When preparing to write this post, I did a little research and found that there are several disorders of the sleep cycle. This is not what I'm talking about, however. A circadian rhythm is simply the effect of living on a planet that has a diurnal cycle every 24 hours, and some people don't adjust well.
But this doesn't happen to me. And I don't have night terrors, either, but I also didn't know about these until I finished the research. No, what I'm talking about will probably be very familiar: waking up in the middle of the night and becoming afraid, very afraid, of... you name it: life, death, disease, illness, loss, money worries. I think what happens to me is that I go to bed, usually much earlier than my husband (morning people tend to marry night people, don't they?) and am usually reading a good book, and find myself nodding off. I place a bookmark at my spot, turn off the light, turn over onto my side and fall asleep. Sometimes I can barely stay awake and love to slip into sleep. And then, usually sometime around midnight, I wake up. I'm fully awake, and I begin to think. I can feel my heart begin to race if there's something really bothering me, and this can go on for hours. I've learned to get up and change my focus, and then I can usually go back to sleep.
Sometimes I'm only awake for a short while. But what I've noticed about these times is that whatever seems manageable during the day, just feels WAY worse and more terrifying during the night. Why is that? I've been known to wake my sleeping husband with a plea to help me through the "middle-of-the-night scaries." He does, of course, and good partner that he is, his understanding ear helps me to put things into their proper perspective.
As I've gotten older, my deep sleep cycles have gotten shorter, and sometimes I wake up and think of my (mostly pleasant) dreams and fall right back to sleep. I need at least eight hours and usually get nine. Occasionally I get only a few hours but the next night I'll make up for the missing sleep.
I'm wondering if this happens to you, and if so, do you have coping mechanisms that you're willing to share with me?