Ever since childhood my sleep has been all over the place. Problems include insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, restless leg syndrome, waking in a cold sweat, waking up gagging and throwing up, waking up in a panic, waking up totally dissociated, always feeling fatigued regardless of how much or how little sleep I get.
Additionally I have difficulty going off to sleep, lying awake for hours then dropping off to sleep as dawn breaks. I also have trouble staying asleep with me going to sleep quickly sometimes but waking after 2 hours and not sleeping at all after that regardless of how tired I am. Often I don’t sleep for several nights in succession then have a day when I sleep for maybe 12-18 hours in a block.
I also cannot sleep if another person is in the room, I am hyper vigilant and wide awake, even if I know the person and even if they are asleep. Any kind of noise and I go into hyper vigilant mode, even if that noise is outside the house. If the bedroom door is ajar I also find it difficult to switch off the hyper vigilance and fall asleep.
Night by night I never know how I’m going to sleep or IF I’m actually going to sleep when I go to bed.
My sleep is also disrupted by having CFS/M.E., which is not helped by my sleep difficulties and further compounds the fatigue and exhaustion I always feel.
Because sleep has always been like this how I thought it must be how everyone sleeps but actually I now understand that a lot of my sleep problems have their roots in the trauma of the childhood abuse.
I remember when we stayed at my grandparents’ house during the first 7 years of my life I had to sleep with my grandmother. I remember lying next to her stiff as a board, trying to hide the fact I was even breathing because I didn’t want her touching me. But she still did kiss and touch me sexually and I hated it. I also remember waking up in the night many times with my grandmother pushing a pillow down over my face. I would play dead and she would stop eventually. It was terrifying having to sleep with her. I never knew for sure if she was actually trying to kill me but it was safer to play dead so she’d stop.
From the age of 8 my father began coming into my bed at night. It began with innocent cuddles but soon graduated to touching and eventually more and more severe abuse on to rape eventually.
For years after that when I went to bed at night I never knew if I was going to bed to be raped by him. It was after then that I began waking up gagging and throwing up. Sometimes I was sick in my sleep and I woke to find I was lying in my own vomit. Other times I’d wake up throwing up. My parents always seemed to know and would come in to my room and drag me from my bed. I always got punished severely on these nights. I never understood why that happened when I was a kid, but I do understand now.
I also often would be dragged from my bed in the middle of the night to be beaten up and tortured.
I never ever knew what was going to happen when I went to bed. Going to bed was always terrifying and uncertain for me. My bed was not a safe space as a child. My bed was regularly invaded and often violently. Bed was never associated with good things or safety it was always associated with pain, terror and terrible things.
All these years later I still don’t know what will happen when I go to bed but now that’s more about will I sleep? Will I lie awake all night? And so on.
So it came as no surprise to me when I came across an article entitled “Emotional Abuse in Childhood May Disrupt Sleep Decades Later”.
Interestingly, the article concerns itself with emotional abuse only. As I experienced emotional abuse as well as sexual, physical and psychological abuse and physical and emotional neglect I can understand why my sleep problems are compounded.
The other thing the articles appears to focus on is “old age”. My experience is of lifelong disruption to my sleep because of the abuse, experienced both day and night. There is no ‘may’ about it, there is absolutely no doubt about it but rather my experience shows that it definitely has that affect.
Anyway here are short excerpts from the article:-
“Older adults who were insulted, intimidated by parents at risk for sleep problems, study finds...
Emotional abuse in childhood can lead to sleep disruption in old age, a new study finds.
In analyzing nearly 900 adults aged 60 and older, researchers found that seniors who were emotionally abused by their parents decades earlier were at greater risk for poor sleep quality years later. "A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well-being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives," study author Cecilia Y. M. Poon, said in a news release from the Gerontological Society of America. "The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world." Researchers found those who endured early emotional abuse (not physical abuse or emotional neglect) by their parents reported a higher number of problems sleeping in old age. Emotional abuse included insults, swearing, silent treatment, intimidation, or threats of violence or physical abuse.”
The entire article can be read at:- http://health.msn.com/health-topics/aging/emotional-abuse-in-childhood-may-disrupt-sleep-decades-later