(Artwork by Kelly Watts 2013)
I am laughing-my-abs-off right now! I am really laughing at myself because I am laying beside my husband (whom I forced to have a nap) and I am getting mad at him inside my head because he is snoring and my eyes are wide open staring at the ceiling! How come I am mad at him that his body is able to sleep and mine is not? That's crazy talk right?
When I was a little kid I would sneak off to hide from my family to my bedroom closet where my chair awaited me. You would think I was planning to go to an imaginable world filled with fantastical creatures... but no... I was going there to sleep. I used to be a sleeper, able to fall asleep in the blink of an eye, or the closing of them. Aaaahhh... I miss those days.
When I got pregnant with my first child that blissful sleep alluded me. I thought, that's okay, I've read about this in all the baby books - it means my body is preparing me for when the baby comes into the world... right? Almost nineteen years later I have one question... Is my body still preparing me because... ya... um... my Baby is almost 18 years old and I'm still not sleeping!!! What's up with that?
What does it mean, sleep disorder? Well, according to Wikipedia...
Disruptions in sleep can be caused by a variety of issues, from teeth grinding (bruxism) to night terrors. When a person suffers from difficulty in sleeping with no obvious cause, it is referred to as insomnia. In addition, sleep disorders may also cause sufferers to sleep excessively, a condition known as hypersomnia. Management of sleep disturbances that are secondary to mental, medical, or substance abuse disorders should focus on the underlying conditions.
According to me... it is obviously not being able to fall asleep for hours and hours, having thousands of thoughts racing around my head making it very difficult for my brain to allow me to sleep; and it is also, not being able to stay asleep but waking up many times throughout the night for numerous reasons.
Sometimes it is due to the pain I experience with Fibromyalgia; other times it is because I have become such a light sleeper that the faintest sound awakes me (even when I wear earplugs) and other times it is because I simply toss and turn and cannot get to sleep!
I was not made for this, as I said before, I used to be a sleeper! It's so not fair!!! I could go on complaining or I could do everything I can possibly do to help my body sleep!
So... out comes the research on sleep. What have I learned?
Sometimes you can control things and sometimes you can't... sometimes your body is able to make changes to help you... and again, sometimes it is not able to.
What do I mean by that?
I was involved with the Chronic Pain Clinic in my City and I enrolled in the "Sleep Disorder" class thinking 'okay, I can do this! Maybe it will help me...'
I went with full intentions of getting help, I was psyched! First day in class they ask me to record every time I wake up in a sleep journal! Right there, my thoughts scream out to me, "What? How can I do that? If I wake up enough to write something down then I won't fall back to sleep!" Then they wanted me to add up my sleep time separately from the time that I am laying in bed, then divide that time by the over all time... and blah, blah, blah (I am hearing the Charlie Brown teacher at this moment). They loaded me down with all these numbers and expected me to do math and this was supposed to help me? I could barely think my head was so foggy!
This was the wrong time to go to a 'sleeping' class! For one thing I was still trying to find medicine to help me with the FM pain and my head was foggy and just crazy and my body was adjusting and well it was just the wrong time. There was NO way that I could put into practice anything I learned from this group at that time, NO WAY.
I LEARNED that I have to try and get help when my body is not dealing with all these other things that are out of my control.
Now, I am off all the crazy pain pills they put me on and consequently I had to wean off of due to the awful side effects (but that's another story for another time)... and I am ready to put into practice some of the strategies taught during the class and other research I have done on my own.
1. The BEDROOM should be for sleeping and/or "intimate time with your spouse" only. Do not read in bed, do not watch tv in bed, do not draw in bed, do not crochet in bed... Use your bedroom as your bedroom, not your entertainment room.
(This is just what I have learned and I am now passing on to you...
it does NOT mean that I have put it into practice *insert embarrassed
face here - but I am trying and that is what counts right?)
2. Place a journal and a pen beside your bed. Before shutting off the light (because it's really difficult to write in the dark unless you have a glow in the dark pen)... write down every thought that goes through your head for five minutes! Seriously! It works!
(This particularily works if you are known as a "Worrier"! I do not
know why we do this when God is in control and we CLEARLY are
3. Before going to bed create a night time routine that will prepare your body for sleep (for example... heat up a small glass of milk and listen to some soft relaxing music for 10-15 minutes. Brush your teeth and wash your face and do whatever other night time grooming things you need to do. Get changed into comfortable sleepwear. Make certain that you have all the bases covered according to the weather and time of year (for example: in the summer - make sure that you are not going to be too hot, turn on a fan, use an ice pack to cool you down on particularily hot days; in the winter - make sure that your are not going to be too cold, place an extra blanket on the bed, turn on the mattress pad heater, lotion your skin that could be extra sensitive due to the cold weather so that you do not get irritated during the night) Have a glass of water beside the bed so that you do not have to get up out of bed if you become thirsty.
4. Do not drink any liquids after 4pm if possible. This will help you to not have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (especially important for those of you with small bladders).
5. A sleep journal can be useful to track your sleep time and the time you spend in your bed. Why is this important? Well, from what I have learned it helps you to recognize patterns in your sleep (for example - it will show you when you sleep for only an hour and you are awake in your bed for one and a half hours later). At the clinic, they taught me that if I wake up in the night I should not stay in bed awake longer than 15 minutes. Once it comes to 15 minutes and I do not think I will immediately fall asleep I should get out of bed and wait until I am sleepy enough to actually sleep. This trains your body to sleep when you are in bed and not be wide awake.
6. Regardless of how many hours you have slept you should try to get up around the same time every morning.
(Once again, I am just putting it out there... this has been a
very difficult step for me, one to which I have yet to conquer
because my sleep is so up and down all the time - but I hope
to get here one day soon:)
These are just a few strategies I have picked up a long the way, I am not saying that they are perfect, that they all work or that I have perfected any of them. I am not a Doctor and do not claim to be one, I am just passing along the information so maybe it can help one of my fellow "Lack-of-sleepers".
I personally, at this moment, am on three medications to help me sleep. One helps me to fall asleep, one helps me calm my racing thoughts down and the other, which is a natural vitamin, helps me to stay asleep longer. I suggest you talk to your Doctor to help you find the right medication should you choose this path.
I pray and hope you find this information helpful. If you want to share what has worked for you please leave a comment and I can send you my email address if you choose to share your story.
Many hugs and blessings to you.