Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: How do you sleep?

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  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Danielle,

    I sleep well and heavily, which I know is quite obnoxious and I'm very sorry. I could quite easily sleep through someone coming into my house and removing all my furniture (don't get any ideas, you guys). These child-raising years have so far been a series of literal rude awakenings. Damn baby monitors, ruining my hibernation time.

    This is normally true for me (which is good, because I'm a mess if I get anything under seven hours straight), but for eighteen months my partner was away from home four nights a week, and after the first two or three months of that, for the first time in my life I couldn't sleep when she was away. Any tiny noise woke me up in irrational panic. The only things that reliably kept me under were alcohol (problematic for obvious reasons) or diphenhydramine, which is sold as an OTC sleep med in the US - for most people it's pretty benign but it does become less effective the longer you use it.

    Fortunately, she's not going to be away again on that scale any time soon, but it was really depressing to be reliant on another person just to get a good night's sleep. The *really* stupid bit was that I could sleep just fine when *I* was away from home, even if I was by myself; I even slept perfectly well through seven days of major storms at sea, even if I wasn't feeling too flash when awake. It was all psychological. Bloody psychology.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report

  • Hebe,

    When I do tai chi regularly sleep, or broken sleep, is not a problem. When I meditate daily, I sleep better: more fully and it’s restorative rather than a coma. I’m undisciplined and both of those practices come and go.

    The earthquakes have not helped: spent two years waking up. One incredibly useful remedy was “sleep juice”: Dolphin Clinic Tranquil Sleep aromatherapy essential oil. A few drops on your pillow and sleep assured: though as beloved says it smells like a 1970s North Beach whorehouse. Got us all enough sleep often enough to cope with 13,000 aftershocks, many of them centred within 2km of our beds.

    Sleep patterns change with age and I regret not fully appreciating my until-50 years of easy sleeping.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • Brodie Davis,

    What I have found. Is no coffee after midday, eat some cottage cheese or something high in protein before bed (to keep the tummy fullish,the slower digesting the better). Exercise, even if its just a 30 minute brisk walk around the block. And don't let yourself sit/lie in bed too long, if your not drifting off, get up and do something to settle your brain.

    But having a 3yr old and a 1yr old, means that sleeping time is too precious a resource to waste, so my body won't let me throw it away.

    Since Aug 2008 • 54 posts Report

  • JessicaRose,

    Ahhh this old chestnut....

    I used to sleep very well, by which I mean that I never thought about sleep, I just did it. Or i didn't and then I did later.

    Then I had an event, and then I didn't sleep, and then for the next 8 years I struggled with insomnia, which at times was chronic. I find now it comes and goes in waves, usually triggered by stress, however my ability to manage it has increased. There are several techniques that are great for combatting sleeplessness and as with everything, what works for the individual is a combination of these things that suits them.

    I agree with Stephen, after rejecting the idea of taking 'sleeping pills', I can confidently say that even 1/3 of a zopiclone can be overwhelmingly helpful when you are stuck in an undesirable sleep pattern. Other things I've tried with success are going to bed and getting up at the same time daily. Exercise during the day and relaxation (not blue screens) for the 2 hours preceding bed. Magnesuim and 5htp suppliments. Moderation in alcohol comsumption. Routine. NOT clock watching, in fact removing all visable clocks (your brain is easliy tricked, knowing how long you are awake for can cause the stress that causes the sleeplessness, not knowing and lying to yourself is actually a better method); and interestingly, imagining solving a jigsaw puzzle....*

    *this is based on an article in New Scientist that recommends getting up if you can't sleep and doing an activity (eg solving a jgsaw puzzle) that is brain distracting but not too actively stimulating (as reading or telly may be). Personaly if I get up - I won't go back down but imagining doing the puzzle seems to stop the thought freight train!

    Auckland • Since Sep 2011 • 61 posts Report

  • Marcus Turner,

    I've been telling people for years that the "Hogamus Higamus" poem was composed by somebody writing down something they'd dreamed in the night. That turns out to be probably untrue: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/03/28/hogamous/

    Since Nov 2006 • 212 posts Report

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to JessicaRose,

    I used to sleep very well, by which I mean that I never thought about sleep, I just did it. Or i didn't and then I did later. Then I had an event, and then I didn't sleep, and then for the next 8 years I struggled with insomnia, which at times was chronic.

    Just so, for me too.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 830 posts Report

  • Jason Kemp,

    A few years ago I had almost the opposite experience. It turns out I had sleep apnea and since then I use a CPAP machine. For years I had been half awake and did more than my fair share of coffee. I could go to sleep anywhere but lacked deep sleep and felt tired most of the time.

    When I first got the CPAP machine my sleep and life was transformed. What I discovered was that a very high percentage of people with sleep apnea were undiagnosed and just learned to live in a sleep deprived state. For anyone reading that suspects they have continual sleep deprivation it is worth getting tested.

    After a while I found that I had other health issues which had been masked by the lack of quality sleep. I’m still working through those but it is a journey and there have been no magic bullets. What works for me or anyone else may not work for you. As we age our metabolism changes.

    In 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s we feel indestructible. A bit later the playing field is distinctly not level as we may have to work around impaired organ function.

    I can drink full strength coffee at any time and sleep fine but I do sometimes go for months on decaff if I get hyper sensitive to coffee which does happen to me. I’ve found Omega 3 fish oil has been a good thing to do for background health.

    All the tips about sleep hygiene are good but if you get into a changed phase it might be time to have some medical tests and see how ( in my case – the kidney) the body is holding up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report

  • danduran,

    I haven't really got time to go into much detail - supposed to be working right now - but I'm a recovering insomniac and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. In my experience, the best thing you can do is stay well away from GP-prescribed medication (which they dish out like candy, and will even give you stuff you've researched on the internet, if you just ask for it) and get cognitive behavioural therapy. You can get four sessions a year funded through your local medical provider, though they don't seem to advertise that at all.

    There's a lot GPs don't seem to understand about insomnia, and I was told a lot of stuff that was quite plainly nonsense - like it's perfectly safe to take zopiclone for decades if it helps you sleep (I lasted about six weeks before getting chest pains). Some didn't even know about how blue light affects your body clock.

    The other thing is getting something like flux for your laptop or phone to eliminate that blue light. Even if you don't sleep well, it makes using devices late at night that much more pleasant.

    If anyone's interested, I interviewed a sleep expert last year for work, and wrote a story combining my experiences and his knowledge - http://www.3news.co.nz/Insomnia---the-dos-and-donts-of-a-modern-epidemic/tabid/423/articleID/246659/Default.aspx

    Hope that helps anyone who might be suffering with insomnia!

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 9 posts Report

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Danielle,

    which I know is quite obnoxious and I’m very sorry.

    Obnoxious? It's a SUPERPOWER.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report

  • Sean_us Handley,

    We humans used to sleep in 2 bursts in olden times before light bulbs, so don't get too stressed by waking after the "first sleep". Here's a good book that might keep you awake on the subject until you get used to the idea:
    Also, watch out for the blue screens stuffing with your circadian rhythms. Install f.lux (http://justgetflux.com/) or similar so our ever present devices to regulate your exposure. I've installed as an app (twighlight) and on my kids machines.

    Sweet dreams...

    Nelson • Since Jun 2012 • 7 posts Report

  • James Butler,


    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Russell, there is an App for this of course ;-) Haven't tried it myself.


    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report

  • linger,

    @James – Or the scene in You’ve Got Mail:

    Frank Navasky [ to Joe Fox ] : Tell me something: really, how do you sleep at night?
    Patricia Eden [ interrupting ] : I use a wonderful over-the-counter drug, Ultradorm. Don’t take the whole thing, just half, and you'll wake up without even the tiniest hangover.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic,

    My sleep patterns have been erratic in recent years. I’ve recently been prone to having cat-naps after I get home from work, and after that I find it difficult to fall asleep until the small hours. Seems partly to do with regular caffeine consumption. Seems also partly to do with 6-day working weeks and finding myself among the ranks of the precariat, not to mention facing the prospect of bankruptcy-grade dental surgery.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Jan Farr,

    I've had two sleepless nights since I gave up coffee about two years ago - and the sleepless nights were both in strange beds. I can't cope with a strange bed on the first night. Sleep well the second.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report

  • Euan Mason,

    The Christchurch City Council, in its wisdom, has just specified hot blue LED lighting for all new street lights, and so expect to encounter many more sleep-deprived Cantabrians.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report

  • Danielle, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    My husband is obsessed with an Android version of that white noise app - we first downloaded it for baby number two, the initially terrible sleeper - and uses it to fall asleep every night. It works quite well for me too (although I can drop off without external help it seems to be faster with the white noise going).

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report

  • Dan Salmon,

    A subject dear to my heart.

    If i don't get up at six, and have a full day with some outside time, i don't sleep. Which totally buggers me if i get sick and try to sleep in for a few days. I end up in an entropic cycle of lying in bed hating people who can sleep and swearing loudly.

    I've struggled to sleep since i was a kid, and like Emma, read until i start to nod off. That combined with podcasts as i go to sleep tends to work. Last night, woke up 3 or 4 times, used a podcast about why Kenya has so many long distance runners to go back to sleep. Can't remember a thing, so it must have been an okay night. On a good week i can stretch a single this american life across seven nights, on a bad night i'll be listening for hours.

    I still have bad nights, (only managed an hour and a half a few nights back) and sometimes use melatonin, I (now) try to avoid other sleeping pills, but am largely on top of the non-sleeping with a combination of reading, podcasts, no computers late at night, exercise, and getting up early.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 40 posts Report

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to TracyMac,

    The Manifesto is not in copyright, and is freely available online.

    If only, at 3am frustrated by my inability to get back to sleep, I'd thought to either check the bookshelf or, considering the computer was going and I sat down to read online for a bit, had googled it.... Oh well, next time.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report

  • Lilith __, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    which I know is quite obnoxious and I’m very sorry.

    Obnoxious? It’s a SUPERPOWER.

    It sure is a superpower! I have CFS and have particularly bad troubles with sleep. I've been through all the usual "sleep hygiene" stuff and it makes no difference to my sleeplessness at all except to make me more irritable because I'm so bored. :-)

    Conversely, I am able to sleep at virtually any time during the day if fatigued. I can go to sleep at 10am in bright sunlight and sleep soundly until 1 or 2pm.

    Without medication I can lie in bed until 5 or 6 in the morning in a calm but entirely wakeful state. Zopiclone is great but needs to be used intermittently to remain effective. So I have periodic "holidays" where I take a low dose of quetiapine at bedtime. It makes me feel very peculiar, but I get to sleep.

    Exercise and a sense of having achieved something in the daytime are somewhat helpful for me. But I think my sleeping mechanism is just broken.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3895 posts Report

  • Gee, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    there is an App for this of course

    There's a nap for that? perfect ;)
    i have been having horrible trouble sleeping and so far only the sleeping pills work, if i take them early enough... does nothing for helping me be alert in the morning though....

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 78 posts Report

  • Chopper,

    I've recently had to get up at 4.30 am just to get stuff moved from one house to the next while the kids are asleep, and I am getting addicted to it. The world from 4.30 until 7 is a beautiful place without many people about and no demands from our young kids.

    It does mean that I feel the need to head to bed earlier, but it sure beats getting the kids down and then trying to get stuff done while exhausted from the day. Much better to have the best of the day to myself.

    Since Jul 2008 • 19 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    My sleep patterns have been erratic in recent years. I’ve recently been prone to having cat-naps after I get home from work, and after that I find it difficult to fall asleep until the small hours.

    I sometimes quite struck by how late people I know are up and about on the internet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Ana Simkiss,

    Chris Laidlaw sends me straight back to the land of nod for my weekly sleepin on Sundays. Alas, no longer ...


    Freemans Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 141 posts Report

  • Richard Aston,

    Russell does getting less sleep affect you at all during the day?

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report

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