Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When a "Good Sleeper" Has the Insomnia

I'm not prone to having trouble sleeping, typically. Typically, I put my head to the pillow and I'm immediately tired, and I go to sleep. If I'm feeling stressed, sometimes I need to clear my mind for maybe 10 minutes, but then I go to sleep. It has been this way for me since childhood.

But the past two nights.... Well, Sunday night I went to sleep just fine but I woke up after like 3 hours wide awake and had a really hard time falling back to sleep. Last night, I just couldn't fall asleep. I couldn't shut my brain off, and I got that tense feeling in my stomach that typically only happens when I'm freaking out about something. And then I finally fell asleep, but had the constant dreaming of anxiety that doesn't feel like rest.

Note: there is nothing to freak out about. In my brain, I know this. However, apparently my body doesn't know that this is true.

I only recall having trouble sleeping before in my life for any extended period of time when I was in the spring semester of my junior year in college. I was taking an overload, working either one or two jobs.... I can't quite recall. The point is, though, I went through about a two month period where I didn't sleep more than three hours at a stretch. It was totally not cool. Especially when I'm typically such a good sleeper, so on top of the being cranky and sleep-deprived, I'm also angry that I'm having the problem since sleeping is supposed to be easy for me.

So, why have I been having trouble sleeping? Well, I think (dumb though this is) that it's mainly the book. Knowing that it is coming out is really freaking me out. And then there's the whole "who am I and what shall I do now that I'm going up for tenure" thing. And then there's anxiousness about certain service things that are totally overwhelming me and that I want to get rid of but nobody seems to acknowledge that I really can't do everything, even when I say, blatantly, "you need to find somebody else to do this, because I'm overwhelmed and I can't do everything." The fact is, I've been ignoring the main one of these, because I truly don't have the time or energy even to deal with getting rid of it, but I think that ignoring it is actually causing me sleeplessness related to it. This week I have to hand it off. I cannot keep having it hanging over me. And I'm way behind on grading, and yes, there's just a lot that's making me feel all tense and sleepless, and yet also paralyzed to check things off the list so that I'm not tense and sleepless.

It really sucks.


Meansomething said...

In the year before my book came out, two friends brought out their second and eighth books, and I was mystified that they were both so upset and addled around publication time. Then my book came out and I was upset and addled for a month before the pub date and a month afterwards.

You know the chart that's in all the intro to psychology books that shows the most stressful events in a person's life, and how the good things (a rise in income, adding a new family member) can be nearly as stressful as the bad ones?

Not to take away from things like the service worries, because obviously they contribute to the nameless dread also, but you're probably right about it being mainly the book. It is hard to say why. The sense of finality, exposure, letdown that the project is really over and no longer all yours...that comes close, but doesn't cover it all.

gwinne said...

Ugh. Sorry to hear about the insomnia. I have a life-long history of insomnia (my mother will say I refused to sleep even as an infant) combined with a need to sleep 8-9 hrs a night. For me, Benadryl is a really useful drug for short term insomnia (I just take it at bedtime, instead of my usual allergy meds). I hope tonight is better...

helenesch said...

I'm sorry, too, that you're so stressed (and that you're not sleeping!) I have problems sleeping, too, but this isn't unusual for me.

The "little" things (and some of the service obligations turn out not to be so little!) can really add up, especially when there are bigger life questions lurking. For me it's taken a few post-tenure years to deal with some of the stuff that it just wasn't possible to deal with--or even recognize--until the tenure hurdle was crossed and the book was out.

But I do hope you're able to sleep tonight! (I take various sleeping meds, including Benadryl, which does work, but be warned: you will likely feel groggy in the morning. For me the grogginess goes away after my morning shower and coffee).