I have lived with insomnia for many years. I remember as a young teen sitting in my parent’s living room watching the slow dying glow of a log burning in the fire place. It was the middle of the night. I was told as a very young child that I used to sleep walk and I actually fell down the stairs. I can remember when I was 30 the sleep walking started up again and I also had other sleep issues. The biggest issue I have now is related to PTSD. This is when you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep for hours. But there is more to this than a bit of anxiety. It is hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal can be defined as the state of being aroused, on guard, being overly alert and perceptive. The person who is suffering from hyperarousal is actually in the middle of the ‘fight-or-flight’ reflex that occurs when the brain sends out signals of impending danger or feels threatened. It puts the body on guard – ready to run away or stand and fight. Either way the heart beats faster, the eyes dilate, breathing is shallower and you become very alert. https://www.sixstepstosleep.com/hyperarousal-insomnia-sleep-anxiety/
I suffer from hyperarousal during the day as well. But in the middle of the night, this beast rears its ugly head and I am struggling for hours. If I do fall back asleep, I usually end up with a nightmare of some sort. All this is chemically regulated in the body. I do not know what exactly the trigger is all the time for me, but it happens when I am in a state of stress. I can perseverate on the smallest detail and by the end of an episode; I will have worried myself into a real frenzy.
Two weeks ago I actually got up and took my blood pressure and the reading was extremely high. But it was high all week from the stress of leaving my job. The physical condition I was in from the pressure of work and the all BS going on played havoc with me. But even with being away from the situation, I am able to find other things to fret about.
Hyperarousal also causes me to erupt. I can over react to the smallest things such as simply dropping something. I get frustrated very easily and have an over the top reaction. For me, it is compounded with the high level of pain I am in from my psoriatic arthritis. Unfortunately, it is a nasty loop. I get mad from being in pain and limited in my mobility and then I get a flare from being upset. They feed each other and around I go.
Compounding the situation is the sister reaction to hyperarousal which is hypervigilance. That is when you are always on alert. This is when you constantly are scanning for threats. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, the therapist said I was like a trapped animal. I never turned my back to him. I constantly watched every move he made, especially with his hands. I think I am better but when I get threatened or perceive I am being threatened, I go back to being hypervigilant. I realize now that the past couple of years being in the toxic work environment I was in really set me back. A result of being hypervigilant is being exhausted. So I fall asleep very quickly but wake up in the middle of the night. On average, I sleep in two to three hour blocks. A good night is when I can sleep with a four hour block.
I write this not as a venue to complain but to share for someone who is going through similar things. There is comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I am planning on talking with my doctor about this if my sleep does not get any better. They recommended last year I seek retirement. It has been a long haul getting away from work and the nasty people I worked with. I have had some things going on in my home which has been concerning so I have not been able to totally calm down. But I am physically more active at home and that helps. I also need to get back to a strong practice of meditation again. That really helps. I already feel better and I know I am healing. But it is a slow path.