Britta's Letters from her life divided between city-life in German's capital Berlin and life in a Bavarian village

Friday 8 July 2022



Since my private Tsunami my sleep is mega-bad. I am healthy (everything was checked with stunning good results, only my melatonin level was very low, as I had suspected - now that is ok too), I eat well, move a lot, am optimistic, thankful and financially secure, have many friends and the Flying Dutchman, and call myself happy. 

So why do I sleep so very bad? I fall easily asleep (I established a routine), then I sleep till 3:30 or four o'clock a.m. (round about) - then I wake up, pulse racing, and my mind starts to rattle, about things that look like piffle in the morning. And that I know at night too - yet I can't stop.(That cock in Bavaria either, and the dear sun tries without success to peek around the very, very darkening curtains).   

No sleeping pills for me, there I am adamant. My flawed way to cope: 
I go to the kitchen (in the dark), heat a cup of milk and add some honey, (I am convinced that my blood-sugar dives when I am asleep - maybe that wakes me up? I do not have diabetes), then I walk back, lie down - and the CD-player above starts to play his role as knight in shining armour. 
I put the ear-plugs in and listen to the soothing voice of a German actress, for half an hour she is speaking a meditation, I listen, slack...and if I am lucky, often doze away. Otherwise I have done a very fine meditation - but am tired the next day. 
Now I test naps at midday (together with that meditation). I am still not sure if that helps.  

What do you do when you can't sleep? 
Any suggestions? 

(Our Grandmothers cross-stitched a German proverb on pillows: 
"A clean conscience / makes a fine pillow" - but THAT I have, honestly.) 



  1. Temperature? Ventilation? Dehydration? Need wee? Hungry? Mattress too hard/soft?

    1. Dear Tasker, thank you. Only the two first can be a reason - I will have a look on that. At the moment it is very hot, and that might be a reason. I will (in daytime :-) make notes, to observe if there is a causality.

  2. My uncle used to say as we age, we require less sleep. He also claimed 3 AM is the witching hour and he often awakened at this hour. Oddly enough, like you, I do as well. I usually turn over in bed and go right back to sleep while thinking about my lovely long passed uncle.

    1. Dear Susan, normally I slept sound 8 hours.
      "Witching hour" sounds highly interesting to me. Often I turn over and sometimes then it is ok - but sometimes an irrelevant (!) question pops up and then I rattle off. I honestly do not have real problems at the moment.
      I discovered a tip in your comment: I will try to build up "a dream" which is very friendly and beautiful to think about, but which also demands attention, sort of, not too much :-) - that is a bit like my meditation...

  3. I often wake in the middle of the night. It may sound funny but I switch positions to the foot of the bed and go right back to sleep.

    1. Dear Mimmylynn, I did that some month ago - and then forgot about it. I will try again - and when I take notes (in daytime), as I told Tasker, I will note down that too.

  4. I would re-define it and not view it as a problem or something not right. I used to be an 8 hour per night sleeper, now I am down to 5 or 6. If I wake at the 3.30 or 4 hour then I will curl up and tell myself to go back to sleep. I then wake again at 6am. I don't have bad thoughts or worries in the night though. Perhaps something is worrying you and you need to look into what it is and why. If I am very wide awake then I will read my book but that is very rare.

  5. Dear Rachel,thank you - "re-defining" might be a way, as it helped me at another habit I wanted to change.

    I read that in the Middle-Ages people had quite another rhythm for sleep than nowadays - when they woke up at around three o'clock the started to work for hours and then went to sleep again.

    In another article I read one should not worry whether the hours one sleeps are enough sleep. I will thus put my fitness-watch (which shows me exactly how much I have slept till that moment) away.

    Telling myself to go back to sleep doesn't help - and the worries, as I wrote, really are "piffles" (as I wrote dairy since decades I know quite well what worries me).

    I started to take a very boring book in another language (which I still am learning) - sometimes that worked. I will try again.

    What I found out: when I do not sleep alone in my beautiful bed, I feel "safe" (a psychologist might call it return of "basic trust") - and sleep through.
    Maybe it is best not to expect a certain amount of sleep - as I do not have to fly a plane next day it will not be so very important :-)

  6. Sleep. What an interesting topic. I've also read about the two-sleep nights of times past which I feel must put paid to the notion that midnight snacking is a bad thing, it'd have to be a primal urge! Not that I have ever been swayed by such urges.

    There's a fantastic book 'Why We Sleep' by Matthew Walker which talks about the biology behind it, a truly fascinating and mildly unsettling read if you feel you're not getting enough. Not in any way a How-To book for ladies who seem to have lost the knack, though. Does it matter in the end? Who knows, but I do "feel" a bit better for more sleep than less, and I know the "best" sleep comes to me when I do far more exercise than I do at present, so that's an easy fix. As for fixing three I do's in one sentence, that's just as elusive!

    I've a post coming on my Counting Sheep variation, I call mine Animal Vegetable Mineral; all favourite variants have the same meditative effect of focussing the busy mind and quieting the noise. I had to employ a bit of AVM last night and always start with the same mantra: I must write about this in my blog, hahahah! (My blog had been in the naughty corner for a week now so this wish has been a moot point.)

    1. Yes, Pip: sleep is very interesting, and dreams are too.

      No - I am not hungry at night either, never walked to a fridge to eat something - the soothing milk with honey might be a remain of old times too? (Though I think it is the honey - if I take a grape-sugar it works to - brain gets placid).

      I read some wise words by brain researchers and neurologists, and that made me wide awake - if you don't get enough sleep the brain cannot get rid of deposits, and what follows then you can imagine. So I do care - but that is the wrong approach.

      I do not suffer from depression, nevertheless REM sleep is important (so the University of Bern) to the dendrites to differentiate between security and danger - and at the same time it blocks emotions - thus helping to fight PTBS.

      As you I do feel better when I sleep at least 7 hours. Normally I wouldn't mind how much I sleep - but here in Bavaria in the evening I am so often very tired (though that might have very natural explanations too - also a "three" as in your three "Do"s - but mine are almost three year old :-)
      If it is ok I will copy your mantra "I must write about this in my blog" - though: when I start with these ideas at midnight all those sweet sheeps might bleat in very demanding noisy chorus :-)

  7. I sleep far less than of old. I simply get up and get on with my day and take an afternoon nap.

    1. And does an afternoon nap help, Joanne? When I do (with an alarm clock, so not longer than half an hour, otherwise I get grumpy) I have the feeling that it takes a long time till I am "as fresh as a daisy" again.

  8. Britta, you have my total sympathies. For the 45 years I was at work, the weekdays had a fixed routine that required sleeping from midnight to 7.30 AM and then a full day's activities. But retirement took away all the routines that had served so well, and nowadays I cannot fall asleep until 5 AM :( It is exhausting.

    Since using Melatonin, I still cannot fall asleep easily, but at least I don't get up every night at 3AM to watch tv, eat challah toast and cheese and turn on the computer.

    1. Dear Helen, thank you for bringing in the link between work and retirement.
      I had the same feeling: though I know what to do with my time I missed my job where I had structure, appreciation, the joy of fair combat, etc.
      I used melatonin for a while (after that tedious test to find out if one really needs it) - and it helped. But later I read that melatonin might lead to a sort of depression - thus I changed to harmless milk&honey.
      If you turn on the computer at night: do you wear those special orange glasses that are said to screen out blue rays?

      Sleep reminds me of another mystery: when I was a child, I thought about the tons of candy I would be able to buy when I were earning money as a grown-up - and now I don't.
      And sleep: I thought when I stop working I could sleep as much as I want - and now I can't.

      Sometimes I think that there might be a psychological trick to outwit myself: if I have to rise for a journey or so, I sleep much better and longer, cling to dear sleep as in the olden days...

  9. It's an age related thing Britta - I used to sleep like a felled log all night long, but no longer. When our habits suddenly change its annoying, and it isn't a comfort to know that others too are suffering at 4.00 am either. I peer out of the window - all is quiet, peaceful, and there isn't a light or any life to be seen, and then return to bed, hoping I will be in slumberland soon, which luckily, I usually tend to do.

    1. Dear Rosemary, yes, age-related it may be.
      One can only accept it, it seems, and try to get a cup of "Horlicks traditional" - as so many women in Barbara Pym's soothing novels drink :-)
      Here in rural Bavaria people go astonishingly early to bed (well - it is dark, next cinema or theatre in Fürth or Nuremberg :-)
      As I have no problems to fall asleep I get more sleep if I do that too - but honestly: THAT makes me feel old, thus I seldom do it, only in times of dire need. (I normally go to bed at 22:30).