Yes, me too.
I've struggled with chronic insomnia for almost 20 years. For the past eight, I've been taking medication under a doctor's care. I've tried several different kinds with varying degrees of success, and have tried a couple of times to wean myself off of them, without success. About a month ago, I stopped taking medication again because the particular drug I was taking seemed to be losing its effectiveness. It was beginning to take a couple of hours to fall asleep some nights even with medication.
Now, without medication, it takes me about two to three hours to fall asleep most nights. Maybe one night a week, I will get a break, and fall asleep within an hour.
That's a lot better than about 10 years ago, when I would be awake until around 5 a.m. four or five nights a week.
I really want to find a way to sleep well without medication. Believe me, if I could find something without side effects that worked, I'd be all for it. You get so you're willing to do anything just to sleep. Hey, I'd even
give up be tempted to give up state secrets to the enemy if they were torturing me with sleep deprivation. Oh, who I am kidding? I'd spill the beans after only a few nights without sleep.
My problem with insomnia has to do with not being able to quiet an overactive, over-thinking, over-stimulated brain. I've tried relaxation techniques. And sometimes even when I'm not thinking about anything, I can still feel the motor deep inside revved up. It's difficult to know how much is anxiety/over-stimulation and how much of this is biochemical (and to be honest, I don't even know what that means -- I'm not even sure a lot of doctors understand it). I do know that insomnia can feed on itself, and create even more insomnia, something my doctor calls PTSD -- post-traumatic sleep disorder. Not an "official" disorder, just something he's noticed, and I've experienced -- a fear of not sleeping brought on by years of insomnia that can be debilitating and self-perpetuating.
If you have struggled with insomnia, you know the frustration. You get into bed, and instantly think, oh no, what if I can't sleep? Oh no, what if I'm up all night? You try to tell yourself it's okay. You try to relax. You pray. You try to get comfortable. But then it starts. The tossing and the turning. The fluffing of the pillow. You try to quiet yourself and clear your mind. But then your heart starts pounding. You try to go to your happy place. You give yourself over to the Lord's keeping. You toss and turn some more. You give up and just let yourself think about whatever it is that's on your mind, from real worries to innocuous things like what you'll make for dinner tomorrow. You look at the clock. Two hours have passed. You lay there, physically and mentally exhausted and worn out, but still unable to switch off. Another hour passes. Sound like torture? It can be.
Unfortunately, insomnia is not well understood. Even though 60 million Americans struggle with some form of insomnia, doctors don't always know how to help. And it can create other problems, including susceptibility to worsening depression and diabetes.
I use a lot of strategies to help myself. Most are recommendations you can find doing an internet search; others are ones I've discovered myself. Here are a few you might try:
- Avoid naps during the day. I have to admit, sometimes I am just so tired I can't help it, but it really will affect your night time sleep. Last week I took a nap, and couldn't fall asleep that night until 4:30 a.m.
- Avoid caffeine after lunch. I try to keep my coffee intake to two cups in the morning, and drink decaf and herbal tea in the afternoon and evening. Even decaf contains some caffeine, so this may be something I need to address.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. I go to bed about 11:30 p.m., and (try) to get up at 7:30 a.m. I'm trying to get my husband to go to bed with me earlier (about 10 p.m.). I have to go to bed at the same time as he does; having different sleep times is too disruptive for me.
- Don't eat sugary snacks at night. If I'm really hungry, I have a little protein before bed, like a cheese stick. When I was losing weight I would be hungry every night at bed time. It's better not to be.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Wear socks to bed. The extra warmth really helps. I also avoid wearing anything on the bottom half of my body (besides the socks) unless it's really cold. Getting tangled up in nightgowns and pajama bottoms is frustrating to a restless sleeper. I just wear a warm top or even a sweatshirt in the winter. Oh, and top off the "look" with a sleep mask. It takes a few nights to get used to it, but it really can help.
- Don't use the computer after dinner. Okay, this is a big challenge, and one habit I've just implemented since going off medication. There's something about the lights, and for me, all the information stimulation. This has been difficult, as I do a lot of my blog visiting in the evening while my husband watches news and sports. I'm trying to do really calming activities like knitting and reading (nothing too exciting) and even coloring if I find myself worked up about something.
- Avoid anything too stimulating, exciting, interesting, thought-provoking, worrisome, anxiety-producing . . . yeah, right. Life happens, and I can't avoid it all, nor do I want to. But I do try not to watch the news late at night or get into conversations or read information that may be overly stimulating.
Okay, so these common-sense recommendations aren't resolving the problem for me. I'm scheduled now to go in to a clinic and get a "map" of my brain wave activity. This treatment involves some kind of bio-feedback. I'm praying for a miracle here. I may sign up for an online CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) program. I'll go do a sleep study maybe.
|That first one? Difficulty going to sleep? I'll give that a 10.|
Years ago, I felt I just had to struggle through with depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. Not anymore. If one thing doesn't work, I'll try another. I would recommend you get help, too, if you're struggling. A good night's rest is such a blessing.
Linking to No Place Like Home.
Linking to No Place Like Home.