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Valerie - Interview 11

Age at interview: 65
Brief Outline: Valerie often wakes up in the night and can't get back to sleep. This means she will be very tired by the early evening, but will try not to go to bed too early because she doesn't want to waste the evening.
Background: Married, two children, retired Managing Director, Care Facilities for Older People

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Valerie noticed a change in her sleep after starting her own business as the Managing Director of care facilities for older people. Valerie was very concerned for the health and wellbeing of the people she was responsible for and this often kept her awake at night worrying about them. She feels that this was the start of her more serious sleep problems.

 
At the moment, Valerie wakes up frequently in the night, and can’t get back to sleep. Sometimes she gets up and makes a cup of tea and reads the newspaper, before going back to bed to go to sleep. She would like to have about 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night, but doesn’t really feel she gets this very often. Whilst she often wakes up feeling refreshed, Valerie gets very tired by about 6 o’clock in the evening and sometimes struggles to stay awake.
 
Valerie likes to keep busy during the day by looking after her family, her home and her pets, and every day takes her dogs for very long walks. She feels that as long as she can keep on doing these activities then she should not worry too much about not having enough sleep, although she would like to be able to sleep better than she does.
 

Val takes a long time to fall asleep, wakes up a lot in the night, and early in the morning, but...

Val takes a long time to fall asleep, wakes up a lot in the night, and early in the morning, but...

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Do you want to tell me about your sleep pattern in general?
 
Yes. I go to bed, I was going to bed to about 9 o’clock because I was so tired, because I am awake half past 5 every morning. During the night I am awake a few times, and I put the radio on, and I find by putting the radio on that voice puts me back to sleep again and then it could be an hour, an hour and a half and I am awake again and that is the pattern mainly with my sleep. So about half past five six o’clock I get up and it is a long day. 9 o’clock I am in bed, but I lie there until one o’clock, two, and I just cannot get to sleep and yet when I am out here I am tired. Recently I have started to going to bed about 11, 12 o’clock. But it still doesn’t make any difference.
 
So do you take the same time to get to sleep even when you go to bed at 9 or at 11, it still takes you an hour or so to get to sleep?
 
By going later I do get to sleep. I don’t lie awake then as long. I also found that I am on the computer at night and that helps me to sleep better. But I still wake up in the night.
 

Val is aware that if she drinks tea after 6 o'clock this may mean she has to get up in the night...

Val is aware that if she drinks tea after 6 o'clock this may mean she has to get up in the night...

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Do you ever eat in the night. Do you get hungry in the night. Because you can, can’t you, if you are awake?
 
I've never gone to eat anything.
 
Just drink tea?
 
Just drink tea.
 
And do you get up to go to the loo in the night?
 
Yes, I do. A couple of times. Because I am drinking tea isn’t it!
 
Yes, yes, it would do. But do you have any perception of whether you are waking up to go to the toilet or whether you wake up and think I will go to the toilet?
 
No I wake up wanting to go to the toilet.
 
Okay and do you stay awake after that. Does that keep you awake then?
 
Not all the time. Sometimes I go back and I am going to the toilet half asleep like a zombie. And I go back into bed and I am gone. Another time, yes, it wakes me up.
 
It triggers you awake and then you stay awake?
 
I stay awake for a couple of hours.
 
And is that whether you are here or wherever you stay?
 
Wherever.
 
It is always the same. And do you know how long you have been following that pattern. Getting up to go to the loo in the night?
 
What going to the toilet? That must be I should think for the last couple of years.
 
I find if I have a cup of tea about 7, 8 o’clock then I know I am going to get up in the night, but sometimes I, like last night I didn’t get up because I didn’t have a cup of tea. My last cup of tea was about, I don't know, half past five, six o’clock and that is all I drink. I don’t drink coffee. I don’t drink.
 
Alcohol?
 
No. I only drink tea, quite boring really! 
 

Normally Val listens to her radio when she can’t sleep, but has to find different things to...

Normally Val listens to her radio when she can’t sleep, but has to find different things to...

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How do you sleep when you are away, if you stay in London or…?
 
No different than in my home.
 
Exactly the same. So you go to bed and toss and turn?
 
Then I miss the radio.
 
What do you do instead?
 
I just get up. If I am in a hotel, because we went over to Las Vegas in November and I just got up and went down and played on the machines. So 3 o’clock in the morning I am down playing the machines.
 
You still got up in the morning?
 
But I still got up at 6 o’clock.
 
And carried on as normal?
 
hm.
 
There aren’t many things you can do in the night?
 
Well it depends doesn't it, because if I go to London, which I do go up to my son and daughter-in-law a lot. I don’t… because they have got an alarm and if you go downstairs, and I always forget the number to press… so I don’t go downstairs when I am up there but I read. I just sit up and read and I read for a couple of hours and then I will drift off. 
 

Val sees sleep as being necessary and achieves the sleep she needs to cope with the day, but is...

Val sees sleep as being necessary and achieves the sleep she needs to cope with the day, but is...

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If you could take a pill to stop sleep completely would you do that? Do you get anything out of sleep?
 
I don’t know. I have never thought of that.
 
I am just wondering what your relationship with sleep now is, do you see it as an enemy or a friend or is it something you like to happen?
 
I think it is something that is normal that you should… No I haven’t looked on it as if it is an enemy or a friend. Something that is a normal thing isn’t it for you to go to bed and sleep. We all need sleep, but some people need more than others and I am wondering, I don’t know, do I need the sleep, do I need as much sleep as I needed in my younger days. I don’t know the answer.
 
No, but if you could go without it completely would you opt to do that?
 
Well I don’t know really.
 
It is a hard one to answer, some people go yes, yes, I really do, others go no, because it can be a pleasurable but it can also turn round to be the other way. It makes me feel ill, but if you can still do what you need to do during the day?
 
Yes, I get what I need to do during the day. I think if I had children, it would be a different answer wouldn’t it, but it is just me and my husband here and all my animals. But no, I do what I need to do, I think I, the only time I get, not angry, that is a strong word, but I get annoyed to think that at 7 o’clock I am tired, and then I think if I had slept last night I would have been okay, you know. 
 

Val avoids going to the doctor or taking medication for any reason, and would have to be very ill...

Val avoids going to the doctor or taking medication for any reason, and would have to be very ill...

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Have you been to the doctor about it?
 
No.
 
Why is that. Do you mind me asking?
 
For me to go to a doctor I have to be dying. I don’t believe in taking medication, tablets. I am very stubborn. I come from a long line of very healthy and lucky people. My parents, my granddad, my uncles, great uncles all lived [a long time]. My two great uncles never had a doctor.
 

Val slept very badly when she was running a care company because of the worry and concerns for...

Val slept very badly when she was running a care company because of the worry and concerns for...

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What did you start waking up in the night or …just not being able to get to sleep or both?
 
Waking up. Being sick. I used to be sick. Every night.
 
Oh goodness. What wake up and feel sick and be sick. Is that the stress?
 
The stress. It was a very stressful situation and because of the responsibility. It is the responsibility isn’t it. You are responsible for so many vulnerable people and I took it personally. Where I might have got carers going out, but before I went to bed, I rang every one of them to make sure they are working, their car hasn’t broken down.
 
I think it started, obviously with children you have got to be up a bit… no I slept well. I always slept well.
 
So growing up you slept well and prior to having children you slept well?
 
It is the care company I think. That is when it started. And that was because the, as I said before I needed to know that everything was in place before I went to bed, and I am wondering if that… although I am not doing it now, I don’t have to do it now, I am wondering if it is a habit, but I don’t know. 
 

Val’s sleeping problems started when she was running a care company for older people. She worried...

Val’s sleeping problems started when she was running a care company for older people. She worried...

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I think it was just as I went into the care that it really started to go wrong.
 
So you noticed a change in your sleep then?
 
Yes.
 
And was it a gradual change?
 
Yes.
 
What did you start waking up in the night or …just not being able to get to sleep or both?
 
Waking up. Being sick. I used to be sick. Every night.
 
Oh goodness. What wake up and feel sick and be sick. Is that the stress?
 
The stress. It was a very stressful situation and because of the responsibility. It is the responsibility isn’t it. You are responsible for so many vulnerable people and I took it personally. Where I might have got carer’s going out, but before I went to bed, I rang every one of them to make sure they are working, their car hasn’t broken down.
 
So I wonder how many services do that now?
 
Not enough. So that really was, I believe, the main cause of me not sleeping to start with.
 
So did you think once you sold the business that everything would revert back?
 
I believed it would be. But it is not. 
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