NHS Sleepstation Insomnia Cure – Napping is Not Allowed

Man, four weeks into the Sleepstation six-week insomnia cure and I am BORED with it. I am fed up with not being allowed to go to bed when I feel like it – which, let me tell you, is a LOT earlier than 1am – and having an alarm jolting me awake each morning. After all, I gave up the rat race so I could swerve the tedium and routine of an alarm each a.m. Also, my neighbours are probably and not unreasonably pissed off with me shouting ‘ALEXA, SHUT UP’ every morning at 7:30, although I’m sure my cats are pleased they’re now getting their breakfast at a regular and reasonable time.

Does Sleepstation work?

Sleepstation sleep efficiency chart
Sleepstation sleep efficiency chart

Does Sleepstation work though? I think it’s working, as I don’t wake up for ages in the night now. If I do wake up, it’s only for a second and, over the last few nights, I haven’t woken up at all and, as you can see from the chart above, my sleep efficiency is still improving. The downside of this is that I’m so used to waking up at, say, 3am, that if I do wake up, I assume it’s 3am and I’ve got HOURS of blissful sleep left until I have to get up. Then I ask Alexa what the time is and she says something like, ‘It’s 7:08am’ and I realise the alarm’s going to go off in twenty minutes and I haven’t got HOURS of blissful sleep left at all but merely a few measly minutes, dammit. When this happens, it’s REALLY difficult to get up when my alarm goes off.

If you remember, last week I’d been given an extra half an hour in bed, which meant my new schedule dictated I go to bed at 1:30am and get up at 7:30am. I was also supposed to keep a ‘cognitive control diary’ and write down what I’d done that day, what I had to do the next day, what I’d put in place to get done what I had to do the next day, and how I’d felt that day. This cognitive control diary is supposed to help your brain let go of all the thoughts that might be swimming around your brain, keeping you awake. I don’t have a busy, stressful life and, if I have anything to do the next day, it will already be written down, planned and scheduled, so I wrote the diary for a couple of days then decided not to bother with it as there wasn’t much point.

Has Sleepstation ruined my social life?

Despite being given an extra half an hour in bed, I felt so tired on Friday I sold my ticket to see Jo Brand, despite Jo playing (do comedians play? Perform? Speak? Comede?) at a theatre only a ten minute walk away from my house. The next morning I didn’t have the energy to get on a train to London to meet friends for lunch so I ducked out of that too. In fact, that day – Saturday – I felt so tired, I broke the Sleepstation rules so much, I expected Sleepstation to chuck me off the course for being really crap and wasting NHS resources.

Not long after I’d got up, I walked into the bedroom and sat down on the bed next to my cat, Biscuit. Although I knew it was a really bad idea, I put my head on the pillow just to rest for a minute, thinking I was safe because I wasn’t actually ‘in’ bed and my feet were still on the floor. Of course, I dozed off for an hour, waking now and then to the peaceful sound of Biscuit snoring next to me.

Although that should have been a signal I was tired and should take all reasonable precautions – bar perhaps nipping out to the local dealer to score some amphetamines* – towards staying awake and not doing anything that would thwart staying awake like, for example, not getting dressed and staying in my pyjamas and dressing gown and sitting on the sofa reading, I decided to not get dressed and stayed in my pyjamas and dressing gown and sat on the sofa reading. By 1pm, the soporific qualities of my sofa had engulfed me and I didn’t wake up until 4pm.

Despite having all that extra sleep, I still overslept on Sunday and stayed in bed for an extra hour. If you’re reading this, Sleepstation, I promise I wasn’t rebelling and I’m still committed to the programme and I really want to stick to the rules but I was struggling so badly and literally** couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I confessed it all to Sleepstation in my sleep diary and waited for them to send me a message telling me to fuck off and stop wasting their time.

My confession to Sleepstation

I didn’t hear anything from Sleepstation on Monday, which I found strange considering they’d sent me an encouraging message the week before when I’d overslept for half an hour. The only time I heard from them this time was when I got my new schedule for the week ahead and saw I’d been given another half an hour in bed, meaning my new plan was to go to bed at 1am and get up at 7:30am.

Sleepstation sleep plan
Sleepstation sleep plan for week 4

Each week when you get your new plan, you get a new training session, which consists of a few videos. Most of the videos didn’t apply to me this week or they were just rubbish (one said sleep restriction can cause tiredness. I had kind of figured that out for myself, duh) but the woman in the video said the course should be getting easier now and – touch wood – as I write this on Thursday, I have to say, since Tuesday, it has got easier.

Although I got up late (again!) on Tuesday and only got up when I did because I had my sewing class to get to, I had the energy to go to London in the afternoon for a friend’s birthday and also got up on time the next morning, went shopping and met a friend for lunch. I also got up on time today (Thursday).

Microsleeps

What I am really struggling with, and have struggled with throughout the Sleepstation course since the beginning, is staying up until my going to bed time. Whereas when the sleep restriction programme started a few weeks ago and having all that extra time in the evening sounded exciting and I imagined myself being mega-productive and maybe writing a novel or two (okay, a blog post or two), what has actually happened is that I end up on my sofa in front of the television earlier and earlier, which means there’s longer and longer to fall foul of the aforementioned soporific qualities of my sofa and I find it really difficult to stay awake. And when I say ‘difficult’, I mean I’m actually nodding off and having microsleeps (don’t you just love the word ‘microsleeps’?)

How to stay awake late at night?

I don’t think my neighbours would appreciate me playing the ukulele or hoovering late at night. I’m too tired and unmotivated to do anything productive like write, reading makes me fall asleep, I’m not into binge-watching box-sets on Netflix and I don’t have the attention span for films. I can’t relax at all before going to bed because I’m too aware I have to stay awake and being aware I have to stay awake is not relaxing. Plus, I get really itchy in the evening and, according to what you want to believe on Dr Google, this is either because of a) kidney disease; or b) the moisturising properties from any lotion put on in the morning having worn off by nighttime, leaving your skin dry and itchy. Let’s go for b), eh?

So, all in all, staying awake until 1am is really difficult and I’m watching those motherfucking minutes and seconds count down until I can go to bed. In the interests of transparency, I should probably admit I go to bed a bit earlier than I’m supposed to but only a couple of minutes and not so early it feels like I’m cheating.

I’ve got four more days of this week’s diary to do, then I don’t know what happens next, if I get another half an hour off or I can start going to bed like a normal person and choosing my own hours. My friend Tessa said I didn’t have to continue with the Sleepstation course if I didn’t want to but I said if I quit now, it’d be a waste of NHS resources, so I will keep with it, even though some days I just think, ‘Fuck it’.

I will report back next week.

For more information on Sleepstation, visit http://sleepstation.org.uk

*If my mum reads this I do not take drugs and wouldn’t have a clue where to score amphetamines.

**Dear Millennials – this is how you use the word ‘literally’ in its correct context.

6 Comments

  1. Did you report back for week 5 – can’t find it if you did. I finished sleepstation a week ago so could identify with your struggles to keep awake in the evening. Week 1 & 2 for me was 12 midnight to 5am – utterly hideous. Am I sleeping straight through the night for 7 hours after the course – no. I do drop straight off though without fail, am no longer worried about sleep and when I wake in the night I am pleasantly drifting rather than tossing, turning and getting up to read a book 3 or 4 times. You are right – in the videos, Dr Kirstie Anderson does look tired 😂

  2. Author

    Hi Lynne

    I didn’t get round to reporting back for week 5, sorry! I’ve finished the programme now and I’ll write a summing-up post in the next few days. Reading this post back, I sound so tired and flat, so I’m pleased to confirm I was bouncing with energy by the end of it and felt a lot better. I also started sleeping right through the night 🙂 I’m pleased it worked for you too!

  3. Hi Cathy
    Thank you for writing this, I am finishing my first week of sleep restriction and I really enjoyed reading about your experiences, so much that I didn’t microsleep once, unlike in my finance meeting on Friday …

  4. Author

    Hi Jonathan

    I’m glad I’m no longer in my first week – it was brutal! What are your hours? I’ve finished the Sleepstation therapy now and I’m pleased to say I’m sleeping through the night and feel so much better. I’ll be writing an up to date post soon. I hope it works for you too, please let me know how you’re getting on!

  5. Well I’m coming to the end of my second week; drifting off for a few seconds when reading, watching TV etc is frustrating but at least I am getting around five and a half hours of sleep a night. I now know for sure that this is not enough for me, I’d sometimes wondered if I could get by on this but I really can’t. I am also eating way more, which is amusing more than anything (I’m assuming it’s reversible later). Your posts really helped, I’m grateful.

  6. Author

    Sorry for the delay in replying. You must be on your fifth week now? How’s it going? Are you managing to keep going during the lockdown with all our routines being disrupted? I also put on weight because I spent the evenings eating chocolate! I’m glad my posts helped, I’m writing the last one today, it’s a bit overdue!

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