Sunday, September 6, 2009

Midnight scaries

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?


  1. Hello Djan, interesting sleepy thoughts. I wake up when I'm worried, yes, but I don't get terrors. Like you, I read before I go to sleep and the better the book, the quicker I want to sleep. How annoying is that!
    Blessings, Star

  2. I am so sorry to hear that you are dealing with night fears. Everything seems worse in the dark when the distractions of the day have disappeared. It makes us feel more fragile and alone and possibly more aware of our mortality. I have been there before.

    I am sure a professional person would say it is from unresolved issues, but I think it is our inner psyche reminding us that we are human and no matter how hard we try we can not totally control our destiny. All those worries and concerns that we bury deep within ourselves are released to the surface when our control mechanisms go to sleep.

    As a side note, do you happen to have hypoglycemia? You have such an active and busy lifestyle, it makes me wonder if your blood glucose levels drop through the night. When that happens it can awaken you with similar feelings of panic. Eating a small amount of complex carbohydrate before bed can sometimes help. (It's the nurse in me giving advice now)

  3. we seem to have the same issue! I go to bed earlier than my husband. I fall asleep right away, and then wake up about 4 AM then suffer from "pacing tiger brain" as my meditation instructor once called it.

    Sadly, I have no advice to offer you except try yoga, which is supposed to help (if you haven't already). I just can't quiet my brain, my husband can and claims it took him years of meditation to do it. I find that if I try to clear a thought another one jumps right in! ugh! if you find the solution please share!!

  4. I sleep the deepest when I'm not worrying about getting up for work. I have never used an alarm clock, I just wake up in time, and for the years I have worked for myself, I always woke up at 5am even though I could have slept longer.
    Sorry you are experiencing these bouts of waking and feeling afraid, that has to be scary in it's self.
    Drink Chamomile tea and see if that helps.

  5. Rarely, but yes I have had them. I think things seem worse then because there's nothing else to distract us from them. Try reading or watching something silly on TV. Anything that gets your mind focused on something else I suppose would help.

  6. I don't get night terrors, but often I fall into a deep, deep sleep for 4 hours or so and then wake up to a wide awake state...I feel my husband wakes up and then we talk or giggle about how wide awake we are and talk awhile until we get sleepy again. It is weird. Maybe it is retirement or our ages? I do not nap in the day. But I used to get up very early for years and years to go to work and now I have a hard time dragging out of bed by 8 or 9am!!

  7. Sorry to hear that you experience such fearful awakenings. I rarely even have nightmares and when I do it's easy for me to open my eyes and tell myself it was just a dream.

    I have always been a night owl (and of course my hubby is the morning person) and a bit of an insomniac. I take Valerian many nights to slow myself down and relax. It is very rare for me to wake up in the middle of the night. Usually about seven hours is a good nights sleep for me.

    I've always thought of sleep as the time for our minds to sort through the day and file everything away.

  8. O boy! Do I know what you are talking about! I find if I read that I settle easier, but most often I take my worries to bed with me. It is HORRIBLE!

    Working the night shift really disturbs my sleep cycle and often I will not be able to sleep as normal people do when I am off. I have found that Melatonin works for me. I have heard others say that it doesn't for them...

  9. It must be quite painful to have to wake up like that in the night and get scared. I like to go to bed late but for so many years I have had to get up at 4:00 am to go to work that now it’s difficult for me to sleep more than 6 or 7 hours – my husband sleeps 8 or 9, so I usually go to bed after midnight or 1 or 2 am and we get up at the same time (it’s 12:30 right now and I am quite awake.) I think you should do visualization when you wake up like that. There are some good books on visualization – you could get some from your library. You visualize being in a safe place or a beautiful beach or mountain of your choice while trying hard not to think about anything bad but visualize what you wish. If the worry comes back, that’s fine, just keep going back to your safe place again. You can train your mind but you have to practice. I have done this for many years and you know, I am pretty happy all the time. I read books by Shakti Gawain years ago and she has some good one, look her up in Amazon to see the titles.

  10. Sleep and I are not very good friends. I am able to push WAAAAYYYYYY past the tired point and keep going. I've had the fam come and look at me glued to this screen, and pounding away on the keyboard, and having to TELL me I'm past the tired point. But I kind of dread sleep. It doesn't come easily, or always restfully and I frequently function on 5-6 hrs of sleep. Last night was 4-5. I don't function optimally on this. I plan to make sleep a focus of one of our 30 Day Throw Down! months. It's vital.

    Years ago I bought a series I saw on an infomercial about eliminating stress and anxiety. The woman who started it is Lucinda something....her last name escapes me (must be the lack of sleep!). You can probably find it on the internet. I found it to be tremendously helpful. I no longer do the middle-of-the-night anxiety thing so easily. But yes, any troubling thoughts are always magnified at night. I often think it's because we are alone and we know that, typically, others are not available to us. They HAVE to sleep but, consequently, we can feel isolated.

    I have always had sleep avoidance even though I LOVE a good sleep. Hmmm. Provocative post, DJan.


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