67 Comments
Feb 1, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Thank you for the openness with which you shared this journey that you're on with regard to sleep. What I used to think of as insomnia in my younger years seems to have revealed itself as a natural Circadian rhythm that refuses to conform to societal norms. I'm so thankful to have ditched the 9-5, escaped the Rat Race, and created a life in which this no longer poses an issue. Also grateful to have ditched alarm clocks, for the most part, which I consider instruments of the devil's most heinous torture here on earth!

Expand full comment
author

Glad you found what works for you!

Expand full comment
Feb 1, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

OMG! I thought it was just me! Thank you SO much for sharing this.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for reading!

Expand full comment
Feb 2, 2023Liked by Michael Jensen

this was a superb article, thanks so much for sharing. My wife and I have said for a long time that if people just wore a sandwich board showing everyone a few things going on in their life (like 2 hours of sleep a night), we may all be just a little more kind and understanding. Thanks again Michael, great article.

Expand full comment
author

What a great idea! Let's see if we can get it going.

And thanks so much for the kind words.

Expand full comment
Feb 1, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Thank you for sharing this. I have intermittent issues with insomnia, usually I can go right to sleep, then wake up at 3am, my mind busy. Thought that would thankfully go away with retirement, but it hasn’t. Sigh...oh, well. I find when I take Aleve for my bad hip, I sleep better. Go figure!

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, age certainly doesn't help.

Expand full comment

There was an Atlantic article a year or two back about bi-phasic sleep cycles, meaning you sleep like 4 hours, wake up for 2-3, then sleep 4 more. I started doing that and got worried, but it's totally natural.

Expand full comment
author

So funny you mention that as Mike Sowden just brought it up as well. Great minds!

I know of bi-phasic sleep from research I did for one of my historical fiction novels.

Alas, my problem is falling asleep, so....

Expand full comment

I'll take a comparison to Mike any day!

Alas, the positive attitude is doing wonders at least. Hang in there, and thanks for sharing this personal insight.

Expand full comment
author

Wouldn't we all! Thanks for the kind words.

Expand full comment
Feb 1, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Thank you for the honest discussion of insomnia, I also struggle with Insomnia & the well meaning advice of friends & family. The only thing that works for me are marijuana edibles. I try not to use them too often because I fear building up a tolerance to the one thing that helps. I try to appreciate the sleep I do get & use the time I can’t sleep to read, write, & meditate rather than toss & turn.

Expand full comment
author

We worry about the tolerance thing but thanks for the reminder.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, I worry about tolerance with the Xanax. And with our travels, edibles aren't an option for me, alas...

Expand full comment
Feb 2, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Yes I worry about edibles not being legal/available in a future locale too. But I can only live in the present and will deal with lots of changes when I move out of the US (which I’m planning now).

Expand full comment

Beautifully told. Thanks for the honesty. I love it. Reminds me of Buddhism: Acceptance of What Is. Letting go. Releasing control. Is the lack of sleep the true problem? Or your relationship to the lack of sleep. You answered this skillfully.

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’

https://michaelmohr.substack.com/

Expand full comment
author

Thanks very much, Michael. You're the second person to bring up Buddhism today!

Expand full comment
Feb 2, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

I too have struggled for many years with lack of sleep. The longest I have slept is 4 hours in a row several years ago. I liken it to taking eight one hour naps in a ten hour period. Many days I take a nap, which is my best sleep time. Thanks for sharing.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for reading. And I'm sorry to hear of your own struggles.

Expand full comment
Feb 2, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Oh hell, I'm so sorry you've had this to deal with. But also - scratch that, in a way. You're accepting it as part of who you are, so saying "I'm so sorry" is - disrespecful?

My point is, Words Are Hard and I'm not very good at them.

But this is a hell of a thing to deal with. I've been struggling with it myself - especially since my newsletter became a fulltime focus and my nervous system went into overdrive with both the positive and negative things happening in my brain. But this is a new thing, and I've found ways to address it (one of them: travel to London and back on the train to see some excellent folk in one long day, then you'll be so tired when you get home that you sleep for 12 hours straight!). So there's no comparison here.

An interesting thing I was hearing about recently - a push to reframe insomnia as a phobia, and treat it accordingly: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/23/insomnia-former-sleep-doctor-promotes-treating-it-as-a-phobia.html I'm not sure of the validity of that approach, but it's certainly something very new...

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Mike. I'll come right up to Scotland and take the train down so I can meet these two fellas. Can you put us in touch? LOL.

I hope yours is getting better and totally get how your Substack could impact you that way.

As for biphasic sleep, yup, I learned about that researching a historical novel years ago. Fascinating thing to learn. Alas, my problem tends to be falling asleep is very very difficult.

I just read the phobia article and I certainly have had times where I've feared sleep and as I write, raged about the lack of it. I can safely say now I don't have a phobia about sleep.

Honestly, not sure what I think of that guy's approach, but I'm glad to have learned of it.

Expand full comment

Wow. I'm not alone. This isn't a source of comfort by all means but rather a sense of not feeling so alone and weird.

I've been battling with insomnia since 2001. My father died unexpectedly and I had to commit myself into detox for prescription drugs shortly after. A perfect storm.

I worked shift work all of my life. I never had sleep issues until the 2001 one-two punch.

I ran pretty much the same course as you, trying to find the cause/solution. Nothing worked. I had to plan my work for later in the day so I didn't have to fight stressing about an alarm clock.

I did find out something rather interesting, though. After being awake all night and moving through the following day in an almost sleepwalking state at some point in late afternoons while battling closing my eyes I found a creative side that works better than I've ever experienced. Art isn't my strong suit. I'm analytical. It started with doodling, coloring, and then evolved into drawing and painting. I can write late mornings, but in recent years I've all but given that up.

I'm so glad you shared this demonic battle with us. You're so spot on... we all have that something to deal with, you showed me a new perspective. I can't say I'm grateful for it, but I'm thankful I don't have many of the other battles people must fight. Great read.

Expand full comment
author

First, thanks so much for the kind words. Very much appreciated. Second, sorry for your own struggles. Obviously, I sympathize! But I'm also glad you found something positive in your experience as well. Stay healthy!

Expand full comment

Thank you for sharing this personal story. Your frustrations resonated, and you are so right: acceptance and thankfulness go a long way towards living with things you can't change.

I can personally attest that Long Covid cures insomnia but (dang it!) not the tiredness the next day!

Expand full comment
author

I'm so sorry to hear you have long Covid. I hope it gets better over time.

Expand full comment

Same!! I will spare you my 15 year saga with insomnia and get right to my cure. My naturopath discovered that I had parasites- worms and amoebas. Once they were treated, I started sleeping through the night. Within days. It was as close to an overnight solution as one could have. Have you ever been tested for parasites?! Try it. It absolutely changed my life. Best of luck.

Expand full comment
author

Hmmm, I've never even heard of that one. What kind of parasites and what kind of tests?

Expand full comment

I had roundworms. Never did determine exactly which kind. And an amoebic infection. It was strange because I didn't have any of the typical gastrointestinal symptoms--the insomnia was the main thing. I did a comprehensive stool test through a lab in the US (http://parasitetesting.com) and then did 8 weeks of treatment--over the counter meds and prescription meds as well as some homeopathic remedies and serious deep cleaning of everything I owned. That was two years ago and I now sleep 8 hours almost every night. I tell everyone I know about it because it seriously saved my life. I had gotten them when I was in the Peace Corps in my 20s and lived with them (and insomnia) ever since.

Expand full comment
author

Oh that is very very interesting Thanks, Erin!

Expand full comment
author

Hmm, seems unlikely I have those but I'll ask my doctor when I see him on Friday. Thanks for the suggestion!

Expand full comment

You're welcome! And good luck. I'm glad you haven't given up on solutions. I know how hard it is to keep trying. Fingers crossed for as dramatic a resolution as mine was.

Expand full comment

It certainly seems possible that parasites might be an issue for you, with all the travel to interesting and exotic locales you’ve experienced. They can certainly do a number on a dog’s health. And humans can harbor many of the same parasites.

Giardia isn’t a worm, but it’s not that difficult to pick up, and can be quite pernicious. It’s also difficult to detect on standard tests sometimes, unlike roundworms and similar.

Expand full comment
author

The problem with that theory is that I've struggled with insomnia for thirty years, long before I became a nomad.

Expand full comment
Feb 1, 2023Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

It sounds like you made your way through ‘acceptance and commitment’ therapy all by yourself! (It’s a real thing...) I really know what you mean about ‘sleeping with the enemy’ - my insomnia is nowhere near as bad as yours but after a few bad nights I always feel that I need to make friends with my bed again, like we’re getting over an argument.

Expand full comment
author

Glad yours isn't as bad, but it's no fun at any level.

Expand full comment
May 20, 2023Liked by Michael Jensen

Michael - thank you for sharing your story so openly! I started struggling with insomnia two years ago, and have had some rough patches with it where it’s really terrible. It *sucks.* It’s so frustrating that you can’t *try* your way into sleep...even if you’re a goal-oriented, high achieving human, sleep is the one thing you can’t force / will into happening. Grr!

A book I’d recommend (although you’ve probably already read it!) is No More Sleepless Nights. They debunk a lot of sleep myths -- like you mentioned, insomnia doesn’t actually shorten life spans, or increase Alzheimer’s risk, or any other long term health detriment.... it just makes you more sleepy. Which is annoying, but OK. That brought me comfort.

A daily, 5mg dose of Lexapro has worked really well for me. I also have the email of a CBT sleep therapist if you’d like a second sounding board.

Anyway, sounds like you’ve got it sorted for now -- I just wanted to say thanks, and I’ve been globe-trotting too, so cheers to seeing another travel writer here! 👋🏃‍♀️

Expand full comment
author

Thanks so much, Avery. I hope you find a solution to your sleep ails!

Expand full comment

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I really appreciated hearing what your mindset is. I too suffer from insomnia on and off. It used to be that I took hours to fall asleep at night; now it's that I wake up at 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning and can't get back to sleep. Folks who lecture us to always get eight hours of sleep per night ought to count themselves lucky. Also, I hope this article inspires people to quit assuming that someone with a particular health condition hasn't already tried the unsolicited advice they offer.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, it can get frustrating but I always remind myself people mean well and are just trying to help. Of course, the more sleep I managed to get the easier it is to remember that! LOL.

Expand full comment

Same! Mine comes in six week cycles. I've surrendered to my insomnia and have learned to live with it.

Thanks for sharing your struggles and insight.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for taking the time to read! I'm glad you've also reached a place of being able to deal with your insomnia.

Expand full comment
Apr 17, 2023Liked by Michael Jensen

I feel you. I think what's helped me the most is...

-only have caffeine (tea, chocolate, etc) in the early half of the day

-making sure I don't eat or drink anything at least 4 hours before bed

-cool bedroom (huge huge huge and I don't like cool bedrooms)

-dim/yellow screens (and doc would say turn them off couple hours before bed)

-think about how lovely sleep is *while* envisioning/proclaiming that I'm going to sleep 6-7.5 hours, even noting what time I'll wake (super huge, as I'm no longer telling my brain that I can't/won't sleep)

--if I don't get sleepy, start reading with dimmed/yellowed screen, as reading books makes me so tired

Sleep is so so much better now. I now get 6-7.5 hours sleep most of the time, which is perfect for me (my Chinese med doc says 5 hours is just fine for him)

Expand full comment
author

I manage some of those but not all. Glad you are doing well!

Expand full comment
Apr 13Liked by Michael Jensen

Update: I bought some really wide (soft, stretchy organic/hemp) dark headbands that cover most of our face and head, so we decided to try them as sleep masks, putting them on while gabbing in bed the last hour or so before sleep. This knocks us out. And keeps us sleeping for more than 8 hours. I'm in a bit of shock and feeling pretty bad that my body was clearly so affected by ambient light or sound or my head just needed to feel more snuggled. Whatever it was. I just hope this lasts. 🙏🏼

Expand full comment
author

Fascinating! I'm afraid the feel of something touching my face all night long would drive me BONKERS!

Expand full comment
Apr 14·edited Apr 15Liked by Michael Jensen

I thought that, too! Especially since I want to be fully aware of everything. And I don't normally like things touching my face. Also, I don't want to wear something over and over without a regular washing, hence why I never used a face mask. But these super wide headbands feel so gently *swaddling*, and I wear one on one side one night, then flip it to its other side the next night, then toss it in the dirty laundry and grab a new one for the third night (we each have 3 = six nights before we do laundry). They are so thin and compact, they take up hardly any space, so it works. In case you ever decide to experiment, we have these...

https://www.textureclothing.com/products/eco-friendly-organic-cotton-hemp-headbands

Expand full comment
author

I'll check them out. Thanks!

Expand full comment