It should be no surprise to any blog reader that I struggle with insomnia. I have for years. Even as a child I remember sitting up late at night wondering about things and staring at the wall. High school and college were plagued with insomnia and even on my mission when I was tired all the time I sometimes struggled to fall asleep. (My mission was the only time in my life I’ve successfully taken naps but I still sometimes sat up for a half hour to hour trying to wind down from the crazy days).
Well, I’ve recently had a few breakthroughs in my treatment. I have been seeing an insomnia specialist that is a psychiatrist not an MD. She can not prescribe medications but works with you to collect data on your sleep and change patterns. I have been meeting with her for about a month and a half and already noticed some interesting trends:
1. I find it very difficult to sleep without having eaten and not just a snack. Preferably something sweet seems to be helpful. I’m not sure if this is the blood sugar that makes me tired or if it is something psychological but it’s certainly fascinating. The doctor asked me if food gives me anxiety and at first I said NO! I hate that fat person cliche that we are always crying into a pan of brownies, not true! Still, I had to admit that the whole process of losing weight and food management does give me some anxiety (which is a different question than does it make me emotional). It made me think of being a fat little girl who was bullied and I wonder if that anxiety made me a child insomniac?
2. I typically went to sleep around 2 am and woke up between 7 and 8. We are trying to train my brain to sleep when I tell it to go to sleep so we’ve been forcing myself to stay up until 2 and wake up at 7:30. It’s been hard but I think it is actually working. I find myself getting tired earlier than last month. Maybe it is just my rebellious nature? Can’t be told what to do even by myself!
3. My doctor ordered me to not have blue light electronics (tv, ipod, phone, computer, etc) an hour before I went to bed. I was skeptical but I must admit it seems to be helping me feel more tired. Part of it is I have just been getting bored. I can read for a little while but I’ve had a hard time thinking of anything else I could do for that hour but sleep and listen to an audiobook. I’m not going to say the problem is so easily solved but I’m encouraged by the progress in the last week.
4. There are a lot of insomnia myths out there that don’t seem to make much of a difference for me. For instance, the not eating after 8 pm rule clearly does not work for me (see rule #1). Eating spicy food and even caffeine in the afternoon doesn’t seem to affect when I go to sleep. I also can’t take a bath or shower. Nothing will wake me up faster than that. Sometimes I can’t even wash my face or brush my teeth (don’t worry do it in the morning) because the water (and peppermint) will wake me up.
5. Still incredibly sensitive to light, sound and any other stimulus. Can’t wait to move into my new house away from the pond and tree where I can customize my curtains and get the ultimate perfect sleep! It is my dream to have everything like at the hotel rooms I’ve stayed at. When I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Folsom I slept for 12 hours! That’s the difference a controlled sleep environment makes for me, more than double my normal sleep!
6. Go to bed only when you are sleepy. This I learned from my regular sleep doctor but its been reinforced the last few weeks. Never try to get yourself to sleep for more than 20 minutes. If you can’t sleep get up do something and then when you feel tired try again. When I think of that horrible incident in February where I couldn’t sleep for over 2 days a lot of it might have been solved if I had just stopped trying and done other things (although my brain was so worked up then I don’t know if that’s the case)
So, I think that’s a lot to learn in such a short period of time. I’m grateful for good doctors while they last and soaking up all the knowledge I can. My endocrinologist decided to not do the pay for practice so I have lost him… 😦 I don’t know what I’m going to do. Makes me weary just thinking about it- maybe that’s the cure for insomnia, think about finding a doctor!
I know many of you struggle with insomnia and I’d encourage you to keep a detailed sleep log and try different strategies, even if they seem counter-intuitive (like eating before bed) and see what works. I’d be curious to hear your findings and how they match up with mine.
Btw, the name of my doctor is Dr. Lori Neeleman and she is such an easy person to talk to, so insightful. I really like her.