You are feeling very sleepy……. Or not.

Insomnia is weird.

Not an all encapsulating statement I know, but it is. Weird I mean.

I have been an sufferer of occasional insomnia for quite a number of years now and it still takes me by surprise. That says more about me than it does about the condition I’m sure.

Insomnia can have many causes, depression and anxiety being the main contributors. Who hasn’t spent the odd night or two awake with worry? But my insomniac tendencies don’t stem from this particular cause.

I am not a chronic sufferer I don’t lie awake every night wondering if i’ll ever sleep again, but I have total sympathy for those who do. In its chronic form it is a debilitating condition which affects every aspect of your life.

As I have said I am an occasional sufferer. Sometimes I will go for months with full nights of restful calming sleep and then all of a sudden without cause or warning, one night, after an hour or two of sleep, I’m awake. Wide awake. And then for a while it will follow the same pattern. Into bed, drift to sleep with no problems then at around 2 or 3 am my silly head tells me it’s time to wake up. This can go on for anything from 1 night to 2 weeks and then, without cause or warning its back to the full 8 hours.

There are many worse things in the world I know than being awake during the night, but lying in bed with the sure and certain knowledge that you will not be sleeping anytime soon is deeply frustrating.

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For many years I tried to fight my bouts of insomnia with as many and various ‘cures’ as are marketed. I’ve tried warm baths, hot milk, lavender, valerian, soothing music, no music, no caffeine after 5pm ( a ‘cure’ that was much more stressful for me than any hoped for result could have merited ), no alcohol, no carbohydrates after 3pm. I have been prescribed and offered various different medications over the years also, particularly in France where they seem very keen on sleep inducing drugs, but the few i have tried only provided limited relief and just leave me feeling groggy and washed out the next day, more so than a night with only 2 or 3 hours sleep. I’ve tried self help books, meditation, positive visualisation, deep breathing and even I even had a try of some specifically designed tai chi exercises. And whilst none of these things were in anyway unpleasant ( apart from the no caffeine thing, but we wont go back there ), not one of them actually helped me to sleep.

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It was quite some time before I figured out what to do about my insomnia, and the answer was to do ‘something’. Not exactly rocket science I know, but the act of doing ‘something’ relieves the frustration of tossing and turning in a bed whose purpose is redundant. Now the ‘something’ can be anything. It can be reading a book I’ve been meaning to start for a while, it can be preparing the meals for the following day, I’ve spent many overnight hours on long neglected sewing projects. I’ve passed many happy hours chatting on-line to fellow sufferers or friends in different time zones. And the number of times small person has woken up to the smell of one of ‘mothers crazy cakes’ coming out of the oven is beyond number. The wee small hours can be an inspiration in the kitchen, if it weren’t for my condition I may never have discovered the manifold joys of chocolate and beetroot cake. No really, trust me on this one.

And some nights, like this one, I ramble on about things that are of little consequence to pass the hours until the rest of the household stirs at a perfectly reasonable hour.

Jer Gan Mài.