Sleep, to me, is both a friend and a foe. A friend because at the end of each day I am exhausted and desperate for rest; a foe because it is rare that my sleep is actually restful.
The last time I had an unbroken night’s sleep was April 2009. Neither of my children slept through the night early: DD didn’t until after her second birthday and DS still wakes multiple times a night at 18 months. I don’t mind this. DH and I don’t believe in ‘sleep training’ and I know that he will sleep through when he’s ready and able to, just as DD did.
Add to this the fact that I have recurrent insomnia. It seems to make little difference how tired I am when I go to bed, I often lie awake for hours with my mind racing. I’ve tried many different techniques to calm my brain and relax my body but nothing seems to work reliably.
I can cope with the broken sleep, I’m used to it. And the insomnia is irritating but bearable. The real reason that sleep and I are not friends is the nightmares.
I have always had vivid dreams. I always remember my dreams and, unfortunately, my nightmares. There have been occasions when these have bled into reality – one of the most memorable occasions was when I awoke from a nightmare hysterical and absolutely convinced, certain beyond all doubt, that red demons were hiding under the bed. It took DH almost an hour to calm me down.
It’s unusual for that to happen and I can only remember a handful of times that it has. What I have to deal with on a regular basis is extremely vivid nightmares which affect me to the extent that I have flashbacks to them all day. Sometimes these nightmares are linked to my anxiety and involve the death or serious injury of DH or the children or someone close to me. Sometimes they’re quite like science fiction, sometimes action films, sometimes thrillers or horror.
I have nightmares like this several times a week, on average. I wake from them with my heart pounding, often in tears. I struggle to fall asleep again and even if I do, when I eventually wake I have flashbacks to the nightmare all day. I might be playing with the children and suddenly ‘remember’ fighting for my life. Or I may be cooking when I ‘remember’ cradling the lifeless body of my child. And so it goes on, and on, and on…
I’m tired. But what will I dream of tonight?