how bad and disrupted my sleep actually is. As the devices have gotten smarter, so the numbers have become more depressing. If I spend 8 hours in bed, 45 mins will usually be deep sleep, the rest of the time its splatters of REM, or light sleep, complete with some time spent awake. It is as regular as clockwork.
When you look at the breakdown further, a pattern appears. After laying around for a while I will eventually drop off, usually falling into deep sleep quite quickly. 30-40 mins, and it is all over. I am usually awake again, or at very least drifting in and out of light sleep.
It is quite common for me to be awake and sometimes up by 1am, trying to get my mind to settle, and get back off to sleep, even if it is light.
For a long time now I have put this down to anxiety, and my own periods of depression and anxiety. With the disturbed sleep becoming the norm now, even when not in a dip. However... Last night, during one of my waking moments, the penny finally dropped. When I lay there and put two and two together, the answer was finally, without doubt, four!
Thinking back to even 6 months ago when Tuvaaq was still with us, I would wake and hear him walking up and down the hallway. Not making a lot of noise, just the tippy tap of his claws on the flooring would get my attention. Eventually when he settled, I would drift back off to sleep. Even now, the slightest sound wakes me, and gets me focusing on it til I know what it is, and it passes. But why? When did this start.
Well, as I worked out last night (early hours of this morning), it was about 2008.
Finally, I remembered. After being diagnosed with COPD a good few years before her initial cancer, mum had breathing difficulties. With the onset of the cancer, and the meds affecting her health, her breathing became much worse, and all quite suddenly. If I woke in the middle of the night to go to the loo, I would hear her coughing away, borderline choking. Eventually she would clear her chest, and go back to sleep as quickly as she had woken. Sleep was never an issue for her.
However, on coming home from work one day, and finding her already in bed, curiosity got the better of me, and I went to check on her to see why she had gone to bed so early. It turns out that was a good move, as I found her cold, and non responsive. Barely breathing. Ambulance called, rushed into hospital, and things were sorted. Back home a few days later, and "back to normal". Or so I thought.
Turns out, from that day on, or should I say night, I have never slept properly since. Thinking back, I can now clearly recall waking up each time she was coughing, listening out to hear the right sequence of sounds to know she was OK, and not going back to sleep, or even trying to, until she was safely back asleep. Regularly I would go in to check on her to make sure she was breathing after an episode.
So THAT is where the light sleeping began. Over the few years she was at home, in the different rooms of the house, depending on her needs, the process remained the same. When she finally moved into the lounge with her hospital bed, I think the listening intensified. Now with carers coming in 4 times a day, starting first thing, I had to be on my A game to make sure they made it into the house OK, that she was not being awkward or combative, and that indeed they were doing their job properly. Given some of the interactions with the carers, I was thankful I was home, and sometimes wondered how they would have coped had I not been there to help or refer to.
After a few years of living like that, I guess it is only natural it has become routine for me now. However, given than mum passed over eight years ago now, I would really love to get back into a routine of better sleep. It was kinda handy being that alert as Tuvaaq got to the end of his days, but now, I would really love a good nights sleep.
So what is the next step? The doctor mentioned to me a while back that CBT was one of the things they use when treating sleep issues. Trying to overcome the over thinking of the anxious mind etc. I guess that is one option. In fact, dealing with how my mind works, and perceives the "risks" of falling into deep sleep, is the only way to overcome things. I don't particularly think it is a physical issue, and now that I have recollection of how and when it started, it all makes more sense to me.
Maybe I will book an appointment with the GP anyway, and see what they can come up with, then go from there. Yoga, mindfulness and relaxation certainly play their part in a settled bedtime routine for me.
If there is one positive to take from this, it is that I can officially separate the sleep issues from the anxiety I struggle with at times. I know now that when my mind is behaving, the issue remains because of the long-term routine I established a long time ago.
One less mystery in my life... Phew!