www.Hypersmash.com Coping with insomnia

zaterdag 16 februari 2013

Coping with insomnia

I had many painful symptoms when I was suffering from Lyme disease; loss of vision, arthritis, nerve pain, etc, etc. The worst and most persistent problem was insomnia. For more than two years I battled terrible insomnia. In this post I share what worked for me in dealing with it and overcoming it.

Initially my sleep problems were due to pain. I was having bouts of nerve or bone pain every couple of minutes and these were so severe that there was no possibility of sleeping through them. The first month of so after I started antibiotic treatment was the worst. There were some nights when I didn't sleep at all. Not a minute. There were a lot of nights when I was getting by on 20 minutes sleep a night. For a month or so I never got more than 2 hours sleep in a night.

My coping mechanism at that stage was all about survival. I was on a whole smorgasbord of pain and sleep medication. I used to watch comedy on TV in the wee hours when everyone was asleep. At that time I'd often end up on the floor in fits of laughter - laughing was a pleasant side effect of having 2000mg of Gabapentin coupled with valium :-)

Luckily this horrendous period only lasted a month or two and after that the pain diminished fast. After a few months I was able to stop completely with the pain medication. I had stopped months earlier with the sleep medication. I was, along with my doctor, concerned about the possibility for becoming dependent on it. However even though the pain had largely gone, my problems with sleeping persisted for another 18 months. I tried many, many things in that time. Here is what worked for me:

Nutrition Cutting out sugars, processed foods and alcohol and introducing more fruit and vegetables into my diet. See my other posts on nutrition for more details.

Acupuncture: I had my first acupuncture session after I'd had 6 weeks or so of almost zero sleep. I was desperate and felt on the edge of losing my sanity. The night after my first acupuncture treatment I slept almost 6 hours! Winning the lottery wouldn't have made me happier than that sleep! After that I continued acupuncture for the next 18 months often going twice per week. Generally, but not always, I slept reasonably well the night following a treatment. I had a few different acupuncture practitioners and found that the effectiveness of the treatment is very dependent on the practitioner. If it's not working for you try another practitioner. Don't give up on acupuncture straight away.

Natural sleep supplements Two that really helped me were Melatonin and Valerian. Generally I would not take these together. I found it worked best to have Melatonin each night for a few weeks and then switch to Valerian. Over time the effectiveness of them would wear off but by cycling them in this manner I could maximise their effect.

Taking it easy / minimising stress The problem for me during most of 2011 and 2012 was that insomnia was really the only problem I had. My pain was gone, my vision and hearing were OK. So I felt like I should be back at work and should be being productive. But working fulltime on 2 hours of sleep a night was just setting myself up for failure. Most days I would work but every now and again I would stay home and just take the pressure off. Initially I waited too long before taking one of these sick days but that wasn't the right option. My work and mental health were really under pressure. After a few months I started taking time off before the stress got too much. Generally one day off in 10 was enough to allow me to work effectively on the other 9 days.

Exercise It's hard to summon the willpower to exercise when you're not sleeping but for me it was vital in recovering. I built exercise into my day by cycling to and from work. I found a combination of aerobic exercise (cycling) and weight training had the most positive impact on my sleeping.

Meditation and mindfulness I did a mindfulness course and the techniques I learnt there (meditation, body scan, etc) helped. I found having the self-discipline to do these regularly was very hard particularly if I was not sleeping.

Laugh Those comedies I watched when I was at my worst were a lifesaver. Even though I wasn't sleeping the laughing and relaxation helped tremendously.

Stay positive I had some very dark times when I wondered if I would ever be able to sleep again. Especially when I had setbacks in my recovery. My recovery was not linear, sometimes I would sleep well for a few weeks and then terribly for a couple of weeks. It was hard to remain positive during those times but it was vitally important to see these setbacks as temporary.

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