Random header image... Refresh for more!

I Need Sleep Lessons

Sleep is one of those things we expect people to learn on their own, like eating or breathing.  We don’t really teach people how to eat, even though they may need lessons to improve their relationship with food, and we don’t really teach people how to breathe, even though yoga studios offer lessons on how to full inflate your lungs.

Sleep falls into that category.  We expect babies to know that at some point in their day, they should close their eyes and lose consciousness.

But I am living proof that not everyone naturally gets it.

I am really terrible at falling asleep and staying asleep.  I’ve tried all the tips sleep experts offer up, and all of them are sound ideas for people who already know how to fall asleep.  But that is my problem — I don’t know how to make myself sleep.  It doesn’t naturally happen when I close my eyes.  I can keep my eyes closed for hours, thinking about nothing, and I still don’t fall asleep.  Nothing is keeping me up, in the same way that nothing is holding me back from fixing my own car except for the fact that I don’t know how to do it.

Sometimes I fall asleep by chance only to wake back up a few hours later.  I am just as unknowledgeable at staying asleep as I am at falling asleep.  I have never been able to nap unless I’m operating at such a sleep deficit that my body switches to autopilot.

There are a lot of articles on the importance of sleep, and I believe everything they say.  There are manifestos about setting aside time for sleep, and posts about limiting screen time before bed, and articles about what to eat for a good night’s sleep.

But zero books that explain how to force your brain to take a few hours off.

Do you fall asleep and stay asleep easily?

20 comments

1 Middle Girl { 07.05.16 at 7:57 am }

“Sleep don’t come easy . . ” part of a lyric to a song I sing often.

And when sleep does arrive, it doesn’t stay for long.

2 Cristy { 07.05.16 at 8:13 am }

Unfortunately, I’m no help to you as falling asleep is fairly easy. But the way you describe the problem sounds similar to infertility and makes me wonder if the advice you’re getting is similar to advice an overly fertile person would give to someone who doesn’t understand their monthly cycles.

There’s got to be someone out there who studies sleep with subjects experiencing what you are.

3 Cristy { 07.05.16 at 8:17 am }
4 Charlotte { 07.05.16 at 8:36 am }

Oh man. I LOVE sleep. It’s my absolute favorite thing, and such a commodity now. It is hard for me to imagine how you can not know how to get yourself to sleep, because when my body is exhausted and tells me so, I am usually asleep pretty quickly after that with little effort.
Shutting my brain down can be hard sometimes. I generally find if I have been up for plenty of hours and am physically tired enough I can still get to sleep after a bit. Praying gives me a sense of calm about things, and if I give over what I worry about to prayer and realize that me worrying isn’t going to fix things or help in any way I can shut it down.
Are you getting physically tired enough each day so that your body naturally wants to shut down at night? Are you watching the amount of caffeine you get later in the day? Maybe these are like “No Duh” questions, but I truly can’t fathom how you could not at some point be ready to sleep.

5 Ana { 07.05.16 at 9:37 am }

Fellow insomniac here. I used to be able to sleep, but can’t figure it out anymore. So I take medication. There is apparently “sleep cognitive behavioral therapy” you can do to actually learn how to fall asleep on your own. I’m skeptical, but it is supposed to be effective. My doctor gave me a phone number to call but I haven’t called it yet. I just found this online: http://www.cbtforinsomnia.com/
I might actually do this…if it works its worth any amount of money.

6 gwinne { 07.05.16 at 9:41 am }

Combination of lunesta (for me) and melatonin and megadoses of iron (for my kid). I’m not one to assume problems are behavioral ones FIRST but after things have been ruled out. As with IF, sometimes you really do need medical help.

7 Christa { 07.05.16 at 9:46 am }

So this is a little bit TMI, but sleep is really important to me too, so thought I’d throw it out there. I am generally a decent sleeper outside of particularly stressful times, but I have noticed that I repeatedly have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep in the last days of a cycle. This is something about hormone changes I am sure, but that I have never seen it addressed. Since many people in the ALI community have things happening in the hormone department, I feel like the connection between hormone and sleep should have come up; if it has — would love to see a pointer to it.

8 Jess { 07.05.16 at 9:47 am }

This is an area where I frustrate Bryce to no end. I am an easy sleeper — I can fall asleep in minutes, sometimes seconds, and although I wake up a lot in the night, I can usually return to sleep pretty easily. Bryce, on the other hand, takes over an hour, sometimes more, to fall asleep, and if he gets up in the night it can take just as long to return to slumber. He hates that I can put my book down, put my head on the pillow, and be out. I don’t know if it’s an internal wiring thing or a learned thing (my parents worked at an outdoor amphitheater with cannon fire and screaming all the time and I slept as a baby backstage, so I guess my tolerance for outside stimuli is high), but that has nothing to do with shutting your brain off. Do you journal before bed? Someone once told me that writing down the thoughts that circle in your head can help quiet them. I only had insomnia when in the thick of infertility, and that helped somewhat. I hope you find answers, that must be beyond frustrating!

9 Working mom of 2 { 07.05.16 at 10:37 am }

Well, as to babies, those who think they’ll one day just get it are those whose 2 3 etc year olds still get up multiple times etc…but you can train babies to self soothe, hence sleep training…

The Ferber book has a lot of good info on the science of sleep which applies to adults too. E.g., why it’s not healthy to sleep in in weekends (and why you feel like crap when you do), how when we are up all night (literally) we still somehow can function the next day (that happened to me once when I had to take a red eye for a conference)…etc.

Anyway…I wonder if I wasn’t sleep trained (no one to ask)..but at some point as a child I trained myself to read books to fall asleep (real books not electronic)… Usually works but it can be inconvenient e.g. when camping, your partner doesn’t read in bed, etc…since childhood I’ve had little tricks I play in my head when reading fails…although if I’m really anxious about something it takes a while.

I’ve had event-induced anxiety-caused insomnia before where nothing worked (although the strongest medicine I tried was Benadryl–no dice) and medication side effect insomnia. I do think there might be something merging to the previous post:re atmosphere babies sleep in…I remember one of the assistants at my pedi office telling me how she would vacuum in her babies’ rooms while they slept and they could sleep thru anything (my dh is like this).

You’ve probably already ruled all this stuff out but could it be anxiety or sleep apnea? Might be worth going to a sleep study place to check for the latter.

10 Mrs. Gamgee { 07.05.16 at 12:23 pm }

I used to be a good sleeper, but as I’ve gotten older and after having kids, sleep is not the given it once was. Quite often I’m awake in the middle of the night for an hour or two. There is nothing more aggravating than laying there in the dark, trying to sleep, when the person next to you is sound asleep, snoring happily.

11 Apluseffort { 07.05.16 at 12:30 pm }

I feel this! Just in the past couple of years, I’ve become a bad sleeper, and it’s not that I’ve forgotten how to do it! I can often fall asleep within a few minutes if I read laying down. But I wake up again for hours and can’t get back to sleep. Worse, I have these (hormonal, I swear) nights when nothing works – melatonin, sleeping meds, reading, guided meditation, baths, essential oils, aaah! Last night was of those but I finally tried Ambien which did the trick 3 hours after bedtime :/ Often I lay awake the entire night.

12 Lindz { 07.05.16 at 1:17 pm }

The only time I had trouble falling asleep was when my thyroid was acting up. Hello bedtime anxiety attacks! Unfortunately, no tricks for you. I normally fall asleep within 5 minutes of laying down (much to the chagrin of my husband who sometimes wants to use the time to catch up on things with me).

13 Sharon { 07.05.16 at 2:33 pm }

I was a CHAMPION sleeper before kids! Friends with insomnia envied me because I would fall asleep within 5-10 minutes of my head hitting the pillow and sleep the next 8-9 hours without waking.

Since having my sons 4.5 years ago, I seem incapable of sleeping past 5 a.m. without having to get up to pee — regardless of what time I go to sleep — and I occasionally have some difficulty unwinding and rarely sleep more than 8 hours. I miss consistently getting great sleep!

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.05.16 at 6:37 pm }

Husband can fall asleep within a breath, but is then fully awake about 3-4 hours later, often for the rest of the day. I’ve discovered this is called “maintenance insomnia.”

BabySmiling was telling me recently about “biphasic sleep,” which has been common in human history. So maybe we’re half right. We just need to figure out how to get the other half.

I, otoh, stay awake thinking of all sorts of things, and marveling that no one has ever thought of or will ever think of that these things again. After several hours, I am finally able to sleep until the alarm or 6a, whichever comes first. This is a case of “initial insomnia.”

I need a tutor, too.

15 Queenie { 07.05.16 at 8:29 pm }

I was just talking about this at work today! And someone sent me this article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/help-for-middle-of-the-night-insomnia-1467048493 Which led me to this book: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Sleep-Solutions-Profit-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00LF8QB40

I’m a fellow insomniac hoping it’s possible to learn!!!

16 Different Shores { 07.06.16 at 4:22 am }

I am the world’s worst sleeper – I might sleep right through once a year. I can wake up on the half-hour sometimes, and I’ve been known to go to the toilet up to 20 times in a night. I’ve seen doctors, they waffle about chamomile tea or having a bath, that old crap. Recently a new mum told me to try magnesium, so I bought some, skeptical. I take 600mg in the evening and I can say that it definitely does relax you, and I seem to be more tired when I do wake up (ie I’ll fall back to sleep easier). Don’t use the oxide kind, though; I use citrate. Any brand of mag citrate will do. I think it’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me. It loosens your bowels: good if you have endo-constipation. Hope that helps someone!

17 dubliner in deutschland { 07.06.16 at 7:49 am }

I’ve also had times where I’ve lain in bed thinking, how do I sleep, like what should I do, how does it work?! I’ve found what generally works for me is focusing on something and playing it out in my head for instance I might replay a movie I’ve seen recently and then I just fall asleep at some point. Sleep is like the watched pot that never boils, you have to distract your mind, and not think about sleep and then it just happens when you least expect it!

18 April { 07.06.16 at 4:11 pm }

Sleep and I sadly break up frequently. I wake up at night and I’m awake for an hour or two before falling back to sleep. I lay there and think of everything I should be doing or things that went wrong. It becomes a vicious cycle.

19 JustHeather { 07.07.16 at 2:39 pm }

I don’t have any sleep suggestions for you. I get mean/crabby/angry if/when woken in the middle of the night. (Sorry kids.) If it takes me more than 10 minutes to fall asleep, that’s insomnia for me. I know. And I can sleep through my kids (at least my older one) waking up. (Sorry hubby.) Hubby, on the other hand, is a terrible sleeper.
I hope you can find something to help sleep become easier.

20 md { 07.07.16 at 11:49 pm }

wow, that must be the worst thing. i love my sleep, and although i never seem to get enough of it these days, i can sleep. except for when i am stressed or particular thoughts are marinating in my head. also, i am a light sleeper -noise, light, movement all wake me up pretty fast. so sleeping once the kids are up is impossible! the times i can’t fall asleep really upset me, so i simply cannot imagine how you go through night after night of no sleep. i really hope you can find something to help you sleep!

Leave a Comment

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author