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Posttraumatic chronodisruption (chronic circadian rhythm issues)

brokenpony

Confident
i read about postraumatic chronodisruption here.

i have mild but accumulative sleep issues compared to many with ptsd/cptsd. in briefer acute episodes i have insomnia and/or nightmares i wake up terrified from in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep out of fear of re-entering them. but at my baseline my sleep is pretty consistently “mid”: i tend to sleep 4-5 hrs as a rule. though i almost always have trauma nightmares or normal stress dreams, some of which agitate or disturb me upon waking, they don’t usually cause me to wake up at night.

then in the morning i will wake up “tired but wired” after about 4-5 hrs sleep. sometimes 6. my fitbit may report a good sleep score, fair or poor, but how i feel doesn’t seem to correspond. i have gotten used to about 5 as the average. it’s been many moons since i averaged more than 5 hrs a night for the week. i take modafinil sometimes if things are rough focusing, but i am rarely sleepy during the day. my brain lags and struggles to function, but my body doesn’t really ever feel like sleeping during the daylight hours, unless i am deeply crashing or acutely hypoaroused.

i also stay up late without meaning to. i often get a burst of adrenaline at night, around 11-midnight, some kind of night owl energy, even though i also don’t want to sleep when it’s light? it’s sometimes the only time i can feel my brain clear of the dissociative fog blocking my path and i can work on my art. i do my pelvic floor exercises, which felt difficult to do all day. i also send my therapist long analysis emails at this time and joke that we should have sessions at 3am (because i am so unable to talk or think in session, slushy brain, pulling teeth from a muddy bog).

so this looks like a regular sleep schedule of about 3am-8am. this doesn’t seem to be DSPD because i don’t sleep very late and never have. it is extremely rare for me to sleep past 9am even with an eyemask and blackout curtains.

but then, some rare times, i sleep maybe 7-8 hours. and for some reason i wake up feeling AWFUL. i feel exhausted and so heavy, bad sleep inertia and grogginess, derealization, feel like hit by truck, can’t get out of bed. i will look at the clock groggily thinking i’ve slept 10-12 hrs, only to see i slept 7… and somehow feel regretful, and preferring my “tired and wired” 5 hr feeling.

even though i never feel like sleeping in the light, i have at times allowed myself to nap. it will take a long time to fall asleep. but i experience a similar derealization/dreaminess/disorientation/sleep inertia after napping. i read that this can happen if you take too long a nap, due to sleep phases. so i shorten the nap, even just doze, but still experience the DR problem. also i have such disruptive nightmares when i nap. so i only do it if my body forces it, which does happen from time to time.

i see people joke about sleeping all day, or spending days in bed depressed. i have never spent an entire day sleeping or in bed in my life, no matter how low my mood. i always have to leave the house at least once to “break out.” i have never to my memory liked to sleep. the only good thing about it is that i don’t need to be awake and aware of the present day state of things, and that i sometimes have “interesting” nightmares that i can use in my art or therapy.

my therapist wonders if i am subconsciously afraid to go to sleep and procrastinating, and this is why i get night owl bursts. this could be true.

i know that some % of the population needs less than the standard rec of 7-8 hrs to function well. i don’t know where i naturally fall. but i can say my brain is definitely TIRED on what i get, even though it won’t chill out and properly rest. it’s burnt out. i feel like my brain and body are confused and not communicating well in many respects. i spend most of my time “tired and wired” (like my brain wants to go go go but is stuck, vibrating in place, wanting to move without forward momentum, tire spinning in mud) and the rest of the time in a state of inertia (but not sleepy, just HEAVY, like i am made of lead and moving underwater against currents). i guess this would be hyperarousal/freeze and hypoarousal/collapse, respectively, on the polyvagal chart.

i can’t remember the last time i felt rested (yes i have been tested for apnea) and fully truly awake and present in the world. it’s a mystery. is true restfulness possible for us after decades of circadian dysregulation? i really don’t like taking stuff to sleep. sedating medications aren’t my thing. if it hits 3am and i’m still wide awake i may pop .5-1mg klonopin.

also, i don’t want to make a new post just to ask this but i’m curious about something. i have recorded myself sleeping and have found that i move around a bit but not that much, no acting out dreams. however, some nights i do a weird thing in my sleep that may be self-soothing. i will raise my arms up one by one and run my fingers up and down each arm. sometimes multiple times in the night. i don’t do this when i am awake, but i vaguely think i did this intentionally as a child. does anyone else unconsciously self-soothe like that while asleep?
 
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after my recovery progressed far enough to lose the consistent nightmares and related insomnia, irregular sleep patterns continued to plague me. i still haven't lost the irregular sleep patterns, but i lost the feeling of being cursed when i accepted it as normal-for-me. i think of myself as a 24/7 person who sleeps like a dog. i mostly nap for brief intervals and which hours are best for napping depends entirely on where the action of the day is at. my energy levels have been consistently solid since i stopped worrying about normal-for-everybody-else.

i wouldn't know if i self-soothe in my sleep or not. it wouldn't surprise me if i did, but i don't care enough to record myself sleeping. watching recordings of myself sleeping sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.
 
is true restfulness possible for us after decades of circadian dysregulation?
Yes. But it can take the while a body to reset, and it usually requires a whole-day approach to sleep hygiene (that is, the things you do during the day are very often what determines whether you’ll get a good night’s sleep).

The body and brain both have a natural tendency to sleep at night, and be awake during the day. But the body also learns about winding down and waking up based on our activities, diet and environment.
i take modafinil sometimes if things are rough focusing
This is for narcolepsy (winds the heartrate up, to prevent sleep and drowsiness). Like more typical sleep meds that do the opposite (and which you take at night), it’s going to be hard to reset your body’s clock while taking meds that mess with exactly that.

Sleep is one of those things where the answers are pretty much always the opposite of what you want to hear! There’s no quick fix to reset a messed up body clock, it requires a whole-day approach to sleep hygiene, and while you’re getting things back to normal, you can anticipate feeling pretty tired and lousy for a quite a while (weeks, rather than days or months).
 
after my recovery progressed far enough to lose the consistent nightmares and related insomnia, irregular sleep patterns continued to plague me. i still haven't lost the irregular sleep patterns, but i lost the feeling of being cursed when i accepted it as normal-for-me. i think of myself as a 24/7 person who sleeps like a dog. i mostly nap for brief intervals and which hours are best for napping depends entirely on where the action of the day is at. my energy levels have been consistently solid since i stopped worrying about normal-for-everybody-else.

i wouldn't know if i self-soothe in my sleep or not. it wouldn't surprise me if i did, but i don't care enough to record myself sleeping. watching recordings of myself sleeping sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.
how long did it take for your recovery to progress since starting therapy?

i only did it a handful of times to see if i was snoring, talking, sleep eating, etc (i live alone, for 10 years now) -- the camera is motion activated and will pick up events and you can just watch those without actually watching yourself sleep. but yeah it is a little weird.
 
This is for narcolepsy (winds the heartrate up, to prevent sleep and drowsiness). Like more typical sleep meds that do the opposite (and which you take at night), it’s going to be hard to reset your body’s clock while taking meds that mess with exactly that.
i honestly don't take it very often. maybe once or twice a month when i remember i have it. it was given to me when i was having these narcoleptic-like sleep attacks (going from feeling normal alert to suddenly falling asleep where i shouldn't be, like in work meetings) that i think were due to another discontinued med because they don't seem to happen anymore. but on the days when i feel that heavy molasses inertia brain i try to use it to kickstart, with varying success (i may get the energy but not the focus, possibly because it raises anxiety levels at the same time).

whole-day approach to sleep hygiene (that is, the things you do during the day are very often what determines whether you’ll get a good night’s sleep).
how do you structure your day?
 
how do you structure your day?
Funnily enough, even though I haven’t needed hospital for a long while (touch wood), I still base it largely on the structure that I learned in hospital.

Up at roughly the same time each morning.
Exercise
Breakfast.
Morning activity (with brief break about halfway through)
Lunch break
Afternoon activity
Dinner
Evening wind down (always includes guided relaxation)
Bed around the same time each evening (and I read to help myself get to sleep and manage nightmares).

I work full time now, but my day is still structured around that same routine. Mental health hospitals do it that way because it helps reset that daily rhythm that a mentally healthy brain needs, and which gets compromised by a broad range of different types of mental illness. The only detail that’s different is I also need to stop working by dinner time (screens down!).

Other notes about my sleep hygiene:
I drink no more than 2 coffees a day (switch to decaf after lunch!) and avoid alcohol, soft drinks (soda), and energy drinks (they’re a particular nightmare for sleep)

I’m fanatical about exercise - cardio especially. Doesn’t need to be daily, doesn’t need to be crazy hard work - 25-30 minutes of something that will increase my heart rate - all I need to do is put on a pair of shoes, walk in one direction for 15 minutes, then turn around and go home (at times when I was very unwell, I’d occasionally do that in my jimjams)! I mix in yoga 2-3 times a week.

I mix up my guided relaxation based on what my brain needs (sometimes I need something simple and soothing, other times I need something to stop racing thoughts or rumination, and I like to do a yoga nidra session regularly to keep my body awareness up).

I’m fanatical about nutrition (but not eating or cooking!). Got to eat regularly and make sure I’m ticking off nutrition boxes (I use a meal-replacement shake my GP recommended). And I always have water with me which I sip throughout the day.

My sleeping space is a shrine to sleep! It’s very dark (fairy lights rather than an overhead light), and I only use it for evening sleep.

I could go on, but I won’t. My sleep was royally fked for a very long time, and I fall apart very quickly (and impressively) when my sleep gets compromised. So sleep hygiene became something of a religion for me. Having now got it back under control, I do still have bad nights, but for the most part, shit sleep is no longer a major contributor to my ongoing issues. Most nights I sleep well, and wake up refreshed (yup, that’s an actual thing!!!).
 
how long did it take for your recovery to progress since starting therapy?
at present, there are no accurate measuring sticks for trauma recovery. at least, none that i have been able to believe in. i like to think of my recovery as a gardening project which begins with initial breaking and amending of the soil, planting the seeds, waiting patiently for germination, etc., etc., one plant, one season at a time. i never will get to know what is going on with the roots without damaging the plant. the seasons of my recovery are still underway. at 69 years old, i am not in as much of a hurry to end my seasons of recovery as i was when i was 40 with a young family to support.

by that measure, your progress is already well underway. trust the healing mysteries.
be gentle with your seedlings and patient with the growth process.
 
i read about postraumatic chronodisruption here.

i have mild but accumulative sleep issues compared to many with ptsd/cptsd. in briefer acute episodes i have insomnia and/or nightmares i wake up terrified from in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep out of fear of re-entering them. but at my baseline my sleep is pretty consistently “mid”: i tend to sleep 4-5 hrs as a rule. though i almost always have trauma nightmares or normal stress dreams, some of which agitate or disturb me upon waking, they don’t usually cause me to wake up at night.

then in the morning i will wake up “tired but wired” after about 4-5 hrs sleep. sometimes 6. my fitbit may report a good sleep score, fair or poor, but how i feel doesn’t seem to correspond. i have gotten used to about 5 as the average. it’s been many moons since i averaged more than 5 hrs a night for the week. i take modafinil sometimes if things are rough focusing, but i am rarely sleepy during the day. my brain lags and struggles to function, but my body doesn’t really ever feel like sleeping during the daylight hours, unless i am deeply crashing or acutely hypoaroused.

i also stay up late without meaning to. i often get a burst of adrenaline at night, around 11-midnight, some kind of night owl energy, even though i also don’t want to sleep when it’s light? it’s sometimes the only time i can feel my brain clear of the dissociative fog blocking my path and i can work on my art. i do my pelvic floor exercises, which felt difficult to do all day. i also send my therapist long analysis emails at this time and joke that we should have sessions at 3am (because i am so unable to talk or think in session, slushy brain, pulling teeth from a muddy bog).

so this looks like a regular sleep schedule of about 3am-8am. this doesn’t seem to be DSPD because i don’t sleep very late and never have. it is extremely rare for me to sleep past 9am even with an eyemask and blackout curtains.

but then, some rare times, i sleep maybe 7-8 hours. and for some reason i wake up feeling AWFUL. i feel exhausted and so heavy, bad sleep inertia and grogginess, derealization, feel like hit by truck, can’t get out of bed. i will look at the clock groggily thinking i’ve slept 10-12 hrs, only to see i slept 7… and somehow feel regretful, and preferring my “tired and wired” 5 hr feeling.

even though i never feel like sleeping in the light, i have at times allowed myself to nap. it will take a long time to fall asleep. but i experience a similar derealization/dreaminess/disorientation/sleep inertia after napping. i read that this can happen if you take too long a nap, due to sleep phases. so i shorten the nap, even just doze, but still experience the DR problem. also i have such disruptive nightmares when i nap. so i only do it if my body forces it, which does happen from time to time.

i see people joke about sleeping all day, or spending days in bed depressed. i have never spent an entire day sleeping or in bed in my life, no matter how low my mood. i always have to leave the house at least once to “break out.” i have never to my memory liked to sleep. the only good thing about it is that i don’t need to be awake and aware of the present day state of things, and that i sometimes have “interesting” nightmares that i can use in my art or therapy.

my therapist wonders if i am subconsciously afraid to go to sleep and procrastinating, and this is why i get night owl bursts. this could be true.

i know that some % of the population needs less than the standard rec of 7-8 hrs to function well. i don’t know where i naturally fall. but i can say my brain is definitely TIRED on what i get, even though it won’t chill out and properly rest. it’s burnt out. i feel like my brain and body are confused and not communicating well in many respects. i spend most of my time “tired and wired” (like my brain wants to go go go but is stuck, vibrating in place, wanting to move without forward momentum, tire spinning in mud) and the rest of the time in a state of inertia (but not sleepy, just HEAVY, like i am made of lead and moving underwater against currents). i guess this would be hyperarousal/freeze and hypoarousal/collapse, respectively, on the polyvagal chart.

i can’t remember the last time i felt rested (yes i have been tested for apnea) and fully truly awake and present in the world. it’s a mystery. is true restfulness possible for us after decades of circadian dysregulation? i really don’t like taking stuff to sleep. sedating medications aren’t my thing. if it hits 3am and i’m still wide awake i may pop .5-1mg klonopin.

also, i don’t want to make a new post just to ask this but i’m curious about something. i have recorded myself sleeping and have found that i move around a bit but not that much, no acting out dreams. however, some nights i do a weird thing in my sleep that may be self-soothing. i will raise my arms up one by one and run my fingers up and down each arm. sometimes multiple times in the night. i don’t do this when i am awake, but i vaguely think i did this intentionally as a child. does anyone else unconsciously self-soothe like that while asleep?
I've some of the same issues Sir. I wake from night terrors & emotional flashbacks making impossible to fall back asleep due to fear.
I also wake in the morning emotionally besides myself already. Makes it scary, difficult to sleep. Sorry but no self soothing, never learned to cope. Ty
 
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