Insomnia: The Middle of the Night

Believe it or not, my fellow insomniacs, there is actually an established form of insomnia specifically where you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t return to sleep (as opposed to those that have trouble initially falling asleep.)  It even has it’s own acronym; MOTN.  And that’s kind of what I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks.  I have written before about my sleep troubles, but it seems as if they’ve morphed a bit from sleep latency issues, to this troublesome middle-of-the-night shit.  This problem is made even more difficult due to my family’s current sleeping arrangements–

Hubby has back issues and has been finding the bed increasingly uncomfortable, so he sleeps on the couch most night.  Three and a half year old J has been taking to invading my bed at least half of every night.  Even if she falls asleep in her bed, when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she calls for me, and I am too tired to argue when she climbs in my bed.  I often spend half the night nudging her back to “her” side as she encroaches on my space with an elbow or tries to steal my pillow.  When I do wake too early, I hesitate to just get up and go out in the living room because hubby is asleep out there, so I just toss and turn in bed until I either fall back asleep, or get pissed and take a hot bath.

But I can’t blame it all on the family. No, not at all.  I have sinus problems; spend a lot of time forcefully blowing my nose.  I have IC (what I half-jokingly refer to as “hamster bladder,” although it’s not really that funny.)  I have OCD and anxiety issues.  Often now, when I wake up, if I am awake too long I become hungry.  If I eat, the next time I wake up I am ravenous.  Basically my sleep is shit, and I have developed some pretty questionable methods for trying to capture the elusive dragon’s tail of sleep– Namely drugging myself with anti-histamines (I tell myself it’s for my allergies and sinus issues) and the occasion Ambien prescription (which sometimes ends poorly.)

Lately, I decided to give melatonin another go, and I can almost believe the dissolvable kind I got helps me fall asleep a little faster.  But at least three nights a week I am still waking in the middle of the night, sometimes for as long as two or three hours.

So 5 am this morning, I finally just got up and asked hubby to relocate, and I did some yoga and dicked around on the computer, which brings me to now.  I looked up a bit about MOTN insomnia and read up on few ideas to try and help myself out.  Now I share them with you, faithful reader, in the hopes that you may benefit from them as well.

Some science shows that cognitive behavioral therapy may help with sleep issues.

Some of the main tenants of CBT for insomnia involve such things as:

1) Sleep Restriction–  In my case, this may involve not going to bed so early, but can also include cutting any daytime naps (which I am no longer ever lucky enough to get anyhow.)

2) Stimulus Control– This encompasses things like not staying in bed to toss and turn when you can’t sleep, since this can build unpleasant and sleep-hindering associations with your bedroom.  Basically, you want to restrict your bedroom activities to only relaxing thing.  Avoid watching TV or working in the bedroom, and use your bed for only sleep and sex.

3) Sleep Hygiene— You may have heard this term and not really understood what it means.  Basically, it means just establishing good habits in relation to sleep, to promote better sleep.  This includes things like restricting caffeine and alcohol consumption before bed.  (Although alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, it has been shown to disrupt the sleep cycle.)  Also, avoiding clock-watching and sleeping in a cool, dark room can help.


Lastly, I thought it might still be helpful to figure out some techniques to help people like myself relax enough to sleep, as anxiety or an overactive brain is often a big portion of my problem.

There are two main reasons why relaxation techniques are useful for inducing sleep. First, a relaxed body is prepared for sleep; and second, when you focus your attention inward on a specific routine, you are less likely to think about outside stimuli or thoughts that would hinder the sleeping process. (source)

One such technique is called Progressive relaxation, and involves following a series of steps encouraging active body awareness and relaxation (which you can pretape and then play back to yourself, if so desired.)  *see detailed example

A second, simpler technique involves simply alternately tensing and relaxing your toes, allowing them to draw tension from your body.

A few other tips for promoting a better night’s sleep are as follows:

1) Keep a regular sleep schedule– set a regular bedtime and wake up the same time every day.

2) Increase your light exposure during the day, especially natural sunlight, or a light therapy box, if necessary.

3) Likewise, boost your melatonin production at night by avoiding bright light sources, even such as a computer or backlit device like an Ipod, too close to bedtime.

4) Create a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself.

5) Eat right and get regular exercise



Well, that’s it for today, folks.  Follow the source links for more detailed info and additional ideas, and also feel free to comment telling us your techniques and experiences.

I would tell you all that I hope you sleep like a baby, but babies often toss and turn and cry and pee themselves, so…

I hope you sleep like a cat.

CAT1s (5) CAT2 CAT3 cat4(5) cat5 sleep06


6 responses to “Insomnia: The Middle of the Night

  1. I’ve kinda done that my whole life. Four am and I are old friends! It doesn’t usually bother me these days, only if my thoughts wander to bad places. I used to do the relaxation thing, starting at my feet and working my way up. I’d relax ‘into’ the bed on the exhale. That worked for a while. Now I just keep a book to hand – I can fall asleep reading nearly as fast as I can while watching TV!

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