For as long as I can remember, I have had sleep issues. I remember feigning sleep in elementary school so my mom wouldn’t fuss about me being awake. I wouldn’t fall asleep until about 12-2am in the morning only to turn around and wake up at 7 am for school. This pattern continued throughout my life only to get worse and later over time. By the time, I was 33 years old, I was only sleeping about 5-6 hours a night (going to bed at 3 am and waking at 8 am), and quite often going several days on less than 3 hours of sleep. After being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and a returning of my bipolar disorder symptoms, it was recommended by a Neuropsychologist that I see the local sleep therapist.
Let me provide a refresher on my level of understanding in Psychology. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and I am about a semester short of having a Master’s in Psychology. Sleep therapy is not a thing I have ever heard off. For some time, I resisted because I was fine. I was sleeping okay, and at least I wasn’t waking up at night like the rest of the family. Also, I wasn’t sleepy or sleep-deprived to my knowledge. After a horrible night sleep, and an older friend of mine fussed at me for turning down the opportunity, I decided what’s the worst that could happen.
Meeting with the Therapist
Naturally, I was late for my first appointment, but she still chooses to see me. She asked me some questions about the ability to sleep, fall asleep, stay asleep, waking up, medication, coffee, etc. After numerous questions, she suspected that I am suffering from a Circadian Sleep Rhythm versus being insomniac. Although she did say, it was possible that I some insomnia was occasionally getting in the way. She gave me two weeks worth of sleep diaries, a bedtime of 1 am, and a bedtime routine to follow. My new rhythm is as follows:
- Be in bed and ready to sleep by 1 am
- At 1230, turn off the lights and all electronics.
- Wash my face and brush my teeth
- Read for 30 mins until bedtime
- Get into the bed and go to sleep.
- Only get out of the bed in the case that I haven’t slept in about 15mins.
- If this happens to be the case, get out of the bed and read for another 20 mins then start the process over again
- Wake up at 7 am daily.
- If I wake up before 7 am, go back to sleep, and don’t get up until 7 am.
- No caffeine. No exercising after 10 pm. No eating large meals after 9 pm.
I groaned deeply when she told me to get up at 7 am every day, and even deeper when she said I couldn’t exercise at 10 pm or have caffeine. Mostly, I only have caffeine in the morning, but I need that caffeine to get by. Also, I hate going to the gym when it is crowded, so I have always gone at night. But I agreed for the sake of experiments.
Two Weeks of Hell
The next two weeks were hell. She warned me that the schedule would deprive me of sleep to get me back on track, but slight sleep deprivation was a significant understatement. In my defense, I was already sleep-deprived, and this increased it by a million. Additionally, I started psychiatric medication in that timeframe which didn’t do anything but increase my need to sleep. After about a week, I started back on the caffeine ( a cup a day), and I began to feel better.
Additionally, I never kept the 1 am – 7 am sleep cycle. I ended up waking up each day at 8 am, so I was on a 1 am – 8 am sleep cycle. All of this information was disclosed on the sleep diary.
Return to the Sleep Therapist
On my return, she commented about how well I was doing and allowed me to return to having caffeine provided it wasn’t after 5 pm. She changed my sleep schedule from 1 am – 7 am to 12 pm – 8 am. We spoke about me moving to maybe wake up at 6 am, and she stated this was fine, but I have to move 30min in two weeks for it to be sustainable.
Continuing My Sleep Cycle
Finally, for the first time in my life, I have been able to sleep. Sure, I sometimes exercise after 10 pm or have caffeine after 5 pm, but overall my sleep cycle has been incredible. I am now sleeping from 12 pm to 7 am daily, and I am working on moving my bedtime to 5 am slowly over the next couple of weeks. Overall, I would recommend everyone seek a sleep therapist. It was the best thing to ever happen to me.
Just in case you missed them……..