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The Sentence That Broke Schizophrenia’s Hold on My Sleep

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As a person with schizophrenia, I used to be afraid of not sleeping early. At 10 p.m., I dropped everything to be in bed at 11 p.m. Then, I could not get relief, with my mind repeatedly saying something bad would definitely happen if I was not able to sleep early.

It doesn’t mean I slept at 11 p.m. though. I would toss and turn until the wee hours of the morning, before falling asleep and waking up unrested.

When I started medication, I would fall asleep early and wake up late. Even then, I felt sleepy mid-afternoon, so I would need to take naps.

My functioning was impeded, but my colleagues tried their best to accommodate me; my tasks were adjusted, and I was given space to sleep during the afternoons.

At some point, I was told by my psychiatrist I needed to be in bed by 11 p.m. so I would be asleep when the magic of emotional regulation happens.

I then became obsessed with sleeping early. I watched my caffeine intake, taking care to not consume caffeine if unnecessary. I tried reading in bed, even when my mind could not focus. I avoided getting stressed at night, hoping I would be able to sleep early. To no avail. I wasn’t even aiming at sleeping well yet, just early.

My psychiatrist then prescribed me medicine to help me fall asleep. The medicine was to be taken as needed. I used to take them religiously, then stopped when I felt being groggy for two days was a price I was not willing to pay.

Every time I was not able to sleep early, I knew I was going to have a bad day. It may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I have always thought sleeping early was key to a good day. I didn’t realize then I had become a hostage of my thoughts, again.

There was a sentence I read during those days. I just happened to read it. I no longer remember the sentence construction or where I read it from. From what I remember, it said you should tell yourself that even if you will not be able to get a good night’s sleep tonight, you can always decide how your day turns out tomorrow.

I eventually learned to tell myself that at night, and when I wake up. When I cannot sleep within 30 minutes, I get up to do something else and go back to bed only when I’m sleepy already.

I usually sleep later than 11 p.m. now, but my days are better. I’ve learned to focus on making the waking hours count rather than counting the hours I’m awake.

Getty image by panchanok premsrirut

Originally published: November 23, 2021
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