Monday, 12 March 2012

It's like the night is taking sides

Over the last month or so, I have noticed a distinct change in my sleeping pattern. What was a pleasing new ability to sleep well (I've been either an insomniac or just had really poor sleep hygiene - or both - for at least six years, and have always had a few issues around falling to sleep ever since my teens) has turned into an inability to wake up. I can sleep for 10+ hours every night, fall back to sleep very quickly after waking up, and am finding that I cannot stay awake for long periods of time without a nap somewhere in there. I'm really very frustrated, and tonight I snapped a bit about it. It seems I just can't stop sleeping, or wanting to sleep.

For as long as I can remember, I've been someone who, although not the most disciplined when it comes to resting, has used available time effectively. I've not been one to give in to physical fatigue easily. If a job needs doing, it needs doing sooner rather than later, and I've frequently been able to forgo a few hours of sleep to complete a task. While my insomnia, at its worst, took its toll on my body in terms of skin conditions, weight loss, and an overall oddly unkempt look (and I certainly don't want to ever get to that stage again), missing out on a bit of rest always seemed to make sense to me. In short, I think to some extent I preferred the idea of using the extra time not "wasted" sleeping - if I was going to not be sleeping anyway, I may as well put the time to good use. The idea of being able sleep too much was something I never considered. I feel dopey, sluggish, and lazy.

I am trying not to beat myself up about it, as I know that psychological negativity will only serve to add to any sleeping problems, and so have been going about objectively researching and discussing possible reasons for the sudden onset of the problem.. This seems more sensible than adding anxiety to the list, and certainly beats catastrophising. A very kind and sensible friend of mine pointed out that I have, over the past few months, quit my job, moved countries (and continents), got married, moved house, and changed careers. In fact, I'd be interested to know whether other immigrants, to the USA or otherwise, have experienced any similarly delayed physical "come-downs", for want of a better term.

All of this fatigue may just be a delayed response to quite a list of major life changes. That, along with a little over-indulgence in the food and wine departments (!) over the last few months, and a distinct reduction in my usual exercise levels have probably all contributed to a previously unknown brand of tiredness.

The first attempt at a solution that I am going to try is a combination of regulated sleep (7.5 hours per night allowed, sleep or no sleep), vitamin and anti-histamine supplements (I'm having some fun allergic reactions to the different pollen here), a monitored, mainly meat/veg/fruit diet, and a proper exercise routine at the gym me and Ben joined last week.

Hopefully this will kick-start and maintain a healthier, more awake me. After doing this for 4-6 weeks, if I am still having issues despite having stuck to the plan, it might be time to consider anaemia, or some other deficiency that would need a doctor's appointment to diagnose. But for now, I am going with Occam's razor: I've done a lot of stuff and I'm a bit dozy. And so, to bed!

The blue hour over Rodborough Common, England.


  1. I wouldn't be so hard on yourself. I think that being in a new country requires a lot more mental energy. There is lots of stuff that is new to process and stresses of learning the culture and new terminology etc. That's what I tell myself, anyway. (Down here in FL the heat and the humidity can send you to sleep too!)

  2. Thanks, Paul, I really do appreciate the empathy. I am trying to remind myself that pretty much all the information I get is new, and even basic things that I *think* I know how to do (get gas, catch a bus etc.) actually may require more effort as I kind of have to unlearn what I knew and then learn the American way of doing that thing. It's also very warm here too (28C/82F today!), so I may be a bit sleepy because of that as well. :)

  3. Yes, I am still finding it a pain at times, even after over a year, as like you say, even simple things can be a strain. For instance, you ring for a dental appointment, which should be easy - but then they ask you all the details of your insurance and it starts getting complicated and confusing.

    My wife thinks I'm a bit crap, but when you have someone throwing terminology at you over the phone and you've no idea what they mean, it's stressful. On top of that, the US is a bit more mercenary, so you aren't always sure when someone's being helpful, or just trying to sell you something that you don't need.

    It would be even worse if we were learning a language from scratch too, however, I suppose. I remember my brother used to get totally exhausted when he moved to Germany and was learning the language.

  4. As you can see from my most recent post, this is an unexpected but apparently typical development. I can't tell you how grateful I am for comments and blogs like yours; I feel so much less alone!

    The simple things being suddenly complicated is certainly one of the most frustrating things, along with having actually *no* idea at all of how to do something, too. Bah!

    Ben seems to be pretty good, all in all, but both of us have talked about the fact that he doesn't know what it's like really - and that I wouldn't want him to be in my place. That will be complicated if we return to the UK, as the tables will be turned (albeit with - hopefully - less paperwork).

    My sister-in-law is living with my brother in Geneva at the moment, as he works there, but they are planning to move back to the UK ASAP, and even have a house all sorted out. However, they are having to wait on the UKBA for her visa to be approved, so she is very stuck in a country they don't intend to stay in, where she doesn't speak the language. I can only imagine the level of limbo and consequent exhaustion she experiences on a daily basis.


Thanks for taking the time to write! I try to reply to everyone, and I love to read your comments.