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Insomnia / upset - How to help

(28 Posts)
1234Littleham Wed 17-Feb-16 09:49:19

Not entirely sure how to proceed.

DD has stopped sleeping and finding it difficult to concentrate on university work. One friend in her wider friendship group has taken own life and dd is really upset. sad

Knock on effect for dd has been extreme insomnia and difficulty concentrating. She is keeping her grades up, attending all lectures (on NO sleep!) and has got good marks in exams but is struggling.

Any advice for insomnia?

Mindgone Wed 17-Feb-16 09:54:17

How awful, I'm so sorry.
I have no experience here, but would have thought a uni counsellor the first step.

Readysteadyknit Wed 17-Feb-16 10:02:32

How sad.

No experience but can she access a uni counsellor? If she needs to talk in the middle of the night The Samaritans would listen (you don't have to be suicidal to contact them) I think mindfulness techniques would also help her.

Can she come home for the weekend/you go to visit for some TLC and a decent meal?

BeeppityBeep Wed 17-Feb-16 10:57:36

Ive sent you a very long pm. One of my DCs had this problem. It's all ok now but it took a while. The Uni was very helpful. Insomnia can be truly awful. sad

SecretSquirrels Wed 17-Feb-16 13:56:20

Suicide is so hard for those around. Is she normally well and happy? If so then maybe she will be able to push through. Has she tried all the usual relaxation techniques? Has she seen a doctor? Sometimes a very short course of medication works wonders in breaking the cycle of insomnia.
TLC if you can. As readysteady suggests could you go and pick her up for a couple of days home comforts?

1234Littleham Wed 17-Feb-16 14:29:02

Thanks so much.

Your long PM has been so helpful Beepitty. It is such a similar story and very comforting to hear about someone with the same issues. You are right that insomnia is more debilitating than you would think.

She is normally very well and happy Secret but she has always had a bit of a tendency for insomnia (not being able to switch her brain off until about midnight, nothing as extreme as this though). She tends to internalise things & try to cope with problems too. I think she wishes she could have helped her friend.

We discussed a few ideas and she has arranged a doctor's appointment which might help. I don't think she has contacted the uni counsellor so I'll suggest it. There is a Society / Club at the uni that does Mindfulness and Yoga - good suggestion & it will get her away from the exams for a bit (still some to come).

I've already told her that if the worst comes to the worst we are happy for her to start the year again as health comes first.

BeeppityBeep Wed 17-Feb-16 14:37:31

I told my DS that he could restart the year too if it was all too much for him. I'm glad he didn't but I think he appreciated the support. It shows you are taking it seriously.

1234Littleham Wed 17-Feb-16 15:06:46

Just heard from her and she is revising for an exam tomorrow. I reminded her to take breaks and to look after herself. She replied 'will do smile'

HocusCrocus Wed 17-Feb-16 15:30:27

Also PMed

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 17-Feb-16 15:55:18

Oh Littleham, your poor dd. I don't have anything useful to add really, but having someone you know take their own life is horribly unsettling, so just wanted to add my sympathy. Glad she is talking to you about it and all her plans sound good x

1234Littleham Wed 17-Feb-16 16:03:09

Thanks everyone. It has been a big help for me to be able to download some of this angst onto you today and get helpful suggestions. We truly are travelling together on a MN roller coaster through these teenage / university years.

I'm sorry if I have resurrected any bad memories. So many people have similar stories.

Foginthehills Wed 17-Feb-16 17:30:41

Yoga & mindfulness can help if she lets them; so too can a good long walk (60 minutes a day at least), a run, some sort of exercise that gets her puffing. Also something that's not on a screen, but is about being in the moment: reading (a book), painting, playing a musical instrument, singing in a choir ...

Then sleep hygiene:
Go to bed at pretty much the same time every night, and get up at pretty much the same time (7 days, don't change too much for the w/e)

Dark room, eye mask & ear plugs if necessary

Cold room, warm bed (the window open a little can help even on these cold nights)

No screens for at least an hour before bedtime. Radio or soft music if necessary

Read to sleep

Breathing & relaxation exercises: the simplest: focus on breathing in long & deep through the nose and out through the mouth. Focus on nothing but breathing in and breathing out (yoga w/o the physical posture - yoga is really about the breathing).

And the thing that can really help but may feel counter-intuitive: don't get too stressed about waking up in the middle of the night, or about not sleeping. Lack of sleep won't kill you. But stressing about lack of sleep will make the effects of lack of sleep worse.

It's a difficult time for her. There's no instant cure. It will get better, but she'll just have to plod through the difficult bit. Step by step, moment by moment, breath by breath. It's awful, but it will pass.

1234Littleham Thu 18-Feb-16 16:11:50

Thanks Foginthehills. I've sent her all your suggestions.

Spoke to her today and she has told her tutor who has been helpful & talked about counselling. Also guided her to this site which may be useful to some of your dc in the future.

She slept last night smile which is good as she has an exam.

HocusCrocus Thu 18-Feb-16 16:27:38

That sounds very positive Littleham. Good luck to her with her exams.

BeeppityBeep Thu 18-Feb-16 16:53:35

That's good that she slept before her exam and that her tutor was supportive.

voilets Thu 18-Feb-16 19:57:11

My DD has had insomnia with exam worry. We did all of above about relaxation but during 2 week exam period she had 1 or 2 hours sleep a night at most and it made her very strung out and weepy.

We went to docs before 2nd set of exams and were given mild medication to make her drowsy and it worked and she was able to cope emotionally during 2nd exam period.

We never use medication - actually use alternative health remedies mostly but her insomnia was so severe that we had to take action.

She now is having 10 weeks of counselling to get to the bottom of why she has these occasional bouts of lack of sleep.

Good luck with your DD. Suicide is so upsetting for all involved - as a teacher, sadly, we are hearing too much of it.

1234Littleham Thu 18-Feb-16 20:37:34

her insomnia was so severe that we had to take action. Yes, I think we might be reaching that point. Doctor's appointment next week.

It seems this sort of thing is quite common both in schools and further education voilets. Even the workplace seems to be super stressed now.

catslife Fri 19-Feb-16 09:17:22

Taking medication in these sort of circumstances is perfectly understandable 1234Littleham and nothing to be ashamed of.
I have sent a short pm.

Coconutty Fri 19-Feb-16 09:26:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

1234Littleham Fri 19-Feb-16 09:42:00

Adding Nytol to the list of things to try.

Thanks for your PM catslife - forwarded it to dd.

She seems a bit more upbeat and I bought one or two books for her course which she is delighted with. I think lack of sleep can become an ingrained habit so it is a case of breaking the cycle and cheering her up. She said she got so tired that she fell down a very short flight of stairs (unhurt luckily). Her grandparents are taking her out for a meal.

I have no idea if she will cope with the degree now but she is taking the exams / work one day at a time. I think her grades are ok for this year but it steps up in intensity next year which is a bit of a worry.

Foginthehills Fri 19-Feb-16 20:24:19

I think lack of sleep can become an ingrained habit so it is a case of breaking the cycle

This is part of what the standard "sleep hygiene" advice tries to counter - or rather, replace the ingrained habits which do harm, with ingrained habits which produce good effects!

It's great she's spoken to her Personal Tutor - there may also be help in the wee small hours from the Samaritans, but also the student-centred & student-run Nightline.

I wonder, too, whether (and this is from my experience of teaching anxious, high achieving young women) she's projecting panic or anxiety about all sorts of things onto the death of her friend. Death of a friend when you're 18 or 19 is awful, it seems unnatural, but it can also help to stoke up a more general sense of panic or fear - a kind of mild hysteria. I spend a fair bit of tie trying to put out the small grass fires of panic - groups of students feeding each other with escalating panic stories. Admittedly I'm talking about their anxieties about assignments, but the principle is much the same - they get kind of caught up in the drama of the moment. Not that that drama is not real but because of their age & the high pressure, they can get caught up in it to an extent which is not healthy, and just need to take a breath and step back.

Of course, you can't tell her this ...

What your DD is learning is that her life must go on - as a friend said to me when a mutual colleague of ours, a brilliant person, who died suddenly, shockingly, and far far too young, "All we can do is make sure we go on living life as well as we can." (it's a version of something Oscar Wilde said, the exact quotation escapes me).

1234Littleham Fri 19-Feb-16 20:40:19

She has her own personal night line set up by two sisters and her brother. It is lovely to sit back and watch them all rally round. DD3 came straight back from school and skyped to check her sister was ok. DD2 is skyping her from another university. Grandparents contacted her last night. She contacted me tonight and asked to meet for lunch.

I'll suggest the student nightline.

I guess she could be projecting - hadn't thought of it that way but I can see how it would happen especially during exam time. I suppose I will find out by summer time whether she is coping with the course!

She has always been the type to collect waifs and strays and look after them.

(Love the quote - so true)

1234Littleham Fri 19-Feb-16 20:55:25

By the way I have compiled all these suggestions into an ordered list to send to dd so if anyone else would benefit from a copy feel free to send me a PM. smile

Foginthehills Fri 19-Feb-16 21:25:12

It's great her family is rallying round! But it could also be useful to talk to people outside the situation. Explaining to a sympathetic stranger (the Samaritans) might help her start to take a step back, gain perspective a bit?

1234Littleham Fri 19-Feb-16 22:04:33

I will suggest it. A sympathetic professional would be a good idea.

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