Coronavirus 2020: Insomnia Edition

When my team was asked to work from home starting mid March (with a tentative return date of April 8th — we’re still at home), my initial reaction towards The Whole Thing was to sleep. A lot.

I thought it was catching up on sleep debt, since I do tend to struggle getting my 8 hours in for various reasons.

Around the beginning or mid April, my tendency to sleep gave way towards insomnia.

I’ve had issues with insomnia before. Normally, what I do to fix it, is get an over the counter sleep aid. That’s what I did last December when I got it — but…I never stopped using it because I was sleeping 8 hours, was dreaming, kind of everything how I thought sleep was supposed to go, and that I didn’t get even when I didn’t have the insomnia.

The over the counter sleep meds stopped working a bit ago. When I wanted to see how much of a dose would be an overdose, it wasn’t on the label. I googled, found out it was a kind of benadryl, and I was not happy for how long I had been taking it.

It wasn’t working anyway at this point. I would take a full dose, wake up or not get to sleep at all and bad nights.

Needless to say, April and so far May (how has May for ten days been a thing? How has it been since six days since the Siege of Mandalore and the series finale of the Clone Wars? How?) have been quite difficult for me.

In the past, walking a few hours before bed did tend to help. But I was also able to box regularly at the gym (I do try to shadowbox at least once a week, though I’ve been aiming for more), I was climbing stairs, walking to help my coworkers, etc. I also mowed the lawn for the landlady every Saturday–I don’t live there anymore and I have no lawn.

I think I’ve identified my insomnia taking two forms:

1) a lack of feeling tired that can be exacerbated by naps. Normally, taking a nap before 3 pm was fine for me. Now, I’m wondering if it’s even earlier. It is very hard not to take a nap during the day when the night was sleepless so this has been a losing battle (including today where I did accidentally fall asleep for two hours in the early afternoon).

2) I am able to fall asleep but I wake consistently after 4 or 5 hours. I haven’t yet been able to figure out what wakes me up–regardless, I’m unable to fall asleep again even if I’m yawning with exhaustion.

Last night was a mixture of both — I napped too late, causing me not to feel sleepy until after midnight, and I woke up after five.

I do want to try walking again as that did help, and even though I have upped my activity level when I realized my insomnia wasn’t going away,  it hasn’t immediately improved which is unusual.

So, here is what I’m going to do, to the best of my ability, for the month of May.

  • Caffeine has zero effect on me. I drink coffee because I like the taste and ritual. In the past, I have drunk coffee with dinner regularly and slept well. I’m arbitrarily choosing no caffeine past 1 pm. Goes to show how desperate I am.
  • I will walk an hour before shift start. This will probably around 7 or so. I’ll start listening to my audio books again, something I stopped doing during quarantine because I listened to most of my audio books during my commute.
  • Starting at 9:55 through 4:55, I’ll be using the last five minutes of the hour to do an activity: jog in place, hula hoop, squats, lunges, burpees, jumping jacks, dumbbell exercises, pushups, etc.
  • No later than 5:30 pm, MWF will be my shadow boxing time for 45 mins. T/TH/Sat will be jogging outside for 45 minutes (I need to work up to being able to jog that long lol).

This will need some adjustment when we’re in the office, but I think the idea is clear. I’m wondering if my lack of movement throughout the day is somehow tricking my body it’s sleeping even if I’m working.

I’ve always worked towards a 9 pm – 5 am sleep schedule. Missed this today but I want to do a relaxing yoga routine at 7 pm, and then avoid anything that has the potential to upset me. No social media. No checking work. I may add no tv, but the likelihood of that happening is small. Either way, after 7, I’ll either be reading a book, writing, or playing a video game. At least an hour has to be for reading a book.

When I wake up at 5, my hope is to get the cats fed, coffee started, my puzzles to wake my brain up, and write until 7. If I wake up earlier, I am contemplating simply starting my day and seeing if I can grab a nap before shift start.

I’m hoping this plan ensures that I’ll be mentally and physically tired. My body will be encouraged to enter a deep, uninterrupted sleep. I’ll give it the month of May before I consider seeking a doctor. I don’t really want to look for a doctor during plague times, but I also think they’ll diagnose me with stress like they always do.

You may notice my schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking and eating. I have a lot of quickly cooked foods due to the pandemic, and I’m used to eating at my desk or in front of the tv. If I do plan to cook a meal, that is most easily done on weekends.

One of the other changes I’ll be making will be to eat a light meal I know is safe for my stomach after my boxing/run. Heavier meals will be early in the day.

It’s very tempting to diet right now, but that is one thing I won’t be doing. The last time I committed to dieting and exercising at these levels had very unfortunate consequences. The only thing I’ll be doing is avoiding foods I know will cause gastro upset (except for ice cream because HD’s boozy ice creams are literally the best thing ever). But is that dieting or just good sense?

Putting this here for accountability purposes. It’s easy to say one will do things–and the times makes it easy to fall into a personal pit of despair. But one must try, right?

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