Please don’t wake me…

Today kicks off Sleep Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good sleep. As a chronic insomniac I am of course acutely aware of how important sleep is. I’m writing this at 4am, so I haven’t found the cure for sleepless nights. I do though have some semi successful strategies.

My relationship with sleep has flipped from one extreme to the other. In my youth I could drop off anytime, anyplace. I loved to snooze and had zero issues dropping off. I was the queen of the long lie. Sleep became a problem when I first experienced mental health problems aged 19. Unfortunately, I have never managed to regain my easy breezy relationship with slumber. Almost twenty years on I have become accustomed to functioning on a few hours a night. Chronic pain has done little to aid a peaceful night, but an inability to calmly shut down is still a major obstacle in my quest for rest.

A decent night’s repose can affect everything from heart health to sex drive. It goes without saying that exhaustion also has a massive impact on mental health. The NHS advises that most of us need around 8hrs sleep to function properly. In fact, lack of sleep can so massively impair cognitive faculties that experts suggest driving after only 5 hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Everyone should be mightily relieved that I cannot drive.

The long-term effect of insufficient sleep is grim. The anxiety of going to bed each night knowing achieving sleep will be a battle is wearing. The more you worry about not sleeping the less likely it becomes. Constant fatigue makes getting through daily tasks difficult, which adds to one’s stress levels. This in turn pushes that magical 8 hours even further out of reach. Long sleepless nights are lonely. There’s rarely anyone else awake leaving a busy mind way too much room to mull over worries. Throw pain into mix and you have a recipe for despair. Moving through the world in a worn-out shuffle will grind you down, which is why I offer my extensively tested tips on getting some god damned sleep.
I’m not going to waste your time with milky drinks and lavender under your pillow. Everyone knows the basics and they aren’t going to cure hardcore insomnia. I don’t have a failsafe solution, if I did, I’d snoring now. However, these are the things that I have had some success with over years.

Bedroom Tips

Keep your bedroom cool. Lowering your body temperature helps the body prepare for sleep.

In theory that’s why a hot bath should aid sleep, but I find any sleepiness gained from the temp drop is lost during the process of getting dry and organised for bed. If you do less faffing post bathing it might work better for you.

No tv in the bedroom. This is a definite for me. I find a television to be the opposite of relaxing. I need my bed and bedroom to be a completely chilled out zone. Which sits nicely with my next point.

Try to make your bedroom as pleasant as possible to be in. Obviously, that means different things for different people. For me it’s nice sheets, subtle scents, comfortable mattress.

Black out blinds are your friend. I could not live without mine.

Invest in one of those huge maternity pillows. They give so much support if you have back or joint pain. Plus they’re just super comfortable.

Sound Effects

Rain on window

I use sounds machine apps. I like heavy rain/ thunderstorm type sounds, but experiment and see what works for you. Something about being safe & protected from the elements I’m hearing sometimes helps me drift off.

Soothing music (whatever that means to you) at a low volume can also help. I like to mouth the lyrics and focus on words I enjoy rather than my own thoughts. Getting the volume just right is key for me, so again, you might need to experiment. Select specific songs and make a playlist beforehand. You don’t want anything that unexpectedly bring unpleasant or stimulating associations to mind.

Preparation

I should probably have started here, but lack of sleep melts your brain. So, you’ll have deal with my disjointed thinking.

These are all evident. I’m going over them because sometimes you miss the obvious when you’re knackered.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Don’t watch, read or listen to anything that will bring up stimulating emotions (nothing scary, disturbing, sad, triggering etc).

Avoid arguing or deep conversations right before you hit the hay.

Smoking, caffeine, some meds (check with gp/pharmacist) are no goes before you attempt sleep.

Against Accepted Wisdoms

Sleeping cat

I’ve consulted many Drs, Psych’s and other practitioners over the years and some of the oft repeated advice they’ve given me has turned out to be just plain wrong for me. If you find something that really does or doesn’t help, even if everyone is telling you the opposite, do you. For me this includes:

Looking at my phone in bed. Putting it on night shift mode to alter the light tone to yellowish rather than blue is a must. Otherwise I find aimlessly scrolling can be very helpful in getting me sleepy.

Reading in bed also works for me. I can’t fall asleep without reading. I find that if I just keep going until I literally can’t keep my eyes open, I have a good chance of getting into a proper sleep. I think it’s because my mind is occupied with the content of the book rather than whatever mess is in my head. Clearly, it’s important to choose the reading material with reference to my previous points.

Sharing the bed with pets. So many people have cautioned me against this. I find my petting my cat and hearing his purrs excessively relaxing. Thus, I ignore such warnings.

Hippie Dippie

Constellation lamp

I hate to be that person, but occasionally the esoteric route gets you there.

A constellation lamp in a dark room can offer something uncomplicated to focus your attention on long enough to get to sleep.

Gentle yoga – clears the mind & stretches everything in a pleasing manner.

Desperate Measures

When you’ve been attempting shut eye for hours and are reaching the point of hopelessness; get up. By that point you aren’t going to sleep. Every toss & turn just raises anxiety levels. I find it much more productive to get out of bed and stop forcing it. Do whatever you can manage and if you get drowsy try again.

Medication – You need sleep to operate. There comes a point when discussing medication options with your Gp is the sensible thing to do. I have tried several sleeping pills over the years. Most didn’t work for me. Most are not a suitable for prolonged use due to addictive and/or tolerance building properties. There are some drugs that can be used for longer periods. I have been prescribed one such medication. It doesn’t have a 100% strike rate, but when it does work it knocks me out all night.

Sleep when you can in extreme cases. Often napping is counterproductive when fighting insomnia. However, when you haven’t had more than a couple of consecutive hours sleep in weeks that goes out the window. When my sleeplessness is at its worst, I will get so completely exhausted that my body will crash. That doesn’t always happen at bed time. Take that sleep. You need it. Sleep all day if you must.

Last but Not Least

Oxytocin

Sex and orgasms in general are brilliant for sleep. Sex works on so many fronts. You can tire yourself out, all those feel good hormones chill you out and of course it’s the perfect distraction from any negative bullshit you have going on. Flying solo releases all that lovely oxytocin and melatonin too, so don’t be shy about giving it a try.

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Hit the spot…

February has been a fairly insular month. It’s very cold outside & I’m not much in the mood for socialising. I’ve hit the Netflix & actually chill a little harder than usual. It’s been the month for distractions & these have been the most effective.

I’ll just dive right in with the Netflix shows that have definitely been diverting if not entirely relaxing. Abducted in Plain Sight is insane. It’s documentary covering the abduction of a girl by a family friend. The behaviour of almost every adult in the entire tale is beyond explanation. If the story was fiction it would be dismissed as ridiculous. Also horrific, but in a completely different way is The Bleeding Edge. Another documentary, this one about medical devices & implants that highlights a terrifyingly lax regulation process. Watching this doc probably did not help my insomnia, but it may save me some future medical catastrophe. Last of my Netflix trilogy is also billed is scary. Since I’d never trust a man I’d only known 6 weeks never mind marry one, this one isn’t keeping me up nights. Dirty John is based on the true story of a lying, cheating nutcase. Whilst it’s doing nothing to raise my opinion of the menfolk it is worth a watch. I have been watching one series that does make me feel warm towards humanity, Catastrophe. Everything about it is exceptional; hilarious, real, romantic, tawdry & I liked. The final episode had me in bits, in a good way.

Netflix viewing

An insomniacs best friend is a good book and I’ve been rattling through them in the last few weeks. I opened the month with The Tattooist of Auschwitz which manages to do the almost impossible by making a story about a death camp hopeful. Having said that it’s not very well written & really doesn’t live up to the hype. Giving a book about the holocaust a tepid review feels harsh, but there are better books on this topic. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s take on the serial killer genre was a better choice. My Sister, the Serial Killer is creepy and yet almost playful. You know exactly where the story is headed, but you still want to get there. I’m currently digging back into the Patrick Melrose novels. I re read the first two in the series last year and then got sidetracked. Some Hope is probably my favourite of the five. If you haven’t read these St Aubyn classics, you should.

Patrick Melrose novels & the tattooist if auschwitz

My cute little record player was an excellent purchase. It offers distraction on two fronts, great sounding bath soundtracks & an excuse to go rooting in second hand shops for cool records. The latest of which is The Jesus and Mary Chain. Psycho Candy gets me with it’s relaxed trippiness. It is extra beloved for being on the Lost in Translation soundtrack & just thinking about that last kiss in the street makes me smile.

Books & records

Bronan really likes it too. Every time I put a record on he sits right beside it & purrs like mad.

Cat listening to record playing

Back on the digital side I have had one song in particular on repeat. No Pressure by Mahalia just speaks to me. It’s one of those songs that I just adore the cadence of. I was alerted to it’s greatness via Meghan Tonjes’ insta stories. Meghan herself has also been featuring on my Spotify most played list. Her collaboration with Daren on Count Me Out is a sentiment I can get behind.

Mahalia, no pressure

When I have ventured out it has been to see my glorious little people (& their creators) all of whom breathe colour into my life. My littlest monkey had his first birthday this month. My big nephew is going through an adorable dinosaur phase. Madison’s curls just keep getting cuter & my not so little goddess is texting now. She just loves to send her old auntie freaky gifs.

Not sleeping also gives me endless hours to paint my nails. I hate to have bare nails. These have been my February favs.

ly h Kerr Nail Art

Mixed media & preening aside it’s been an equal split between baths and sunsets. Both bring me comfort and earn a 5 star rating.

Sunsets and thigh tattoo in the bath

Make it easy on yourself…

2019 has barely gotten going & it’s been rough already. In a matter of weeks I have lost my baby & my boyfriend, which is less than an auspicious beginning. If I sound flippant, I’m not, I’m just trying very hard to put one foot in front of the other.

The demise of my pregnancy is devastating. My relationship’s end is sad, but the right decision and that’s about all I have to say on the topic. I find myself approaching the year (and my life) alone again. Being single hasn’t ever worried me all that much. I’m definitely not scared to be that kind of alone. Childlessness on the other hand, terrifies me. What do you when you’re facing your biggest fear? I haven’t a fucking a clue.

#projectpostit

For the time being I have taken the clichéd approach of one day at a time. I’m trying not to spend every day at home in my jammies (there is however a lot of crying on the sofa). Functioning is a struggle for a multitude of reasons. Primarily, I am exhausted. I’m always tired. Add even less sleep, the effort it takes to contain my anger at life itself, the fact that I will not stop bleeding, so despite the blood transfusion my haemoglobin level continues to flag and you get extreme fatigue. Having a different emotion every 5 seconds is tiring. Battling (& often failing) to contain the tears is wearing. Breathing & washing & conversing & not screaming is all taking gargantuan effort. The truth is I’m not managing very much. I’m practising being ok with that.

Blood transfusion, Rose wine, snuggling cat, reading baby

I recommend spending time with people who don’t expect too much of you. I’m giving priority to anything that give me comfort; my little people & potatoes pretty much have that covered. Hot baths have featured heavily as has ‘fake it ’til you make it’ make up. There was one afternoon of day drinking with a lovely friend that actually helped a lot, but not something it would be wise to make a habit of. My purring cat is a godsend. I’m reading, sleeping whenever I can and endeavouring to be gentle with myself.

ly h Kerr

I have no clue how to tackle the overwhelming sense of guilt. Chipping away at how ‘not fair’ this is may well take the rest of my life. I’m focusing on the small stuff. Giving myself a pass on the growing mountain of washing, the ideas that go unpitched and being awfully rude to the person who called about my non-existent road traffic accident. I find it harder than you’d imagine to let that stuff go. Being hard on myself comes easy. i have learned that when life gets you on the ground it’s worth tackling the instinct to kick oneself whilst already down.

Sunset

Merry & Bright…

Merry Christmas, Darlings. However you celebrate I hope it was Merry & Bright (or at the very least safe).

I spent Christmas Day with the Toyboy’s family and all the days round about with mine. We had two little ones enjoying their very first Xmas and four bigger kiddies getting all hyped up about Santa. It’s a cliche, but Christmas really is better with children around.

I received lots of pretty presents & indulged in many delicious vegan treats (thank TB’s Mum & Sis). Of course I got spruced up for Mr Claus. I always got a fancy Christmas Day outfit when I was a kid & I’ve kept the tradition going in adulthood. This year I went for full on Sexy Fat Ballerina.

ly h Kerr, sexy fat ballerina

Bodysuit – Boohoo

Skirt – Ella

A plus size full length tutu is not actually that easy to come by. I ordered one on a whim and then fell for the idea of being a fat arsed prima ballerina. Unfortunately the first one never arrived. The second took much hunting down, but all that internet searching was worth it. This is a LOOK.

My clever sister somehow managed to predict my Xmas colour scheme and gave me the perfect accessories as part of my gift.

Next stacking rings ly h Kerr

Earrings & rings – Next

We’re now in that no man’s land between Xmas & Hogmanay. I intend to sleep lots, eat a tonne and cuddle little ones. I hope you have the opportunity to do the same.

Oh & Bronan loves his present. So much so that he barely moves off it. It’s a cat nip scratcher btw and god help anyone who even thinks of touching it.

Bronan Kerr

Snow is falling…

It’s been a fast year, but December has really put its foot down. We are riding swiftly towards the big day, which means it is time for more festive primping & seasonal giving.

It’s the third week of Xmas (advent, whatever), so it’s it apt that it took three attempts to get my nails right. I really wanted to be adorned in delicate sparkly snowflakes, but try as I might, I could not pull it off.

ly h Kerr nail art

Each attempt was clumsier than I wanted. In the end I abandoned my snowy vision & opted for some glittery presents. You can’t go wrong with a well wrapped gift, right?

ly h kerr nail art

This week I turned my charitable attentions to Glasgow Women’s Aid. An organisation doing wonderful work with women & children who have been affected by domestic abuse. Women’s aid provide a number of services from refuge centres to training for service users & therapy for their children. Two women a week are killed by their partner or ex partner in the UK, so it is vital that women (& their children) have access to this help. You can help in a number is ways. A donation can be made via the website or you can follow your local Women’s Aid on social media for updates on what goods, clothes etc are required. Often women have to leave everything behind and start from scratch, so please check before you throw away anything that could still be useful. Obviously at this time of year toys & treats are most welcome. Even small donations can change lives.

If Bronan can suffer the indignity of being cat Santa, you can get your purse out.

My week in pictures…

Last week started yuck with a viral bug, got a bit rocky with with hospital nonsense & finished up with a lot of lovely relaxing.

I’ve done a fair bit of lying in bed. Which might have led to a little bit of feeling sorry for myself shopping. Oh & eating bowl after bowl of broccoli soup to appease my damn stomach.

Soup, hospital band, soup, spunk rockstar

New hat

I had a hotel overnighter on Thursday & took advantage of being right in the city centre to get out a little. We saw a movie, spread some #projectpostit wisdom & snapped some pretty sights.

Wagamama lightsPoint a hotel, project postitly h KerrCineworld, ice blastNaked with socksGood things, primark Glasgow

And of course my wee paw monster has been cheering me up with his cuteness.

Bronan Kerr

The dog days are done…

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Extra illness, extra stress & very little sleep have taken a toll. My mood has taken a nose dive. I’m battling a fairly substantial wave of anxiety & the urge to just hole up at home.

I am fighting, though. One of the things keeping me going is how far I’ve come. These lows will probably always hit, but it helps to know things are not as bad as they once were. On days like this reading my own dark words shine a tiny light through today’s depressive fog.

The blood jet is poetry, ly h Kerr

I’m hoping some sleep & resolving some of the stress inducers will alleviate this bout of blue. In the mean time I’ll be digging deep in my chest of resources to keep myself focused on the light.

Bronan Kerr

Rest assured this boy is always looking after me.