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How I Conquered My Nightmares

  June 25

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There is something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time, years actually. This problem is, in not so many words, a sleep problem. Basically, I can’t actually fall asleep or stay asleep. I’ve always had issues falling asleep, and I’ve always been jealous of the hubs who can literally sit on the couch, close his eyes, and take a perfect 30 minute nap.

Hubs on Father's Day
Hubs on Father’s Day

In addition to having trouble sleeping, I have a long history of having nightmares. Bad nightmares. As a child, I had a recurring nightmare about a train so often that when I hear a train as an adult, it still gives me a bit of anxiety.

When I had my twins, the nightmares really came in full force with such intensity that even I was taken aback by it. I had dreams of horrible things happening to them. A few weeks ago, I literally shot straight out bed because I had a dream my daughter crawled into an elevator and it closed and went down before I could get to her. That experience led me to try to really conquer this problem. I’ve always had nightmares, but they’ve never caused me to physically shoot out of my bed before. Plus, even though my kids were sleeping through the night, I wasn’t.

I’d wake up with my sheets and blankets all twisted and strewn about, and I was keeping my husband awake too. All of this plus our intense work schedules made me groggy, anxious, and just plain short tempered and annoyed with everyone around me. I’d walk through the grocery store so sleep deprived and want to just ram my grocery cart into every person who seemed to just be dilly dallying. I know it doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of me, but it’s true. A lack of sleep makes you a grumpy person.

THE ANSWER: DISCIPLINE

I’ve been reading parenting books lately on discipline and also some advice of other entrepreneurs who work from home. Parenting books really stress keeping kids on a schedule, and something about reading that reminded me that we sleep trained both our twins by having the same routine every night.

Ever since we brought them home from the hospital, we’ve bathed them every night, we’ve put the same lotion on them, turned on the same white noise, at the same time, every day. At 15 months old, they know when they get into the bathtub what is coming next. They know when they smell the same lotion that they are going to get their pajamas on next. By the time they make it into their beds, they know they will be staying there the whole night.

So I thought, if it worked for my kids, why wouldn’t it work for me? I know I needed to go to bed earlier in order to make it all work, so I decided to try to go to bed at 11 instead of at 12. At 10, I took melatonin and started to wrap up my work. At 10:30 I took a bath with a glass of wine. At 10:50 I was in my bed with my book. By 11, I was out. Gone. Finished. And I slept all night.

I’ve repeated this routine all week and only had to break it once, last night actually when I stayed up until 1 AM working on a deadline. But, I still did the same thing even though it was 1 AM. I took a smaller dose of melatonin just about 30 minutes before finishing my writing. I took a bath in the middle of the night, got in bed, and couldn’t even keep my eyes open enough to look at my book.

This morning, despite going to bed so late, I was up at 6:30 drinking tea and reading a magazine. I cleaned the dishes I didn’t get to last night because I was working. I went to the grocery and cleaned up and by the time my nanny got here at 9 AM, I was ready to work. Now I’m sure I’ll be pretty tired by the afternoon, but that’s okay. The point is that I’m trying. I seem to be sleeping more soundly, and I haven’t had a nightmare all week.

Everyone says that you should take care of yourself first before others, especially as a parent because when you’re not feeling well, it affects everyone else. I think I let this go on too long, this issue. Even after just a week of concentrated effort, I’m starting to feel much more like myself. I’m feeling like my nicer, more patient self. And I’m hoping that person is here to stay.

Have you ever had a sleep problem before? How did you conquer it?

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13 responses to “How I Conquered My Nightmares

  1. Interesting Cat! I can’t imagine you doing this though: ” just ram my grocery cart into every person who seemed to just be dilly dallying”. It did make me laugh just a little. 🙂

  2. Such a good point that we have to make an effort to take care of ourselves, too. It’s so easy to get caught up in taking care of everything else but us! Thanks for the reminder today, and I hope you can stick to your new nighttime routine to get better sleep and banish those nightmares.

  3. Kudos to you for working on the problem, even when it’s not convenient.

    I have always been an extremely light sleeper. Since getting married and sharing a bed, it’s been hard for me to get a really great night’s sleep. Even when he’s gone, it’s hard because then both girls end up in bed with me. All it takes is for one of them to sigh and then I wake up. Sure, I go back to sleep, but we aren’t meant to sleep like this. The answer? I think it will be separate rooms at some point!

  4. I love hearing this. I have nightmares several times a week and I hate it. I wake up feeling stressed out. It is usually when I’m up working really late, until the point of exhaustion. I think having a bedtime routine like this would help me, too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh man sorry you are having nightmares. I’ve only had nightmares a few times but they sit with me all day 🙁

    I am a bad sleeper in general, too..though now since my little ones still don’t consistently sleep through the night I am ALWAYS tired haha. But normally, it would take me roughly two hours to fall asleep each night.

    That’s great you’re creating a routine and it’s helping!!

  6. Hi Cat. Appreciate you sharing this as I’m pretty sure sleeping (or lack of it) is an issue for many a blogger out there.

    I had an issue a year ago with not being able to fall asleep easily, which was also around the time my son used to wake up every few hours. I’m sure that had something to do with it, but I also found that cutting off screen use made a big difference. Many people are just used to being on their devices in bed before they sleep, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I found when I stopped using the phone about a half hour before I slept, I fell asleep a lot faster.

    Glad having a routine is working for you. Hope it gets better.

  7. Wow! I’m sorry to hear about your nightmares Cat. I’ve definitely had my share in the past!

    As for me, I’m more of a morning person than a night one. Honestly, 10pm is my limit which is sometimes funny to some of my friends who stay up late. Though, I am more productive and effective in the mornings. I have no problem getting up at 5am!

    Thanks for sharing. Yes, we all need to take care of ourselves so that we can stay healthy and be around to take care of the ones we love the most. Great post! 🙂

  8. I’m a depressive, so my nightmares are always very vivid and stick with me. I’ve gotten to the point where they don’t keep me up, though I’m guessing that’ll change if we manage to have a kid, since that opens up so many new avenues of terror. But they remain exhausting. And my poor husband has had to weather my being irritated at something he did in a dream. He’s remarkably good humored about it.

    I was having trouble getting enough rest, and just falling asleep, recently. So we now try to shut off all screens at least half an hour before bed. And we try to go to bed at 10 most nights. 10:30 at the latest. That gives me time to fall asleep and still get enough rest. I have chronic fatigue, so anything less than eight and a half hours is a problem. Nine is optimal.

    And if you think you were irritable, I assure you that you probably didn’t come close to what I’m like without enough sleep. Especially since I work in customer service. That alone can make you hate people.

  9. Ugh! This stinks – I’m sorry. I am very lucky that I’ve never had sleep problems – I live for my 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I’m glad you are prioritizing and taking care of yourself!!

  10. I need to do this. I don’t have problems getting to sleep, but with so much on our plates I have trouble forcing myself to actually shut everything down for the night. This may definitely help! Because I totally get cranky like this, too.

  11. Im like you…..i wish i could sleep better. Its all about keeping to a routine as best you can.

    For me, its no food after 8 pm, electronics off by 9:30, read for an hour and lights off at 10:30.

    Its not perfect, but it works pretty well

  12. Good luck Cat. When our twins were born, sleep was tough for the first couple of month and and relate to the crankiness, cant image adding nightmares to it when you do get some sleep.

  13. I’m a little cranky too when I’m sleep deprived 🙂
    I don’t usually have trouble falling asleep unless I’m stressed about something. I do tend to drink some wine every night 🙂

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