I have always suffered from insomnia. Not the “I can’t go to sleep” variety, but the kind that after a few hours I wake up and I can’t go back to sleep no matter what. I have had this since at least the age of 10 that I remember, and I know my parents always talked about me getting up too early since at least 5.
For decades I just thought that is the way I was. 3-6 hours of sleep was my normal range, with 4-5 being the most common. I knew logically that wasn’t normal and I have had doctors tell me its not healthy or safe. I have been counseled on sleep hygiene, but the unfortunate fact is most elements of sleep hygiene just set off my CPTSD and night terrors.
I can’t sleep in a quiet dark room. I wake up within a short time with nightmares, anxiety attacks etc. I can sometimes get by with a fan running, but that is only sometimes and eventually it stops working. So we end up having the TV play in the background, and then in the last few years ran Youtube videos. That does help, but sometimes I still go to bed fairly let trying to stay up, and be up by midnight (those are really bad nights).
This was all normal for me as a child as well. The only difference was there was no TV in my bedroom, no lights on and I ended up waking up around 1ish and not sleeping until 4-5am and then only for an hour before getting up. I stayed in my room because I would get in trouble for getting up too early.
It dawned on me though this morning at 1am as I laid in bed that my dad must have known something was up with me even as a child. He would on a regular basis sneak into my room and have me come with him to the kitchen and he would fry up a bologna sandwich and we would watch some tv or a movie on the VCR. I have incredibly fond memories and I suspect it might be one of many reasons the two of us were close.
It also dawned on me this morning that my dad did this very little with my siblings. They didn’t have any sleep problems and would sleep through the whole night. So the vast vast majority of the time he would just come get me. I remember he used to always watch me with worried eyes. It dawns on me now that my dad had the exact same sleeping problem.
The only way he would sleep all the way through was the judicious use of drugs and alcohol due to insomnia, anxiety, trauma, PTSD and flashbacks. It makes sense that he probably recognized I was having problems and did what he could to help. It was always in my worst sleep phases that he would come in and do that. Funny enough when he did that, I would go back to bed and sleep in. Probably the only time in my childhood I would sleep fully.
Either way, I had never realized how regularly he did it, and the fact that I was suffering insomnia and anxiety as a child. There was definitely childhood trauma and PTSD, but I don’t know if there was a genetic component as well, or maybe something learned by watching my father as a very young child. I wonder how much of it was inherited from him (genetic or learned).
I guess this post is mostly about my realization of how far back my insomnia and anxiety go. I can combat the sleep on a semi-regular basis by self medicating, but the prescriptions they have given me don’t work, and the sleep hygiene routine does the exact opposite and freaks me out even more (my therapist actually warned me away from most of the practices as CPTSD and Trauma symptoms are accentuated by a lot of those processes).
I do wish I could work a job again that I could sleep 3-4 hours at night, then 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I did do that for a few months when I was 100% telework for the state. I just worked my hours around that. However right now I am stuck working normally accepted business hours which don’t fit into my needs and I will just try and push my way through. After all, its been 48 years and it hasn’t killed me right?