Since childhood, falling asleep has not been easy.
I dread going to sleep. When I was little, I stayed up quietly in my room past my bed time; sometimes playing or sometimes adjusting the closet door to allow the perfect amount of light to come in. My mom would drop me off for a sleep over at a friend’s house and I would phone her to pick me up as soon as it was time for bed. During jr high and highschool I got into spiritual stuff, reading metaphysical books and such, and every night I would have my siblings come in my room and check for ghosts. I breathed and said mantras obsessively.
After I moved out to live with my now-husband, sleep got easier, but it’s still a struggle. He likes to go to bed around 11pm whereas I would rather stay up till 3am. It seems if I try to go to sleep in the early hours, I just lay there.
I thought maybe I had onset insomnia (having a hard time falling sleep), and this could be the case.
I think maybe the problem might actually be Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
A circadian rhythm (functions that deal with time like temperature, breathing, kidney function) sleep disorder where a person’s biological clock does not match his/her environmental clock. I first learned about this when reading about comorbid disorders associated with OCD. It appears that people with OCD have substantially higher chances of also having DSPS. I think you’ll see why:
Patients with DSPS are typically unable to fall asleep before 2am and have extreme difficulty waking up early (i.e. 7am). When it’s time for sleep, the brain and body go through various changes like body temperature decrease, slowed heart rate and all the synchronizations that allow for a person to fall asleep. They may lay in bed for hours trying to sleep. Regardless of being exhausted or needing to catch up on sleep, the patient is unable to fall asleep at an earlier time than they are used to. When sleep is reached, they are usually capable of staying asleep.
I remember driving my mom’s suburban from san diego, ca to phoenix, az to help her move. We drove all night and hadn’t slept. I was tired, but went through the day unpacking, and excited that I would probably fall asleep easily that night considering I missed sleep the night before. Going to bed at 8pm made no difference and I laid there for hours trying to sleep.
The difference between Sleep Onset Insomnia and DSPS is that patients with DSPS are capable of plentiful sleep, just not at early night times and can often easily fall asleep in the morning hours, whereas people with Sleep Onset Insomnia have trouble falling asleep at any time.
I hate going to sleep because I lay there and my brain can run wild. I think the anxiety keeps my brain stimulated which is perhaps why many people with OCD have sleeping problems. I hate waking up early; it’s physically painful and sometimes nauseating.
I found this article (unlinkable) which describes the personality profile of DSPS:
There seems to exist a definite psychological profile for patients with DSPS. (1) an excessive defense mechanism that increases nervousness and develops neurosis; (2) a high level of intellectual aspiration with compulsivity that makes the patients feel self-defeated, powerless and disappointed; (3) a tendency to egocentric emotion, inhibition and perseverance. These characteristics may worsen social withdrawal, causing a loss of social cues in synchronizing their circadian rhythm. Thus, the phase shift becomes more difficult and a vicious circle is constituted.
Marijuana is probably the most effective sleep aid for me. Alcohol just makes me pass out and if I wake up, it is impossible for me to fall back asleep until the early morning. I never really gave sleeping pills a chance, as I am pretty scared of pharmaceutical drugs and their many possible side effects. I prefer natural remedies when possible.
I don’t really know if DSPS is what is wrong with my sleep, but I am at a point where I am less interested in finding a name for what’s wrong and more interested in fixing it.