In the year 2000 I started suffering from insomnia. I was 57, healthy and a bit overweight. I would work all day, or go to an auction some miles away, or go to London to look after my (then very young) grand daughter and at ten or eleven o’clock go to bed and……lie there. I would try desperately to relax, I would count as high as I could (I can’t do the counting sheep thing as I can’t ‘see’ things in my mind’s eye)*, I would get up, go back to bed, walk around, go back to bed and lie there…… I must have slept a little because this happened every night and I was still able to function every day. This period of insomnia lasted for some months and, though it eased considerably, I never really got over it.
In 2005 we moved to the seaside and got Rosie, our lovely dog. I started sleeping better then, probably because of the air and taking Rosie out and playing on the beach with her but there would be an occasional night when, for absolutely no reason, I would lie awake until 3 or 4am. It was never that I was worried about something. People would tell me to empty my mind. My mind was empty! I wasn’t mulling over a problem, nor lying there in expectation of something. I would cut out coffee and other stimuli, have a warm bath, make sure I exercised during the day but nothing could be relied upon to work.
Then I had all my various health problems including a ‘squished’ nerve in my back ( the same one that caused my recent sciatica attack). For the ‘squished’ nerve the doctor gave me amitriptyline and I started to sleep much better. The trouble, then, was that I couldn’t wake up at a decent time of the morning. I would take the two little blue tablets at, say, ten o’clock at night, go to bed at eleven, fall asleep and wake up around ten the next morning. If I had to get up earlier I could force myself but without that necessity I would sleep on. At the family Christmas party at Angela’s house, everyone including Julian would be up and around eight – I would struggle down at 9:30 or 10:00. Luckily, Angela would usually go to church before breakfast and I would get downstairs in time for the holiday bacon and eggs.
Then I discovered that if I forgot to take the amitriptyline, I could not sleep. It’s so easy to forget to take regular tablets at the right time and I was forever forgetting, getting upstairs, washing, putting on my pyjamas, getting into bed and reading, then turning off the light and….finding myself still awake two or three hours later, then, remembering that I had forgotten my tablets. It would never seem worth it to get up and get the tablets so I would spend a lot more time trying to fall asleep then sleeping late the next morning.
It was especially annoying that alcohol and amitriptyline aren’t supposed to be taken at the same time. I didn’t actually drink any alcohol from around the age of twenty until I was in my mid to late fifties and then it would only be a glass of dry white wine, but I got the taste for having the wine with my evening meal. After I started the ami (which I’ll call it because it takes so long to type), I would have my glass of wine at, say, seven with my meal then take the ami at eleven. That worked well but, if I wanted an extra glass or two or if I went out for the evening and got a little tipsy, I had the choice of not taking the ami or taking it even though I’d had (for me) a lot to drink (one has to think of one’s liver, after all!) If I didn’t take the little blue tabs, I’d lie awake and I found out that if I did take them I would also lie awake! I never did solve that one😩About 20 months ago I had pneumonia and was in hospital for a day or two. I had gone to bed with a headache one Wednesday afternoon, slept until Friday evening when Julian made me get up and dressed and took me to the doctor. By that time I was very dehydrated and could neither think nor talk coherently. When the doctor asked me when the second world war happened and I couldn’t answer, even I began to worry there was something drastically wrong with my brain. I was taken to A&E and, after a wait of some hours, was admitted to hospital. From the Tuesday before this happened until the Sunday night when I got back home, I hadn’t had my ami but had slept so I decided it was a great time to come off them.
Most nights I was able to sleep after I gave up the ami but about once or twice a week I would go to bed and either fall asleep for an hour or two then wake up and lie awake until five or six in the morning or I would lie awake until three or four before falling asleep. And then I was struck down with the dreaded sciatica which was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life (except, maybe, toothache) and started taking the ami again. It definitely helped the sciatica pain clear up (after a couple of weeks!) and I am, once again, sleeping beautifully but getting up late. I’d already given up alcohol and haven’t had any in the last two and a half months.
Maybe I’ll get a little tipsy this year at the family Christmas get-together (the noise made when Lovegrove men get together is horrendous!) but until then, I’ll lay off the booze and take my little blue pills (which are not the same little blue pills men sometimes take!)
See my earlier post on Aphantasia.