29 April 2010

Insomnia report

My insomnia is starting to make me crazy.  I slept about three hours last night and none of those hours were good.  

I've tried everything short of massive doses of horse tranquilizers.  You name it, I've done it:  herbal, pharmaceutical, behavioral, dietary, psychological/spiritual, mechanical, and mystical.  I wake up around 3.00am and cannot go back to sleep. 

I blame philosophy.

Follow HancAquam ------------>


  1. Sorry Brother. There seem to be a number of Dominicans who have this same problem. I know that you said that you tried everything but have you gone to the doctors to do sleep testing? I know a number of people here in the SF Bay who will go to Stanford Medical to get tested for all sorts of sleep disorders.

  2. Anonymous2:11 AM

    Time to take up running?

  3. Well, I guess its mid-morning in Roma but its 3 a.m. here in the MS Delta & I'm wide awake...so join the crowd:-) I just tell the Lord I'm uniting myself with all the Masses being said right now in the world and, if I get really over the bend, I'll take a couple of benadryls!

  4. Something that I found helped was just changing where I slept. I actually slept on a recliner for a couple of years. You might try a couch. The bed became an "enemy" at that time because I was not sleeping well on it.

  5. Don't obsess about it. Don't toss and turn. Get up and do some writing. Use the time. As our "cloistered brothers" say, "Don't let the time use you; use the time."

  6. Maybe you are not physically tired enough? Sounds like you need a change of air.

  7. Father, I'd always be wary of going down the pharmaceutical road.

    By your own admission you're carrying a few extra pounds - it could be that you have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome. Excessive snoring is a symptom.

  8. Crux,

    Too late for me not to go down the Rx road!

    I was diagnosed with Severe Sleep Apnea back in 2007. I've used a CPAP machine ever since. The problem is that I can't turn off my brain when it's time to sleep; or, when I wake in the middle of the night, I can't go back to sleep.

  9. G., where are you in the MS Delta?

  10. "herbal, pharmaceutical, behavioral, dietary, psychological/spiritual, mechanical, and mystical"

    What about counting sheep? Cistercian sheep even.

  11. maryclare7:32 AM

    Dear Fr P,
    I too have a problem from time to time re this. I find the most effective cure is to ask Our lady to interceed so that you can go to sleep and wake up refreshed ready to face the following day. The other thing that you should also do is practice sleep hygiene...not do anything that is too stimulating for about an hour before bed, not use the computer or watch TV for a while...do a mental wind down. Don't stress that you cannot sleep as this just compounds the problem. Pray (in the way I have suggested already) or read instead. And if like me you are at a desk a lot of the time, build in some physical exercise - even walking is OK.
    The problem with using medication is that oftentimes you still wake up not feeling refreshed.
    I prescribe some good mountain fresh air with some gentle hiking!
    Love and prayers
    maryclare :-)

  12. Father, my wife and I have the same problem although not as severe. We, too, blame philosophy. ;)

    You remain in our prayers.

  13. Amen, Fr. Philip, on your pointing to philosophy as the probable culprit of your bouts of insomnia. You know who is keeping me up since I took up his book last week? Dietrich von Hildebrand. Have you heard of him? I am reading his "Transformation in Christ" and it is like having what is known as a "breakthrough", in psychological jargon, nearly every other page! I am waking up now at about 3:30 a.m. thinking about it.

  14. Speaking anecdotally, I've had this same experience twice - and with the 3:00 hour. I came to the conclusion that 3:00 was significant, and in both cases, for me, it was a time of preparation for change. I had to submit, one of my most difficult things to do. Don't give up hope, because insomnia can go away. Just my experience, Father.

  15. Fight fire with fire. I propose of dose of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

  16. This will look pretty odd, but it's based on the science behind acupuncture - and it's free and involves no drugs, so it's pretty much no-risk. Try this out:

  17. Prayers for a restful night. I'd say the obvious: pray the rosary and ask the Blessed Mother for the peace of being nestled in her heart.

  18. See a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. Cut out all caffeine after noon. Exercise.
    Those are my recs.

  19. templariidvm1:36 PM


    I would recommend two things:

    1) Be tested for sleep apnea. It is actually a relatively common cause of poor sleep and insomnia, these days.

    2) Some sort of vigorous physical activity at least every other day. If the body isn't tired, we often can't sleep - regardless of the state of brain fatigue.

    Good luck!
    You are in my prayers as always!

  20. Fr. Powell, when I've had that problem the solution that worked was to take long walks. Six miles a night wasn't unusual.

    FWIW, many experts claim the WORST thing to do is continue lying in bed. Seems it just encourages the brain to keep revving up like an engine in neutral.

  21. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Fight fire with fire. I propose of dose of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

    Brutal! Throw in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding and R.G. Collingwood's Idea of history and you may never want to wake up again.

  22. I would humbly suggest that you pay a visit to the gun range. Killing sheets of paper isn't a sin and can be quite liberating.

  23. Have you tried C-Span?

    But seriously, I found a relaxation tape with voiced relaxation techniques really worked for me... for about a month. Then, my Dominican mind kept trying to break down and analyze what the person was saying, instead of ACTUALLY doing it. But at least it helped break the cycle somewhat.

    Another tape I tried had a voice actor that sounded exactly like Ben Stein. When I pointed it out to the physical therapist, she laughed, and said "Well, now this is ruined for me, too!"

  24. I go through bouts of insomnia from time to time. Some of those bouts have lasted for months. I've found the following "tricks" helpful, if one doesn't work "this time" I move to the next.

    Shutting down most lights, (especially overhead) and stepping away from the computer a couple hours before bedtime. Light can stimulate wakefulness.

    A hot bath (or at least a shower) shortly before bed.

    Exercise several hours before bedtime.

    avoid things containing caffeine or theobromine after mid-afternoon (coffee, tea, dark chocolate, etc).

  25. Sleep apnea
    look it up and schedule a sleep study for this summer