Excerpt from Miranda Levy’s book, The Insomnia Diaries: How I Learned to Sleep Again. This engaging read doesn’t just reveal her own frustrated journey through sleeplessness, it’s also packed with useful tips, ideas, and advice. Follow her journey through many ups and downs to an eventual resolution, and some happy sleep again!
…it’s 3.56am. Just me, and the red numbers on my alarm clock. I see some grey light poking under the blinds. Planes start circling overhead. The milkman delivers his cargo (who still gets milk delivered in this day and age?). And now, the kicker: the birds start the dawn chorus that signals the start of another interminable day. People the world over salute the sun and I fucking hate it.
Five Years Earlier…
7 HOURS, 22 MINUTES
Two heavy Sainsbury’s bags in hand, I navigate the front door. I’m still in gym gear from my Power Plate class. This is my ‘magic Friday’ routine, when I am not in the office. I’m surprised to see my husband standing in the living room.
My husband and I have been together for 13 years, married for nine, but busy careers and the competitive tiredness caused by two children born 20 months apart mean things have started to fracture. (I am 42, he is a couple of years younger.) I know things haven’t been great for a while, but I distracted myself with my job, friends, and family. He starts speaking. I only hear part of what he’s saying – such is my discombobulation – but the upshot is this; he wants to call time on our marriage.
I have heard people talking about Sliding Doors moments, about rugs being pulled from under them. Now I know what they mean. Nothing will ever be the same again.
I can’t recall exactly what happens next but I do have one mission and I won’t be swayed from it. Our boy is having his sixth birthday party the next day and I am making a football pitch cake. (The Sainsbury’s bags contain roll-out icing, green food colouring and some little goals. I had even sketched out the lines on a piece of paper. This was going to be a major achievement; I am no baker.) Somehow, I manage to sleepwalk through the making of the cake. At some point, I call my best friend and burst into tears, but mostly I am on autopilot.
0 HOURS, 0 MINUTES
I am upset, exhausted and worried about the future. On Sunday night, I visit P, a ‘school mum’ friend who is a therapist. We have been confidantes for some time. For ethical reasons, P won’t counsel me formally, though she recommends a colleague who might. For now, I stick that in my back pocket.
P says I need to act with ‘grace’ and ‘restraint’ towards my now-former partner.
The most important thing is for me to get some sleep, she says, so I can continue to take care of the rest of my life – especially as she knows my history of insomnia.
I wonder about sleeping tablets, which I used briefly and intermittently during my Insomnia Mini-Crash. They did occasionally grab me a few hours here and there. P can’t advise me, but I resolve to see my GP the next day and ask for some pills.
0 HOURS, 0 MINUTES
I am dazed with sleeplessness. On the way to work, I stop off at the walk-in service at my local GP practice. I tell the doctor I have had some bad personal news. He is harried, in a rush. Almost without looking up, he grabs his green prescription pad and writes me a two-week prescription for temazepam, an old-fashioned sleeping pill. He then ‘ups’ my trazodone, the anti-depressant I have been taking in small doses as a sleep aid for the past four years…
0 HOURS, 0 MINUTES
…still, I don’t sleep.
From the frazzled neurons of my brain comes a thought. I’ve had insomnia for almost a decade now. There has to be a more effective treatment than drugs and the entry-level talking therapy offered by the NHS.
Maybe things have moved on since I first sought treatment…
Last week, I begged my father to help me find another way. He has heard of a private GP with a sympathetic reputation. Tonight, the doctor comes to call.
The GP tells me there is an NHS ‘sleep clinic’ based within a 90-minute drive. I am ecstatic. How come this has never shown up in my Googling before? The doctor promises to write a referral letter to the clinic. ‘We offer diagnostic tests and treatments to people with a great range of sleep disorders from all around the UK,’ reads its impressive website. This bodes well!