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Old 27-06-2017, 06:37   #1
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Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Has anyone else out there had trouble sleeping aboard? My boyfriend and I bought the boat this winter and put it on Lake Champlain in June on a mooring. It feels incredible to finally have made the move towards living aboard, but now I'm finding it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. We have a cozy V-berth, and the mooring field is in a pretty well protected bay- still gets a bit choppy when the wind picks up.

I lie awake for hours- usually from about 11 pm when we climb into the berth until probably sometime after 2 or 3 am I'm wide awake. Then I catch a couple hours from then until about 6 or 7 am when it gets light out.

I think it's a mix of newbie anxiety (are we going to sink? Is that a bad noise? Do I need to check that splashing sound?) and the surprisingly loud sounds that are going on all around me throughout the night that are making it hard for me to fall asleep. Last night I experienced my first Thunderstorm aboard, which didn't help things...

Any advice? Have other people experienced this and got over it?
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:16   #2
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

If it is motion you might try sleeping on the settee. Can't help you with noise or anxiety.

I sleep better aboard than anywhere else.
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:26   #3
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Don't use chemical solutions.

Rise before dawn, then get a lot more physical activity during the day, right to dusk, so you're bone-tired exhausted when you finally hit the sack.

Then another good session of horizontal dancing with your boyfriend, brought to successful conclusion, at least twice.

Also all the standard advice, avoid caffeine completely, soft soothing music, no screen time after sunset etc etc.

Hey even if it doesn't help the sleeping keep it up a few months you'll see radical improvements in all the other parts of your life 8-)
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:40   #4
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

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Originally Posted by Swwly View Post
Any advice? Have other people experienced this and got over it?
You'll get over it?

Actually sleep patterns are so unique its really hard to say. I'm usually a particularly sound sleeper. When we first moved aboard I was kept awake by wave slap on the stern (we have an aft cabin), slapping halyards, high winds, the boom creaking, the fridge cycling on, our freshwater pump going off intermittently, other boaters etc. A year later I still couldn't sleep through the wave slap on the stern or the outhaul slapping on the boom, but everything else had faded in to the background. This year when we were back aboard after a year's hiatus I realized after one particularly loud night that I now found the wave slap comforting...even soothing.

I think its all down to anxiety of one sort or another. Are you trapped against the hull in your berth? Try switching positions or, as was mentioned, sleep in the salon or even the cockpit every once in a while. My subconscious is sensitive to feeling trapped and really need to be able to spring up and pop my head out the hatch—even if I rarely do it any more. A lot of people eschew the vberth for the roomier salon table made into a berth.

We also have small handheld LED lights we can use to push back the dark without bothering the other person and this year our backlit ebooks were an awesome addition for dealing with bouts of sleeplessness.

And don't forget your favorite security blanket/bear—everyone needs a mascot. Seriously, when we bought our boat one of the biggest considerations was the sleeping conditions. We'd had too many charters with tiny aft cabins or vberths where getting in and out was a feat of acrobatics and we were anxious at every sound but didnt want to disturb the other person getting up. A lot of people here in the forums aren't very big on comfort at night but if I get a crap sleep then I have a crap day. And it doesn't take too many of those cycles before I want to give up and hit a hotel.

I hope it gets better for you; nothing is more frustrating than a lack of sleep.
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:47   #5
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Just anxiety. I sleep GREAT in the V berth- far better than at home. The slosh of water and breeze down the hatch puts me into a sound sleep.

Examine your worries in a real light. The boat isn't going to suddenly sink. Even if it were to leak somehow and start to fill with water, you obviously have a dingy since you're on a mooring. And if, in a rare chance, the boat breaks free of the mooring and is pushed ashore, no big deal- you step ashore. You're safe.

A couple years ago a newbie was afraid of hitting a shoal and sinking with the family and I told him this: (1) the boat is insured (2) it's still only worth a bit more than a Honda Accord and you don't fret about that (3) if you hit a rock you're close enough to shore to wade in. After that he was all good.

Here's a great hint for the (hopefully) upcoming steaming hot nights: (1) around sunset wash the deck down with lake water to cool the deck which will cool the interior (2) before you go to bed take a good, long dip in the lake to cool your core temperature and you'll be able to fall asleep. Make sure you're watching each other in case you and the boat drift apart.

I assume you have screens against mosquitos and don't close the hatches and board up the companionway. If you don't, get them. Also a cloth or tarp or something to cover the forward hatch in case there's a rain so you can keep the hatch open to get the breeze.

Virtually everything gets old after a while. Once you are accustomed to the wind, water, and noises your brain will screen them out and you'll sleep just fine.
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:50   #6
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Swwly, I think what you are experiencing is completely normal. Sleeping on board is a new situation for you. The noises and the motion are new. Be assured you will get used to them. As you become more experienced you will naturally filter out the " normal" noises and be alerted by the ones you need to address. Most experienced sailors are awakened by changes in their boats motion or by unusual noises. That is a good thing that helps them stay safe.

For now, try not to add anxiety about your natural and normal awareness of all the wonderful new to you experience of life afloat.
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Old 27-06-2017, 07:53   #7
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Happened to me as well when I first moved on. Combination of new noises/motion and anxiety. I think the anxiety was the greatest factor.
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Old 27-06-2017, 08:10   #8
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

I agree with Tayana and the others. This sounds pretty normal and you should get over it in time. We now sleep much better aboard than at home.
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Old 27-06-2017, 08:24   #9
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Even though I sleep soundly ashore, I sleep most nights in what I call twilight when
I am aboard. Mostly at anchor so one become tuned in to nuances of the motion/
sounds around you. ...and this is after many years.
Going back when first sleeping aboard I was chasing all kinds of demons in the dark,
it will take time. Talk to cruisers who have had fish/shrimp pecking on their hull
the first time in the middle of the night.
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Old 27-06-2017, 08:52   #10
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

It's really no different then when a person that lives in the city moves out to the country and they can't sleep because the crickets are too loud. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, its just going to take time. I "grew up" on our family sail boat so to me it's like rocking in a cradle.

My first suggestion is an adult beverage or 2 to calm the nerves but if that isn't your style then try reading a boring book, that usually has me out in just a few short pages.

Good luck and just give it time. Your body will adjust before you know it.
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Old 27-06-2017, 09:57   #11
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

For noise, try some soft foam ear plugs. They don't block out everything, so you'll wake up if someone calls your name, or were there to be an emergency. But they help filter out the background noise.
I often use them when crewing, or skippering, when I'm off watch. Coupled with pulling my hat over my face, cowboy style. It's a mental que to me, & to others, that I'm going to sleep, & not to bother me but for emergencies or special events: like a pod of dolphins swimming with us for instance.

Another tip is to practice good sleep hygiene. And needs be, adopt or create a few rituals for going to bed that you follow both ashore, & afloat, so that you condition yourself to fall asleep by doing them.

An old GF who was an MD that traveled a lot, carried a bottle of scented oil which she put on her pillow wherever she was, so that the bed seemed more like "home" to her on a primal, sensory level. Even when she was way out in the midst of nowhere, in a 3rd world country.
And there are other things akin to this which you can do as well. Such as my "hat trick" above, which in cooler weather I shift to putting on a wool watch cap in bed ONLY when it's time to go to sleep, not for lounge mode. So that it's a que to my subconscious/unconscious that it's time to turn off "the world", & saw some logs.

Also, sometimes just pulling out a notebook/journal, & headlamp, & writing down what's bothering you/keeping you from sleeping helps. That, & or, denoting all of the things that you can see, hear, smell, feel at that moment. And what they make you think of, & emotions that they trigger.

Or for me, instead of focusing on sleeping/insomnia in my mind, I'll use the old trick of building something, piece by piece, in my mind. Usually a boat, starting with her shell or keel, including choosing which materials & why. But I visualize the best way to construct it, & in what order, etc. And more often than not, it helps me to nod off. Plus it later helps me when it's time to do little projects for the boat, or to build/make a gift by hand for someone. Things which are almost always universally well received.

I also use the "trick" of practicing/regulating my breathing, & focusing on making it deep, even, & regular. Which actually seems to work the best of anything. Especially when coupled with my thinking through the fact that I've dealt with this situation before, & everything's worked out fine. IE; talking myself through my anxieties of the moment, in my mind, while simultaneously focusing on my breathing. As in addition to the physiological calming that it imparts, it doesn't leave your mind much room to focus on what may be bothering you.

And of course there's the thought (for me) of "what could be better"; snuggled up with my sweetie, in/on our own private island, secure in an anchorage, with the rain falling on the deck 3' above our heads.
A lot of people would be quite envious of such, rightfully so, given what sleeping in the city is like, so I revel in it. It's one of my favorite things of all time.

PS: Yes, thunder & wind is mostly noise, but it can spook anyone. Rightfully so, if you consider that on the primal level, even now in modern times, such can represent a (mild/moderate) threat to the security of one's shelter/roof. Thus if it rattles me, I'll get up & check the boat's lines, etc. Maybe make a cup of chamomile (sp?) tea with some honey, & then go back to bed.
Or I'll tune the VHF to the weather frequency & listen to the predictions for a few moments. Since as a kid that was always something comforting to hear when onboard. Whether trying to sleep, or just if a thunderstorm had me spooked.

You can also share stories with your partner, from childhood, or other times that stick in your mind & are special to you, which they don't know about. The shared intimacy, & sensation of being in a safe, private "bubble" aids in unwinding enough to doze off & sleep soundly.

HTH
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Old 27-06-2017, 10:21   #12
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

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Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post

You can also share stories with your partner, from childhood, or other times that stick in your mind & are special to you, which they don't know about. The shared intimacy, & sensation of being in a safe, private "bubble" aids in unwinding enough to doze off & sleep soundly.

HTH

Good lord, I'm glad I don't need that to fall asleep! By the end of the day on the boat I have to force myself to brush teeth before face planting into the berth! Last weekend I awoke at 3am to water pouring on my face from a thunderstorm, then had to spend 20 minutes cleaning up the water that had been raining in through the companionway for five minutes while I was blissfully unaware.
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Old 27-06-2017, 11:16   #13
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

Me too, I've fallen asleep lying on a trailer full of firewood being pulled by a tractor across the hayfields
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Old 27-06-2017, 18:03   #14
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

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Originally Posted by Swwly View Post
Has anyone else out there had trouble sleeping aboard? My boyfriend and I bought the boat this winter and put it on Lake Champlain in June on a mooring. It feels incredible to finally have made the move towards living aboard, but now I'm finding it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. We have a cozy V-berth, and the mooring field is in a pretty well protected bay- still gets a bit choppy when the wind picks up.

I lie awake for hours- usually from about 11 pm when we climb into the berth until probably sometime after 2 or 3 am I'm wide awake. Then I catch a couple hours from then until about 6 or 7 am when it gets light out.

I think it's a mix of newbie anxiety (are we going to sink? Is that a bad noise? Do I need to check that splashing sound?) and the surprisingly loud sounds that are going on all around me throughout the night that are making it hard for me to fall asleep. Last night I experienced my first Thunderstorm aboard, which didn't help things...

Any advice? Have other people experienced this and got over it?
I sleep far better on-board than on-land. I like the movement, the warm breeze and gentle sounds, but actually the noise can be a problem. I use earplugs. A two stroke fisherman's engine at 4:30 am or a rattle from rigging. 3M FX are the best earplugs I have tried. Don't bother with the cheaper ones.

You've got to kill the anxiety. I've got a life raft/dinghy, I am insured, It's a good price for peace of mind. So what if I sink... You do your best and you almost certainly won't. Chill.

I'm here right now anchored between two coral reefs in 20kts of wind with the possibility of night squalls. I could drag and sink. I don't worry about it, not a bit.
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Old 27-06-2017, 18:11   #15
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Re: Trouble Sleeping Aboard

When we brought our boat up to Vancouver Island from San Francisco last summer, my son always had headphones listening to podcasts. He asked why I didn't do the same to listen to "my" music, which, of course, would drive him insane if we used the speakers!!!

I explained that it was "absolutely necessary" for me to hear EVERYTHING that went on in the boat, whether underway, at the dock or at anchor. We've had this boat for 18 years and I know every single creak and what it means.

With earphones I couldn't hear a damn thing. Which would be BAD NEWS if anything did change. I know what some "different" noses are and can explain the repairs required without even going to look. My coupler used to throw bolts and when a certain noise changed I knew it was just that. Note: since resolved.

The ONLY time I wanted to have earplugs was when the wires inside the mast started slapping. How the PO lived with that for 12 years is beyond me - maybe they never stayed on board overnight. I learned that the OEM wiring in the mast was NOT put into the OEM conduit. Immediately fixed that one!!! Almost as much fun as clanging halyards, but don't let us get started on THAT nonsense.

Learn the noises YOUR boat makes, learn which ones are NORMAL so that you can HEAR when something is "off" and then deal with it.

Then relax, 'cuz most of the noises are soothing and relaxing.

Good luck.
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