Of Sleep and Rage
June 13, 2019 5:32 AM   Subscribe

At least once a week, often more, I get woken up by something at night shortly after I've fallen asleep. My body then thinks it's had a refreshing power nap, and then I'm awake for the next two hours, growing increasingly miserable. This is unpleasant, rage-inducing and leads to physical exhaustion the next day. Any advice for quickly calming the mind and returning to sleep?

Last night my husband woke up to use the bathroom shortly after I'd fallen asleep at around 12:30. His quiet shuffling jolted me awake through the sound of my white noise app that I listen to with headphones. I wasn't able to fall back asleep till almost 2 am, which is especially frustrating given that, for once, I'd fallen asleep with enough time to feel reasonably refreshed today. Instead, I feel like a zombie.

This happens on a regular basis. We have three neighbors who often make late-night sounds, we have a cat who sometimes pops awake with tons of energy late at night (despite lavishing the little fucker with attention during the day/evening), and sometimes little noises just happen. I'm mostly able to ignore sounds like planes flying over, train whistles, sirens in the distance. It's the noises made by those around me that seem to rouse me into a hyper-vigilant state--mostly, I guess, because in my internal fairness scales it seems like people in my immediate vicinity are being inconsiderate by being loud at night.

This sense of resentment partially explains the anger, I guess? Whenever I'm woken up immediately after drifting off, I feel confusion, followed directly by irrational rage. Obviously, rage is antithetical to sleep, and it probably explains why I have such a hard time falling back to sleep. I'm usually angry because I'm annoyed with whoever just made the sound (however unintentional) and because I am dwelling on what "should be"--i.e. I should be fast asleep right now and ready to wake up refreshed tomorrow, instead I will be miserable.

Things I've tried to deal with this, none of which have really helped:

Xanax--doesn't seem to help with falling back to sleep
Going out for an angry set of hill runs--I don't like being outside at night after a scary encounter earlier this year, and sometimes serves just to get me more worked up
Trying to meditate/think calming thoughts--amps up the rage, oddly enough
Focusing on the angry sensations--this has been most effective so far for calming me down, but does not lead to going back to sleep
Lying in bed reading--just makes me more restless and antsy
Getting out of bed--rouses our hyper cat from sleep, makes him more likely to pester me (we have a small apartment and nowhere really I can go to sit quietly and alone
I've also done everything I can to minimize noise in my surroundings--separate bedrooms from my husband, listen to white noise and earplugs, windows closed, door shut. Sometimes noise just leaks through.

Does anyone have any advice for dealing with extreme emotions late at night? If it matters, I'm autistic, which I do think factors into this. Sorry for any word salad, am tired.
posted by whistle pig to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried melatonin I use it precisely when I need to get back to alseep or when I need to go to sleep quickly because of a time crunch.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:46 AM on June 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure where you are or if it's an option for you, but I used to wake up at 4am-ish most nights and not be able to get back to sleep because my brain turned on. I started taking CBD oil at night before sleep after reading an article about its effect on sleep and although my body still wakes up at that time, I quickly fall back asleep because the CBD has calmed my brain. I use one spray of this one currently (under my tongue and held for 30 seconds) but they were out of stock when I ran out so I'm trying another one. It has honestly changed my life.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:52 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

This sounds completely counter-intuitive, because blue light, but I play a word game on my phone. It's low pressure, not time dependent, and for some reason sends me right off to sleep. I think it's because it focuses my mind on something relatively boring.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:54 AM on June 13, 2019

FWIW when I wasn't sleeping like this, it wasn't sleep hygiene or stressors around sleep keeping me awake, it was literally everything else in my life that prevented me from falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting back to sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night. My mental load was just HIGH and it was really, extremely, hard to get sleep.

Take a look at the rest of your life and see where you can maybe reduce stress? Get more exercise, have your partner take on some responsibilities, etc. It might help.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:14 AM on June 13, 2019 [14 favorites]

The term for that is sleep-maintenance insomnia. I've struggled with it too, I've found that getting at least 30 min of good cardio the day before almost always prevents it - do you already run regularly? Occasionally, exercise causes my legs to lightly cramp which keeps me up, but water + ibuprofen helps with that.

When I had a cat I would sometimes pet him for 10 minutes to calm down if I was up in the middle of the night. Also reading a boring book, but specifically not in bed. Nothing has solved it 100%, it's an ongoing thing to work with, so practicing acceptance has been necessary.
posted by ProtoStar at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Go to bed earlier. This is the common recommendation when this happens with babies, and which has helped me with the same issue of waking 10-30 minutes after I fall asleep because of some negligible noise and then not being able to fall asleep again. Basically you may need more time to hit "deep sleep" (not the technical term) so that background noises don't raise you from shallow sleep. You may also be missing your sleep window --- that time of evening when, if you lay down, you get to deep sleep pretty quickly because your body's rhythm is in the right spot.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:37 AM on June 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

I'm a pretty bad sleeper and the only thing that has worked for me is pretending I'm really into being in bed. Just enjoying the feeling of being cozy and comfortable. Sleep doctors have told me that people sleep more than they think they do, even if they think they're awake, so just lying there, not thinking about sleep and just enjoying the sensations of being in bed, seem to do... something.
posted by Automocar at 6:59 AM on June 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

If you're comfortable sleeping with headphones try listening to music when you can't get back to sleep. Listen to something soothing, no voices, all acoustic. Keep your eyes closed and try to listen intently to the music. Pick out the different instruments. Follow a particular instrument. Imagine the music as a math equation, or as a painting, whatever appeals to you. Try to move as little as possible and keep your eyes closed.

I tried CBD for insomnia and it gave me really bad hay fever: lots of sneezing and an almost endless flow of watery snot.
posted by mareli at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2019

Seconding melatonin. I take one before I go to bed (just the Trader Joe's brand) and I find that it it either helps me stay asleep the whole night, or helps me be able to fall back asleep if I'm wakened.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's definitely worth pursuing the melatonin thing with your doctor, as there is some research suggesting a link between autism and abnormal melatonin levels.

This might not work for everyone but do you think you could transfer your attention from the disturbing noises to a background noise that is just engaging enough to distract you but not so engaging as to keep you up? You say you use a white noise generator but once you're lying awake that might not help your brain. I know someone who has a carefully curated selection of just-boring-enough documentaries that she listens to to "turn off her brain." You might find rules that work for you, for my friend it's no ocean sounds, no birds, works better if it's an older British male voice. Stuff like that. Not exactly ASMR but a similar sort of idea.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Has anything changed recently in your waking life that’s increased your general stress? I’m not trying to downplay how irritating being woken up is—but I know when I feel intense anger about something like being kept awake, it’s usually tied to other, larger situations that are outside my control and causing me stress. It makes the helplessness of being kept awake feel like the cherry on a shit sundae.
posted by sallybrown at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know you said you've tried white noise to prevent these wake-ups but have you tried a real fan in the room? I find it really helps cover little disturbances.... something about the air moving as well as the covering noise.

Other than that, all I can think of is having a place set up outside the bedroom that you can easily and quietly move to when this happens, either to sleep or just to get up and read. I don't know why it is, but very often, if I'm having trouble sleeping in my own bed, a move to the guest bedroom or even reading on a couch is the solution.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2019

I used to keep a book of sudoku puzzles and a pencil by my bed for this purpose. Concentrating on solving the puzzles was distracting enough to allow me to (gradually) become sleepy again. Having it on paper, not phone, prevented the blue light issue with screens. I'd do puzzles until I started to nod a bit, at which point I'd turn off the light and be able to get back to sleep pretty quickly.
posted by ourobouros at 7:40 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

There is a podcast called "sleep with me" that literally puts me to sleep.
posted by kiwi-epitome at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I take a Benadryl when this happens. It's just about the only thing that will make me sleepy again.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2019

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone. Much to my embarrassment I realized I've asked an almost identical question recently. I've talked to the doctor who recommended Xanax--I may ask for other recommendations. I have tried prescription sleep aids, as well as melatonin, but unfortunately all of them had undesirable side effects. I may try a different brand of melatonin, the one I was using caused dizziness and nightmares.

And yeah, my life is fairly stressful, I make a big effort to live healthy and exercise and minimize stress but I think it's just the inescapable stress of living.
posted by whistle pig at 7:55 AM on June 13, 2019

I don't know if this works for everyone, or anyone, but I find that the best way to fall asleep is to indulge in sex fantasies. Whether it's your favorite position with your spouse or your favorite movie star, imagining what, when and how I'm going to do something with someone desirable releases a lot of relaxing chemicals for me, and helps me fall asleep faster than anything else.
posted by sockerpup at 7:57 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm usually angry because I'm annoyed with whoever just made the sound (however unintentional) and because I am dwelling on what "should be"--i.e. I should be fast asleep right now and ready to wake up refreshed tomorrow, instead I will be miserable.

I used to do that. I retrained by doing my level best to jump onto the beginning of a rage-inducing thought and deliberately replace it with something different.

There is nothing that can be done about the immediate experience of rage other than recognizing it, accepting that it's happening, and waiting for it to dissipate; but it is possible to build skill at failing to re-trigger it.

AGGHHH you fucken noisy bastard how dare you fucken wake me up AGAIN I am so fucken sick of this bullshit night after night it never fucken stops fuck it fuck it fuck the fucken pack of fucken inconsiderate insensitive pricks I live with I need my fucken sleep you fucken bastard fucken arsehole fucken PING! Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon and I'd be fucken asleep already if it wasn't for all you shitful fucken PING! Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon. I will be asleep soon except it's not working because I am so fucken ANGRY right now and PING! Be asleep soon. Shit a brick I'm telling myself angry stories again, just like a fucken dog barken in my own head, do something different instead. Better count heartbeats as breath comes in, count more as breathe goes out, slow breathing down count more heartbeats, wait for adrenalin to burn off. Be asleep soon. Dark warm comfy no wait, foot's wrong, hip's wrong, pillow's wrong, ok that's better. Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon. Ping the angry stories, don't need em. Be asleep soon. Sleeping is good now. Rage no use now, still feeling it though, wait for it to ramp down, breathing, heart beating. Sleep good now. Be asleep soon. Be asleep soon.

Especially when we're tired, thoughts like "instead I will be miserable" very easily become self-fulfilling predictions, and ruminating about where we should be doesn't help; in fact it directly interferes with the process. "I should be asleep right now" is a counterproductive self-story because it insists on inserting itself between where we are and where it's telling us we have to be. Declaring impossible things mandatory is every bit as frustrating and enraging when we do it to ourselves as when somebody else does it to us.

"Be asleep soon" works better because (a) it's formulated as a suggestion and an instruction, not a status report or non-actionable complaint and (b) it doesn't invoke the "I" experience that the whole point of sleep is to shut down for the night.
posted by flabdablet at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

whistle pig, I used to get nightmares on melatonin too when I was taking 1 mg. Now that I take 2mg or 2.5mg, those have gone away. So maybe play around with the dose?
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:16 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I totally understand your rage and the fairness thing, in similar situations of being awakened. This also makes me hyper and keeps me from going back to sleep.

Discussing this with someone, they dropped the nugget of 'radical acceptance' into my head about this situation. My interpretation about it is that being angry about [all the sleep-preventing/rage-inducing things] makes as little sense as being angry about the weather. Weather can suck too but we pretty much don't think about the possibility of changing it. It is impossible to prevent all those ragey things and things that SHOULD NOT happen (but do), the same way it's impossible to prevent a rain storm.

This seemed like total woo to me and difficult to act on, but it definitely snagged in my thoughts and I can see that in the past few months, I've gotten better. I used to be ragey every time I turned on my noise machine, for example, because I shouldn't have to use a noise machine - other people should be quieter. But now, I remind myself that I don't get angry about having to put on a winter coat in the weather - the winter coat is the tool I need for the reality of cold and a noise machine is the tool I need for the reality of sleeping in a less than silent world.

FWIW it's worth, my sleep tools are blue tooth earbuds playing various tracks from the myNoise app. Sometimes I layer an external noise machine on top. Also Maisie Dobbs novels in Libby are especially lulling to me. Plus occasional CBD or melatonin or Benadryl. The non-pharmaceuticals though are really the keys for me, and the ability to use them calmly without too much resentment.

Also, but a common suggestion on the green is separate beds.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:16 AM on June 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Another idea worth considering is that simply lying down in the dark with your eyes closed and counting your heartbeats as you breathe in and out is very nearly as restful, body-wise, as being asleep. So even if you can't actually fall asleep because powernap, you still do have the power to choose deliberate rest, with the added bonus that if you're not asleep you won't be unexpectedly woken up again.

Any internal story along the lines of "this is boring, I'm so boooooored" can be associated with the deliberate continuation "and that's OK, rest is supposed to be boring, that's the point of it."
posted by flabdablet at 8:20 AM on June 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

The one thing that has consistently worked to help me get to sleep is the Cognitive Shuffle. I've used the "My Sleep Button" app discussed in the article a couple of times, but you can also do it on your own. I've been working my way through the alphabet - I think I'm currently on "C" - and I find it soothing to follow a pattern of thinking of words that start with "Ca," "Ce," "Ch," "Ci," etc.. Eventually I think the brain says "oh, we're doing this thing that ends in sleep" and it starts to get easier and quicker to fall asleep.
posted by Preserver at 8:30 AM on June 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can try the Calm app free for two weeks. After that, it's $60 per year and worth every precious penny to me. It has both sleep meditations and bedtime stories; my sister doesn't like the stories and I don't like the meditations but I bet one or the other will work for you. When I wake mid-sleep, I listen to the Shipping Forecast or the text of the GDPR legislation on Calm.

Also: pop two Unisom? I take a variety of prescription and OTC sleep aids, and Unisom is in the rotation because it works well for me. Alsoask your pdoc about Ambien?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, the only solution I have ever found for this problem is impractical given the demands of daily life - namely, sleep more. Go to bed earlier and take naps on days that this is an option. I find that being rested *enough* relaxes me (as a highly anxious person) sufficiently that every little noise doesn't wake me, or if I am woken I am calm about it and can either go back to sleep or read quietly until I get sleepy again. Rage-waking happens when I am already exhausted and being abruptly woken feels like the Universe has designed this particular torment just for me. I use a combination of melatonin (not a high dose) L-Theanine and magnesium as a sleep aid. Again, if I am relaxed, the supplements help me to go back to sleep. They do not help when I am rage-woken, nothing helps then except to go and exercise.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

I may try a different brand of melatonin, the one I was using caused dizziness and nightmares.

I have a sleep disorder (though mine involves sleep onset insomnia rather than waking), and my doctors instructed me to use melatonin in the following, rather counter-intuitive way: get the 1mg size, nothing bigger, and then take it four to five hours before you intend to fall asleep. Yes, the bottle says right before bed. That's for people with normal sleep cycles. If you create and/or process melatonin differently, taking it right before bed can cause grogginess and restlessness and a bunch of other crappy effects. When I started taking it at 8pm, I experienced actually getting sleepy enough to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at midnight for the first time I can remember.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

When you say you try meditation, are you just doing it in your own head, or listening along to something? I find listening to Jon Kabat Zinn's body scan meditation works for me - I sometimes have to do it twice back-to-back but I don't usually get to the end of the second time round still awake.
posted by penguin pie at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2019

I have convinced myself that lying in bed peacefully is almost as good as actually being asleep. (And that may very well be true.) This is helpful, because it keeps me from being fixated on being annoyed at being awake or worrying about how tired I will be the next day, making it easier to drift off to sleep.

If you are having a hard time distracting yourself from stressful/angry thoughts, I find little mental math or word games to be super helpful. Like, counting down from 100 in increments of 7. Things like that. I'll also sometimes do an alphabet game, like, think of a movie (or an animal or actor or city, or whatever) that starts with the letter A, then B, etc.) These things are usually diverting enough that I can keep my brain from wandering off into a stress spiral, but they also aren't that exciting, so they won't get me more wired.

I'll also second the fan recommendation. I have a box fan that does a great job of drowning out background noise. Something about it is even more effective than the white noise app which I also use. Alternatively, if you're using head phones to listen to white noise, maybe getting headphones that are better at blocking out other sounds?
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:11 AM on June 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Insight Timer app - even the free version - has lots of great soothing meditations, some specific for sleep. I love it.

Reframing is important though. I have lots of little mottoes: rest if not sleep, the body needs lying-down time, this will pass soon. I tell myself stories if I'm not in the mood for meditation, usually I imagine THE most comfortable bed/sleeping area I can think of, with no limitations on budget or access or physics, even, in many cases. Spaceships, gardens, rooftops, on water, in water, mattresses that know what temperature I want to be and adjust themselves, whatever is most appealing at that moment. It's engaging enough to keep your brain from getting all rabbit-y but not so engaging you won't fall back asleep when your body is ready.

White noise apps are okay, but they're acoustically wrong. Either play them through a decent speaker that bounces sound off the walls and ceiling, or switch to a real white noise machine or real machine that makes white noise like a fan or window unit. I love my Lectrofan white noise machine but the window unit is about to get installed for the summer and I sleep so well when I am cold and there is that much noise.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:23 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am a very, very, VERY light sleeper and white noise apps do NOTHING for me. I have to have a real fan running when I sleep or I wake up at the drop of a pin. And not one of those quiet-running fans, either. I need an actual semi-noisy fan.
posted by cooker girl at 9:36 AM on June 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have something like this happen regularly. Last night I woke up at 3:45 with various half-formed thoughts and repetitive songs going around in my head. It's not even like I'm fully awake. What I do is something akin to basic breathing meditation. Count 1 with the in-breath, 2 with the out-breath, up to 8, then back down to 1. I visualize "air" circulating through my body feeding my limbs and organs, esp. my brain, where it intercepts and dampens thought. Eventually I fall back asleep (feels like it too an hour last night). Thank God I quit drinking a year ago, because when I used to drink alcohol in even small amounts, this problem was much worse. Now I probably need to work on my caffeine intake.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2019

Oh man, I feel you on this. How much Xanax are you taking? For the 'fall back asleep' mode I take .5mg, as .25 doesnt get me quite that relaxed. My mom has the same problem and she swears by half an Ambien. My psych also recently prescribed me Trazadone (I am to take 12.5 mg when I wake up at night and see how that works, increasing if needed) as she isnt crazy about using xanax for sleep issues as she said you dont get good sleep quality on it, even if it's only once every week or so. I havent experienced that, as I feel rested after sleeping on xanax. But I'm interested to try the Trazadone to see if that works better.

I did recently move to a rural town in Canada for the summer, and started going to bed around 9 and waking naturally at 5:30. So I'm going to say the earlier bed time is helpful also, though depending on your life and work schedule I get that might not be practical.

Best of luck! Insomnia sux.
posted by ananci at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I tend to be a light sleeper, and have difficulty staying asleep. Something that has been helping me recently is taking two capsules of powdered apple cider vinegar right before bed. I have no idea why it works for me, but it does. My husband always comes to bed later than I do, and he's a big noisy oaf who sleepily lurches around our tiny bedroom bumping into shit, jostling the bed, yanking on the covers, coughing, etc before finally settling down into an obnoxious, satisfied snore for the rest of the night. When I remember to take the vinegar, even all this monkey business does not wake me up.

One thing I've done for years is to shut the bedroom door so the cat can't get in. I was an open-door sleeper my whole life until we had four cats a few years ago and suddenly there was a flying circus in our bedroom all night long. I sleep much better without a fur person tap-dancing on my head.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Melatonin used to kinda work but I'd be mushy-brained in the morning. Then someone passed along the MIT Study, which suggests that the typical 1-3 milligram doses are way too strong, and that 0.3mg (300mcg) is a sweet spot. I couldn't find that small a dosage at local stores, and had to order it from Amazon.

Taking one 30 minutes before bedtime seems to keep me in deeper sleep longer.
posted by dws at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2019

I've had this for years. At its worst I'd be up 2+ hours from 2 AM, four or five times a week. It really sucks. Here's some things that help for me. I won't mention all the usual insomnia stuff (room temperature, avoiding screens, alcohol, etc., sure you've heard all that before), though it is important.

For helping with initially getting to sleep, and staying asleep:
1. Quitting coffee. Even going from 1 cup in the morning, to none, made a huge difference for me.
2. Exercise. Ideally not in the evening, which keeps me awake. Morning works best. Every day if possible. At minimum, if for some reason I can't run or work out, walking at least 5 miles that day helps.
3. White noise- I use a physical noise machine, a box fan, and in the summer also an AC unit. I wouldn't be able to hear quiet shuffling if I was trying. Something about the physical noise generators works much better for me than electronic noise.
4. ZMA (or just zinc and magnesium), taken 1 hr before bed. If I'm feeling wound up already I'll add valerian root or melatonin.
5. Eat as early as possible, ideally more than two hours before trying to sleep.
6. Going to bed later- if I go to sleep when I'm not feeling very tired, I'm far more likely to wake up later.

For helping with the anger:
1. Meditation - not at night when awake, just some time during the day. Helps a lot with the emotional regulation part of the anger/frustration.
2. Try to forget about the "cause" of being woken up- in my case it's often not anything, but I'll sure as hell grasp at anything I can hear as a reason to try and explain it. Try to accept that the cause is not important, especially if it's something outside of your control.
3. I often think I'm sleeping even less than I actually am- a good sleep tracker watch/band/ring/pad can help with this. It might still be bad, but could stop you from thinking you haven't sleep at all, and defuse some of the sleep anxiety.
posted by Jobst at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am a very, very, VERY light sleeper and white noise apps do NOTHING for me. I have to have a real fan running when I sleep or I wake up at the drop of a pin.

YES SAME. I have fairly severe hypervigilance when sleeping and the tiniest noise will hurl me into a state of the most awake any human has ever been coupled with the most intense fury any human has ever felt, and the only thing that prevents the destruction of the entire human race by me in pajamas is leaving the bathroom fan running at night in the winter and having a noisy stand fan right outside the bedroom door in the summer.

No sleep aids can fix this for me, they just make it worse wrt nightmares and morning rage, and going to sleep earlier just means that I wake up at 3am like it's the morning. Exercise does help but it scales up so rapidly that within a month I'd need 3h of intense exercise to get the same sleep benefits as I'd get from 30 minutes on a stationary bike.

Dealing with the other stresses in awake life has definitely made a difference in the levels of WHY AM I AWAKE rage, though. Totally understandable if it's not possible at the moment, alas.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Perpetual light sleeper here, agreeing that the usual tips like exercise and cutting down on blue light helps, but sometimes you do all that and you still can't get to sleep and that sucks.

Never liked the feel of earplugs, but I've been falling asleep better with active noise-cancelling headphones lately. Usually I'm listening to something soothing and mildly monotonous like Justin McElroy's cereal podcast. Sometimes other rambling audio can work, but they can't be too funny or varied in volume or else that just keeps me awake. (For example, I thought listening to audiobooks of childhood faves would help, but audiobooks are actually pretty bad for falling asleep to, in my experience, b/c suddenly an old British man is yelling about something and it jolts me awake and I realize Paddington had more action in it than I thought. Of course, YMMV.)
posted by rather be jorting at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wanted to add that for me, having an actual protocol in place for getting back to sleep is the single most important factor for me in being able to get back to sleep. I make sure my fan is on, my white noise app is on in my headphones, there's water and a Unisom or a Xanax within reach, and I listen to a 5 minute body relaxation thing and then a specific sleep hypnosis recording. I am still frustrated to wake up, but I also have a high confidence interval that I will be able to return to sleep within 20 minutes.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was having sleep-rage issues for months being woken up by upstairs neighbor but got 'laser lite' earplugs which allowed me to sleep very soundly afterwards. You have to really 'jam' them in your ears according to the directions but they definitely work. (Note they come in a box of 200 pairs!).
posted by bquarters at 11:32 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If melatonin doesn't work for you (that's the case with me), maybe try magnesium supplements. They are not a "take and they work immediately" kind of thing, they are more like a "add that to your vitamin regimen and things will improve over a week or two" kind of thing.

They definitely work for me. There are times when I've fallen off the magnesium wagon and my sleep starts getting shitty again, and when I start back up, there's a transition point for a few days when I'm still waking up in the middle of the time, but the sleep I am getting feels more...better quality? I don't know how else to describe it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been able to mostly overcome my light sleeping + rage at waking with earplugs, and a mix of magnesium and a low level dose of Trazadone. I take them both before bed and find that I fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer, and am more likely to be able to drift back to sleep unperturbed when woken up.

When I do wake up and my heart and head start racing I make up stories or think about episodes of television I like. I also spend a few minutes breathing slowly in and out of my nose >> This has worked the best at calming my racing heart.
posted by Constant Reader at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is sort of the same as the "cognitive shuffle" routine mentioned above; the one I use is:
Inhale while counting from 1 to 8
Word beginning with "A"
Exhale while counting backwards from 8 to 1

and so on. I usually fall asleep before the end of the alphabet. Sometimes I give myself a theme for the words, like animals or jobs. Sometimes I go backwards starting from "Z." If nothing else, it keeps me from getting worked up and angry about being awake.

Also, I find that being dehydrated may be a factor for me. Obviously, you don't want to drink a gallon right before bed, so try staying better hydrated over the course of the day and see if it helps.
posted by Kriesa at 12:10 PM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there room in your bedroom for a small chair to sit in for a bit instead of lying in bed awake and angry? You can at least get out of bed and not build the association between bed and awake + angry. Plan a reasonably pleasant activity you will do for fifteen to thirty minutes while you sit in the chair.

Is the room as dark as possible / can you tolerate an eye mask? I've basically trained myself that eye mask = sleeping time + I also have blackout curtains. Neither blocks everything, together they are great.

I've heard that thinking of unconnected words can help your brain realize it's time to relax and zone out. I list nouns. Or think about how nice and comfortable my bed / pillow / pajamas are.
posted by momus_window at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2019

When I first met my now-husband he used a sleep mask and I teased him MERCILESSLY for it for months. He looked like a ridiculous 1980s-era soap opera star. He looked like Blanche from the Golden Girls. What kind of person USES a sleep mask???????

Then I tried one and it literally changed my life. I had suffered from insomnia since I was a TODDLER. Now I own four of these so I'm never without one. I put one on and I go to sleep AND STAY ASLEEP no matter what. White noise with the sleep mask is great but when I wake up in the middle of the night or stay up too late and need to go to sleep in a hurry, I play something I've already seen on my tablet, use earbuds, and put my sleep mask on. Yes, I'm basically watching TV with a sleep mask on but it's INCREDIBLE. It's a better sleep aid than any drug I've ever tried.

You are welcome.
posted by kate blank at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

I use audiobooks for this - when I'm trying to sleep I'll put on a book that I have read already (so I'm not kept awake waiting to find out what happens next) but that is well written and read in a soothing voice. If I don't have something to focus on I'll worry about everything and keep myself up for hours, which sounds just like what you're doing, so maybe this will help?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2019

Two additional suggestions I haven't seen already, both focusing on the feelings/emotions part of this (which I totally get):

1. Woebot. It's tool that you can use in the moment to do a check-in, meditation, or whatever. Something to vent to, that also helps you work through things.

2. This CBT-based course on overcoming insomnia. I suggest it based on your thought, "I should be fast asleep right now and ready to wake up refreshed tomorrow, instead I will be miserable." The handouts talk about research that suggests that there's usually only a small deficit in your functioning after one night of bad sleep. It also supports what Automocar, flabdablet, and litera scripta manet said above about the benefits of just lying still and resting being almost as good as sleep.
posted by acridrabbit at 1:55 PM on June 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I turn the bedside light on, sit up and read a book, which is almost always enough to distract me properly so I'm not thinking, "I'm in a situation in which I should be asleep. Why the hell am I not asleep?" After about four pages I get sleepy, and can then put myself to bed again. I used to lie in the dark willing myself to be asleep but that just stressed me out and made me wider awake.
posted by kelper at 2:11 PM on June 13, 2019

Your description sounds very much to me like your body might be suffering from low blood sugar at night. Waking up in the middle of the night is simply one of many low blood sugar symptoms. Low blood sugar can cause insomnia, confusion, restlessness, and anger, among other symptoms. This page is written for diabetics but you don't need to be diabetic to experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. It explains:

"When glucose levels fall too low, your body tells the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (also called adrenaline), which signals the liver to make more sugar. The excess epinephrine creates an "adrenaline rush," which can cause feelings of anxiety." "Nocturnal hypoglycemia, which is very common, can cause a number of sleep disturbances.", "...among the neurological symptoms of hypoglycemia (are) uncontrollable anger" (or rage). It lists many other symptoms as well.

The first link suggests that eating a small amount of protein when you wake (but nothing starchy) might help you fall back to sleep. It also suggests dietary changes to prevent the nocturnal hypoglycemia from occurring in the first place.
posted by La Gata at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you can watch videos, this technique (Youtube/Ted Talk) is worth a shot. You lightly drum your way -- hands on thighs, for example -- into a meditative and relaxed state of mind to block out distractions (read: focus on the pattern, not consciously trying to clear your mind). The speaker is a professional musician who, at one point, became chronically and dangerously sleep deprived, and still unable to fall asleep even when he tried doing everything right re: sleep hygiene.

I tried finding a transcript since Tedx Talk is usually good about that, but unfortunately no luck.

I find the physical sensations of drumming are a lot easier to break rambling trains of thought than just trying to count my way down from the indignation and rage at being awake.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:58 PM on June 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can't hurt to get assessed for a possible sleep disorder; there are more than 70 of them.
posted by dancing leaves at 6:59 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I mistakenly bought decaf coffee last week. Just switched back to regular, and had this last night. My husband was twitching in his sleep, instantly awake and frustrated. He got up and sat in his chair for a while, which he will often do if I am having trouble falling asleep (he has a very comfy chair and doesn't mind). I switched on the light and read a magazine for 5 minutes, then went to sleep, but was awake on and off all night.

Someone gave us a Dodow for Christmas, and I use it once in a while. It's blue light, but not the same kind as with screens. I don't stare at it, but it's soothing to tap it and know it's there, supposedly helping me fall asleep again.

Thinking I have to cut back on coffee in the morning, or switch to decaf after 1-2 cups. My dr. used to work at a sleep clinic, going to a check-up today, and will be asking for more recommendations, as I also don't tolerate stuff like melatonin, etc. very well.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:24 AM on June 14, 2019

For me, sleep study. I had obstructive sleep apnea. Now that I've lost weight, it's central apnea. Still using a CPAP, still hate it.

I take 150mg of Trazodone (quite a big dose, but any smaller and I don't sleep).

String cheese if I wake up or in the middle of the night. My glucose falls at night.

Screens don't seem to bother me, so I have a color by number app on my phone that I use.

I always have a podcast on. I'm quite geeky, so they are always science or medicine related.

Good luck. Insomnia sucks.
posted by kathrynm at 7:47 AM on June 14, 2019

The immediateness of the rage you describe sounds almost biological--is there a big adrenaline rush when you're woken up like this? If so, it could maybe help to recognize that. Example of the self talk: "Oh this is the adrenaline trying to protect me from the tigers and stuff but there aren't any tigers here.."

Have you ever tried ear plugs? Specifically, Mac's pillow soft silicone ear plugs? They're meant for swimming, but I use them for sleeping and have for over a decade. They squish into your ears and form a seal. You can still hear loud noises but not many quiet noises. And since they don't stick out of your ears, there's none of that pillow rubbing noise. They're quite comfortable in my opinion. One pair usually lasts me about a week. I have smaller ears so I buy the child size.
posted by purple_bird at 11:54 AM on June 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Historian Roger Ekrich suggests that bi-phasic sleep was normal.
Until the end of the early modern era, Western Europe experienced two major intervals of sleep, separated by the hour of wakefulness. The first sleep was often referred to as the “first sleep,” the “first nap” or “dead sleep.” These terms were not only in English, but common in French, Italian, and Latin as well. The second of the sleep intervals was known as the “second” or the “morning sleep.”
Go to bed an hour earlier. Don't fight or hate your period of wakefulness. Use it for some improving but not stimulating reading. Then merge into a hypnotic alphabet game to slide into sleep again.


2nd for magnesium.

The Healthy Sleep Formula specifies time release niacin and time release melatonin.

I have read in several places that the correct dose of melatonin is 0.3 mg. Hormones have a U shaped response curve where the lowest dose is the most effective, medium size dosage is ineffective, and when you take humongous dose, it overwhelms your body.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2019

I've found a few things that help with this kind of hyper alertness and stressing about things once awake. For the first one, do you feel safe at home? I'm not sure how likely break-ins are, but they worry me at night sometimes. I talked it over with a therapist, to get techniques to calm down and she told me my fears were reasonable. So I got an alarm system instead. Every night I have a routine of checking that doors are locked, windows are shut (in summer), and setting the alarm. If I wake up with a "what's that?!" feeling, I pause and listen for shrieking alarms of some sort. If there's nothing, I know I'm safe and don't have to get up and investigate further. I don't know if there's something specific that you are alert for, but trying to solve that could help. (With therapy or a sleep doctor, if working it on your own doesn't work.)

On the other end, your stressful life makes you dive right into everything to worry over right away. Do you have good systems for keeping track of all the stuff you need to? I like a bullet journal and Google calendar for keeping track of stuff. I also have a tiny notepad by my bed in case I genuinely remember something important that hasn't been written down yet. (Each page is big enough for one item, because otherwise I accidentally write over stuff in the dark.) Once it's written down, you can let it go, because you'll see the note in the morning.

I'm not at all sure my issues are yours, but hopefully some of the ideas are useful.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:19 PM on June 16, 2019

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