I believe one of the predominant feelings of people with PTSD is “Tired of being Tired.” The interesting thing about tiredness is it comes from multiple sources. Hyper-vigilance sustained over long periods of time puts a lot of wear and tear on the body. Super alert constantly leaves little time for the body to rejuvenate. Disrupted sleep by nightmares, dreams that terrify to the point that staying awake is preferred. Prolonged tension in the body. That feeling of NEVER relaxing. Passing out is about the only time I allow myself to fully relax. Negative self tape that natters on and on and on about every little mistake, replaying scenarios over and over of how I could have done things differently 10, 20, 30 years ago. I believe this is why meditation and relaxation techniques are at the top of the list for any survivor. Persuading my body to relax feels like a full time job. However, this was something I learned from my counselor.
My counselor started each session with two questions, ‘What do you want to talk about?’ and ‘How much are you sleeping?’ Seriously. I learned that when I go to the doctor’s office they take your temperature to get a quick read on how your health is doing. How much you are sleeping does the same thing for your emotional health. Here is the interesting part, too much sleep can be as unhealthy as not sleeping enough. The first time my counselor asked me this question I gave him my standard answer that I went to bed around 11 PM and got up around 6 AM. He clarified, “How much of that time do you actually sleep?” No medical doctor ever asked me this question. I didn’t know. For six weeks I did a sleep record. Looked at the clock from my bed and tried to guess how soon after I actually went to sleep and then checked the clock as soon as I woke up. I was stunned. I averaged 3 hours of sleep per night. That means some nights I slept less than 3 hours but almost never more than 5 hours of sleep. No wonder I was freaking exhausted. I was so far into sleep deprivation doctors did not recognize the symptoms.
My responsibility is to make my body sleep. After years of work, I now average 5 to 6 hours of sleep each night with an occasional 8 hours thrown in as a real shocker. You know your body can feel pretty good with 8 hours of sleep all in one go.