Decreasing sleep
May 5, 2015 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I've long been a light sleeper. Realllly light. Earplugs, eye mask, blackout curtains. People in the same space sworn to tiptoeing silence. I have a form of insomnia + other issues that sometimes keep me awake, but even when those are not a major factor, I'm just so damn sensitive to any stimuli, and I hate it.

I'm familiar with good sleep hygiene, visualization and relaxation exercises, etc. All the standard stuff. I've tried Melatonin, but generally avoid sleep drugs because I don't like the side effects and/or don't want to depend on them. If there's sunlight coming in at 6am and I take off my sleep mask, I don't sleep. Yet others will snooze right through all kinds of environments.

What I'm wondering is - has anyone desensitized themselves somehow, akin to a vaccination?

All left field ideas welcome.

Note: I generally fall asleep fine, it's the waking up in the middle of the night to pee and staying awake for 30-60 minutes that gets me.
posted by 4midori to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I found that when I started running a fair bit I started to sleep like a log. I've had sleep issues all my life. There's nothing like true physical exhaustion to help you sleep, I reckon.

If you wake in the night , accept it, don't look at a screen and if you're really having trouble getting back to sleep an orgasm (or two) may well help get you back to sleep.

But really, physical exhaustion is the only thing that worked to "turn my ears and eyes to off" while sleeping.
posted by taff at 9:27 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I second what taff said. I started sleeping so much better when I got serious about exercising every day. The more steps I get on my pedometer, the better I sleep. I also sleep with earplugs, and eye pillow, a fan for white noise, and an herbal tincture that works for me, but if I don't walk enough, I still don't sleep well. I have noisy neighbors and cats and wake up often, but I've also gotten pretty good at falling back asleep.

Keep in mind that waking up in the middle of the night isn't wrong or bad. It's sometimes a normal part of the circadian rhythm to be awake for 30-60 minutes during the night. If I wake up a few hours after going to sleep, I'll avoid screens and light and just try to relax a bit. If I wake up a few hours before my alarm, I'll try that stuff first and if it doesn't work, I'll get up and start my day early. The trick with that stuff is just being ok with whether my body feels like being asleep or not.
posted by faethverity at 9:40 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you tried keeping a fan or a white noise machine on all night while you sleep? I don't have as much of an issue with being a light sleeper, but I am super sensitive to noise when I'm falling asleep. I use a white noise app on my iphone, and it's the perfect way to drown out all other background noise. I've now trained my body/brain so that as soon as I turn on the white noise* I usually fall asleep within about five minutes.

*I use "ocean waves" as my sound of choice.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:46 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I posted this a few years ago. It may have some good ideas to try:
posted by Sassyfras at 9:53 PM on May 5, 2015

I've had horrible sleeping problems my whole life and I've tried both intense physical exercise and orgasms. And while both usually help me fall asleep they can often make things worse, because if I wake up and can't fall back asleep then I feel even more that I needed that lost sleep for being so exhausted. The only things that have helped much is, first, taking one drop of melatonin around 10 pm ( from a bottle that is supposed to have 3 mg in a full dropper). Taking so little helps me not fully awake when I wake, but also not feel tired from melatonin the next day ( which I always did when I'd cut 1 mg melatonin tablets in quarters so I'd rarely do it). And secondly, wearing blue light blocking goggles from 9 pm or sooner until bedtime. This also means you have to make sure you're home before 9pm, because in public places you'll be exposed to tons of blue light.
posted by Blitz at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2015

When I get desperate to block things out I get a white noise app on my phone, and get a pair of comfortable headphones and pipe it in to that. There's NOTHING that will wake me up at that point. For headphones I use the default iPhone earbuds, but one of my friends used for awhile and they worked well
posted by JZig at 10:03 PM on May 5, 2015

The answer lies in figuring out what's causing your sensitivity. For me it was anxiety, which zoloft helped a great deal. Oftentimes insomniacs have less GABA or dopamine, so I would look into things on the physiological or neurological side (are you deficient in anything?)

God knows I'd tried every external thing, stopping short of bluelight goggles.
posted by kinoeye at 10:23 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you ever had a sleep study done? You may not think you snore or anything but it might be worth doing to rule out medical issues.

I'm a light sleeper also. I can't get any rest next to my snoring, sleep-apneic husband without my white noise machine. The Marpac Dohm is a damned 8th Wonder of the World as far as I'm concerned. I even sprung for the European voltage one when we traveled - totally worth the space and weight in my suitcase.
posted by Beti at 11:03 PM on May 5, 2015

I do various meditations until I fall back asleep. Sometimes it takes a while, but I'd heard that meditation is as restful as sleep so I don't worry about it. (Nothing like worrying about not getting enough sleep to keep you up.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:50 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've always been a super light sleeper and it also takes me a long time to get back to sleep once I wake up, like for those midnight bathroom breaks.

I have found that if I walk for a mile in the sunlight every day, I sleep better. I have also done sleep training where I took lunesta for a month and kept on a regular routine to teach myself how to do it right. Lunesta has been the only sleep aid that has worked without significant side effects. The name brand is much better than the generic for me.

I sleep with a hepa filter going full speed due to allergies and now I am addicted to the white noise. It's fabulous for drowning out all the little creaks and dings of a settling house.

I have a trained dog who only barks when someone is in the yard so if I think I hear something, and it isn't followed by a bark, I can go back to sleep.

I sleep better when I'm wearing socks. Something about not having cold feet.

I drink Yogi Bedtime tea or have a half a glass of wine most evenings to settle down before bed.

Most nights I do just fine now, after all of the above. When I do wake up, I go ahead and make use of the time. I treat myself to chocolate, check my facebook, play candy crush, and then, after an hour or so, I go back to bed. It isn't ideal but it is much better than berating myself for not sleeping.
posted by myselfasme at 5:59 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am also a light sleeper. Sometimes when I get frustrated with the needing to pee thing, I'll stop drinking liquids by 8pm. I also think that sometimes I don't really need to pee but it's that my body is in the habit of it, so I'll try to refuse the impulse and "break" that habit. It sometimes works.

I sleep a lot deeper since I quit caffeine. I wouldn't have thought it was affecting me, because I would have just one cup of coffee in the morning and no more throughout the day, but I was surprised to find it makes a difference.

Nth-ing hard exercise.

Is your bedroom cool enough? Are you warm enough? You might be comfortable but it's worth tinkering with. I recently found that a cooler bedroom that I would think is nice puts me OUT. I don't like cold places but my bed is nice & warm.
posted by purple_bird at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a restless sleeper too. I generally take a while to fall asleep and then will wake up repeatedly during the night and pretty much any sound wakes me (though light is not much of a problem).

I too avoided drugs and really didn't like the idea of taking them. my one experience with Ambien (for jet lag on an international trip) didn't do anything for my interrupted sleep patterns anyway. But I've recently started taking gabapentin and have noticed a big difference.

Instead of waking 3, 4, or 5 times a night I will wake up once. I really haven't experienced any side effects except for a tiny bit of grogginess the first week I started taking it. And since the drug is non-habit forming I'm not worried about developing any dependencies.
posted by brookeb at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2015

I wake up at least twice a night, without fail, and have done so for as long as I remember, so I feel your pain.

Things that might help you:
- White noise or a fan - some steady sound to drown out background noise as you are falling back to sleep
- Hide your clock. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I don't want to know what time it is: I'll then worry about how I'll manage on only X hours of sleep, and that makes it harder. (I'll even try to turn the TV/clock thing around in hotel rooms, if I can manage it.)
- Exercise is helpful.
- Go to bed a little earlier. Then you'll still have time to get a good night's sleep even if you're awake for a bit in the middle of the night.
- When all else fails: you will be able to get by on little sleep for a day or two if you have to. So there's no need to worry too much if you have trouble sleeping one night.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:05 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

If hiding the clock isn't an option, block it so you can only see the hours digit. I do this and it keeps me from thinking too hard about the time. If I see a 5, I know I can go back to sleep.

It also makes that area a little bit darker, which doesn't hurt.
posted by bink at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe it would help to learn to fall asleep and to then sleep with more random noise rather than less. Having everything constant, (be it no noise, fan noise or white noise) means that any slight deviation from this drone will be a special blip on your brain's nighttime aural radar. Why not try leaving a television on in your room, it may be difficult for the first few nights, but afterwards your brain might get used to fluctuating volumes and other random sounds occurring at night and not wake you because of them.

A friend could not sleep well out in a house in the quiet country, but had no problem in a flat in town next to a busy tram junction.
posted by guy72277 at 5:57 AM on May 7, 2015

« Older Why do my photo flash drives keep failing?   |   Give me my damn pupillary distance! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.