At the end of last week’s post, I’d just completed my first day of Sleepstation’s sleep restriction therapy programme and I had another six days of staying up until 2am and getting up at 7:30am.
For the first few days, I was an absolute zombie but without the benefit of getting to perv over Daryl (if Daryl’s still in The Walking Dead, that is. The only episode I’ve watched in the last couple of years is the one where Carl dies, and I only saw that episode because I wanted to watch the annoying little shit cark it).
On the fourth day, I woke up so knackered I seriously considered taking a day off from the programme. After I’d shouted at Alexa to shut the fuck up, I lay in bed fighting the urge to roll over and go back to sleep, while various thoughts rattled round my head:
- Will I have to do the whole week again if I fail now?
- Will I get told off for not sticking to the schedule?
- Will I have to restrict my sleep for more days?
- Will I feel bad?
- Will I ruin everything?
- If I take a day off now, will I think, ‘Fuck it, there’s no point doing it if I’m not going to do it properly’ and not carry on with the rest of the programme?
As much as I didn’t want to get told off or punished for not sticking to the plan, I knew if I took a day off now, there’d probably be no going back for me and I’d feel really bad so, although I got up later than I was supposed to, it was only by half an hour.
I didn’t see the point in pretending I’d stuck to the schedule and not keep an accurate record, so when I filled in my sleep diary for the day, I confessed to my extra half an hour in bed and waited for Sleepstation to tell me I was a slacker and I’d ruined everything and I’d have to do an extra day at the end of the week.
Sleepstation though, bless them, must be used to people cracking at this part of the sleep restriction therapy as they sent me an alert saying, “We know how difficult this part of Sleepstation can be. It’s great to see how well you are doing so far. Keep up the good work!” I needed these words of encouragement so much it brought sleep-deprived-tears to my eyes and I didn’t even mind they spelt my name wrong. (Okay, I did mind really but at least it proved there was a human typing on the other side – a lot of the messages* come across as computer-generated.)
Over the next few days, I felt a lot better. I fell asleep instantly and woke up feeling tired but also felt that, although I’d only had a few hours sleep, it had been quality sleep. I started to see how sleep restriction therapy works. By restricting your time in bed, you spend more time sleeping and less time lying awake – therefore getting better quality sleep, and you can see from the chart my sleep had indeed improved. Yay.
Although I started to understand the theory behind sleep restriction therapy, and felt better for it, at 7:30am, 2:00am still seemed a very long time away and I looked forward to getting my sleep time increased and not just because I missed lying in bed with my cats.
The days got easier and I actually felt ‘normal’ (until I tried to speak to anyone and realised I’d forgotten how to form a coherent sentence) but the evenings were still difficult. I’m used to winding down after my dinner at 6ish by putting my pyjamas on and settling down on the sofa in front of the television. I couldn’t do that when I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to go to bed until 2am though as I had eight hours to fill and there was no way I could spend eight hours watching television. Eight hours in which to do whatever I wanted sounds great in theory but, by the evening, I was too tired to do anything except try and stay awake.
After the first week of sleep diaries, the plan is assessed and either stays the same or is adjusted. After pressing ‘send’ on my last entry for the week, I felt like I was waiting for exam results and kept checking to see if my plan had been sent back. When I saw I’d been given an extra half an hour in bed, it felt like I’d passed my exams with flying colours.
The sleep diaries continue and you’re also asked to keep a ‘cognitive control daily diary’ which is something about getting all the thoughts out of your brain so you’re not spending the night stressing about things you’ve done in the day or things you have to do tomorrow. They ask you to write down all the things you did that day, along with a list of things you need to do tomorrow and the plans and strategies in place to do those things. The example given was ‘Go to the Post Office’ and ‘put letters in envelopes’ which, let’s face it, are really lame examples and nothing that would keep me awake at night.
Some things I have pondered this week:
- When you get up at 7:30am, 2:00am seems a really long way off.
- When it’s 8pm, 2:00am still seems like a really long way off.
- When it’s 10pm and most people are thinking about going to bed or have already gone to bed, 2:00am is still a fucking long way off.
- Time really drags between 1:00am and 2:00am.
- All the shouting on Eastenders is really annoying at midnight.
- My cats get confused when I’m not in bed at a reasonable hour and come looking for me.
- I may feel sort of fine but when I try to talk to people I seem to have forgotten how to speak.
- I feel I’m not in control of my days and I’m simply spending the time awake until I’m ‘allowed’ to go to bed. It’s like when I did the Three Peaks Challenge and it seemed my life consisted solely of ‘being up a mountain’ and ‘being in a car’. Now my life seems to consist solely of trying to stay awake until the few hours when I’m allowed to sleep.
- I thought my cats might show a bit of solidarity but the little bastards spend even more time asleep than usual, just to wind me up.
I’m not sure what happens after the second week. Hopefully I’ll get more time in bed. With my cats. Yay.
*There are ‘messages’ and ‘alerts’. They are both messages but ‘messages’ are more general and ‘alerts’ are sent from the support team if they notice something they need to discuss with you.
For more information on Sleepstation sleep restriction programme, visit their website.