May 2018 was a particularly long month. If you’d like to read about what I liked in the month of May click here. Life went on as usual. I went to university every day, I kept going out, I hung out with friends, I met people and everything was almost normal. I don’t know how many people noticed but suddenly something strange happened. It started one night when I was in bed, all kinds of thoughts keeping up throughout the night. Things like that happen mostly when there is a lot to think about and man… there definitely was. The days went by and became weeks and my body felt tired and weak and yet I just couldn’t fall asleep. The late night thoughts gradually disappeared all that was left was unbelievable tiredness. I would lie awake in bed every night waiting to fall asleep but nothing would happened. Every morning I would see the morning light not having slept a wink through my window, not having slept a wink, and once again it waould be time to go to university. I couldn’t nap during the afternoons. I couldn’t sleep at all. Such a natural human skill had suddenly become impossible. Different thoughts started to come up and worry me. Thoughts like, how do you sleep at all? Have I forgotten?
In the fourth week the fatigue really got to me and although I always try to stay optimistic and convey joy, on the inside I started to become much more anxious. I began to believe that this was my new life and even if it was an extreme thought that’s how I really felt. Time passed and the fatigue disappeared, replaced by a weird and hard to describe feeling of constant physical discomfort. I’d spend half of any given night in bed trying to fall asleep and the other half looking for things to do to more efficiently fill up the time I was otherwise wasting. I read articles for university, books and also did some less efficient things like arranging all the books in the house according to the colors of the rainbow. One day I asked my mom – “If I don’t sleep for long enough I’ll have to faint at the end and then sleep, right? It won’t be like this forever, in the end I will faint and fall asleep”.
That day my mom sat me down and told me that enough was enough. After reading a variety of articles on the subject we created a list of things to try that were supposed to sort out this frustrating situation and resolve the matter, once and for all! I was willing to try anything, even if it required more time and effort. Even though I was extremely cynical that day and did not think for a moment that something would really work I tried.
I didn’t know it at the time but that night, for the first time in over five weeks (the night I took the picture on the left, documenting myself in a state of absolute exhaustion and discomfort) I would finally fall asleep.
It is difficult to explain exactly how it felt to lose faith in what was supposed to come so naturally. As for why it happened, I guess this is just one of those strange and mysterious thing, the cause of which we can only speculate about. How it all ended that night, however, I can definitely tell you now. Here is the list of instructions I followed for a few days that brought me back to nights of sleep and dreams:
1. Coffee – I’m pretty sure that at this point everyone knows how much I love coffee. To me coffee is not just a matter of waking up in the morning, it’s something small and wonderful that makes me happy throughout the day. I stopped drinking coffee hoping it would help me fall sleep…but nothing changed, so I started drinking coffee again. After doing some research I came to the conclusion that I should limit my intake of coffee to two cups a day. More importantly, I discovered that I should be limiting the hours at which I drink coffee. I transitioned to drinking the last coffee of my day around 5pm and replaced the next ones with decaffeinated tea or hot water in order to create a feeling of warmth and sleepyness.
2. Bed – Some of the sites we read suggested I avoid being in the bedroom and in bed before going to sleep. That means no reading, no studying, no watching movies and no working in bed. You’re supposed to condition your brain to associate the bedroom with sleep, not with work or other activities.
3. Food – In most of our research we found that you should stop eating at least two hours before bedtime so your body isn’t burdened by digestion, which is why I ate dinner around seven o’clock. There was a similar recommendation regarding water but I did not follow it because I knew that these are hot days and that I do not drink enough water anyway.
4. Electronic devices – Personally I do not like to be tied to my phone and I try not to use or charge it in my bedroom. As part of the effort to be able to sleep again we took out any and all electronic devices that might cause me to think about work or otherwise distract or stress me out, thus keeping me awake. This meant putting some space between myself and both my phone and my laptop, but it didn’t end there. About two hours before bed we even turned off the TV and I stopped looking at screens in general. Instead I spent my time with friends or playing board games.
5. Gradually turning lights off – About an hour or two before bed we made the whole house dark except for side lamps and lots of candles, making for a cozy atmosphere. A dark house also meant that from now on I could not work on projects for university. I left it all for the next day, and hung out with family and friends until it was time to go to bed.
6. Exercise – Anyone who knows me already knows how much I love running. Running is my time with myself; time to arrange my thoughts, listen to music and burn some energy. Throughout this period I kept up my running routine, it allowed me to both be more relaxed about the situation and happy that I was still able to do something for myself. When the physical fatigue stopped and I was left with the longlasting discomfort, running helped me to get a little tired and sort out the natural sleepiness that the body is supposed to feel.
7. Sunshine – Sunshine allows us to absorb vitamin D, it helps regulate the body’s hormonal system, it helps prevent depression and in addition to many other things it regulates our biological clock. I made sure to go out and sit in the sun a few times a day for couple of minutes.
8- קריאה– קריאה הייתה הפעילות היחידה שעשיתי במידה ולא נרדמתי או עוד לא הרגשתי בעייפות. בהתחשב בעובדה שפתאום לא יכולתי לעסוק בלימודים, בעבודה על האתר, כתיבה או עבודה מכל סוג על המחשב לקרוא היה הדרך ההגיונית ביותר להעביר את הזמן. ביום הראשון קראתי שני פרקים בספר רביעי של הארי פוטר, עד שהרגשתי מספיק מנומנמת ומוכנה לנסות להירדם.
9- מזגן- כשעה לפני שעת השינה והכניסה למיטה הפעלתי מזגן על מנת לקרר את החדר השינה שלי. כשנכנסתי למיטה והגיע הזמן לישון כיביתי את המזגן והחלפתי אותו במאוורר. אוויר קר מידי עלול לגרום לצינון אבל מזג האוויר של חודש מאי הצליח לתרום לתחושת האי נוחות הכללית שכבר ככה הייתה מאוד חזקה. המזגן והאוויר הקר בחדר הכניסו אותי לאווירה של חורף כאשר מתחת לשמיכה נוח וחמים.
10- דמיון מודרך- בשעה 9:30 אחרי כל הצעדים הללו, אחרי ההחשכה המדורגת, הנרות בכל הבית, התה, המים החמים, השקט, והחדר הקר נכנסתי למיטה שלווה. גם אם לא ארדם הלילה, ארדם בספו של דבר. כבר לא הרגשתי לבד עם העניין ידעתי שיש עוד אנשים שמוכנים לעזוב גם כן את הטלוויזיה, את הקפה ולהיות יחד איתי בחיפושים ובמאמץ למצוא איך להרדם.
אני זוכרת את עצמי כמה דקות לפני שנרדמתי, כל החדר היה חשוך, עצמי את עיניי, האוויר היה קר ופתאום הרגשתי שחורף בחוץ, זו הייתה הרגשה משונה, מלווה בפרפרים בבטן. המשכתי לדמיין, עכשיו ירד בחוץ גם שלג ועם אותה הרגשה חמימה שאני מקבלת כשאני חושבת על גשם או חורף, אותה התרגשות, בפעם הראשונה מזה כמעט שישה שבועות נרדמתי.
Now I want to hear from you, what is the longest time you stayed awake? What do you do before bed and how do you pass the time when you cannot fall asleep? What did you think of this post, was it interesting to you?
And if you’re interested in reading more about the month of May click here.
As always I would love to hear from you about everything!