Monday, May 18, 2009
Insomnia is Crazy-Making.
(Photo from http://www.insomnias.info/3/3.htm)
I've had problems with insomnia for the past 5 years or so. It seems to go in cycles, which have been running closer together, and for longer periods. It became unbearable this past winter, but I think I now have it under control. I still don't know what causes it, although I can eliminate an immune response to gluten. I know that it is in part anxiety-driven, but not completely. The insomnia is on 2 levels- the first, that it takes forever to fall asleep, the second, that I don't stay asleep. once awake, my mind starts spinning. At its worst, I was getting 3 hours at night and unable to nap during the day. I know a lot of people struggle with insomnia, so the point of this post is to let you what I've tried- I for one am always looking for new things to try to get some rest.
Caveat: these are suggestions only! I'm not a doctor, etc etc.
- Bed Time routine- I kind of wanted to hit the people who suggested that. Really? Can you tell me which way my underwear faces, because without you I can't function! So yeah, I have a routine of turning lights off, reading magazines, no phone calls or computer, and calming down in general.
- Benadryl, Tylenol PM, etc- Don't make me laugh. These may have worked 5 years ago when this started, but they have no effect now. I've read that a tolerance can develop quickly, and they are not meant for long-term use anyway.
- Valerian Root- doesn't work for me, but I know people who swear by it.
- Catnip tea- doesn't work for me.
- Chamomile tea, SleepyTime tea- no dice.
- Melatonin- doesn't work (for me), and it's not great to take for anything more than an occasional night. I've read that it can cause a feedback loop wherein your body produces less; what you want is for your body to produce melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Magnesium- the theory is that you need adequate magnesium to absorb calcium. It didn't make me feel sleepy, but it did relax me which is still helpful.
- Sunlamp- my husband has a therapeutic sunlamp. You're supposed to sit in front of it for at least 15 minutes in the morning; it triggers melatonin production. I don't know about sleepiness, but it did make me feel a lot more energetic first thing in the morning.
- Brain waves- Booker has some CD's that you are supposed to listen to with headphones. They re-set your brain waves for relaxation, concentration, sleepiness. They made me noticeably more relaxed, but at its worst sleep was still elusive.
- Tryptophan supplements- the amino acid in your Thanksgiving turkey makes you sleepy. It actually helped once in a while.
Ok, time to get serious. I saw the doc for:
- Trazadone. I took this for over a year, during Booker's deployment. It worked, until it didn't. I went off and was sleeping okay- not great, but sleeping- until a new insomnia cycle started this January.
- Seroquel- I only took this for 2 weeks. It knocked me out but I didn't like the way it made me feel.
- Gluten intolerance- got a blood test to check for an immune response, which I don't seem to have. Have not yet investigated any other food sensitivities.
- Ambien CR- worked great the first week. Then not so well, then not hardly but still better than taking nothing. It had only been a month when I called about switching. The nurse told me that it is the strongest thing on the market, so if Ambien doesn't work, nothing will. Cheery.
- Sleep study- Apparently I have mild sleep apnea, but not enough episodes to warrant the mask. Doc told me to sleep on my side, which is something I intuitively do anyway. Nothing else was really revealed. When I asked him what I could do to sleep, he told me to keep taking the Ambien CR and to have a bedtime routine (see the first bullet.) Seriously dude? This was after I waited 2 hours in an empty waiting room, because "the doctor isn't in today, but he's on his way in now." Um, I drove an hour and a half to be here for a 1:30 appointment, for which you did not have the courtesy to consider until I've been here 2 hours?
This last insomnia cycle took about 4 months to get stabilized. I am still deeply interested in finding out what causes it- if it's anxiety-based (I believe in part, but not entirely), if it's partly physiological (not confident I got rid of the tapeworm, maybe food sensitivities?), or what. But for now:
- I take an anti-anxiety medication in the morning. This issue is both separate from and part of the insomnia. It helps, to an amazing degree.
- I take Ambien CR at night. It seems to work better now that I'm taking the other med. I still wake up a lot at night, but now I am able to fall back asleep whereas before I'd just spin my wheels. For hours.
- Climbing out of the hole means I have the energy and drive to take on positive habits that had fallen by the wayside. Exercise, cleaning the house so it's not a pit, taking general better care of myself so I have pride in my appearance, cooking meals for us, hanging out with people for fun, etc etc. All of these go into sleeping better at night, and I was not capable of any of them until I could even things out a bit.
- No alcohol, at all, ever. I don't metabolize it very well on a good day. It actually makes the insomnia worse- something about the sugar or preservatives. Now that I have some prescriptions I just don't want to mess with it at all.
- Continue to limit caffeine, which I have done from Day 1. Unfortunately it is a vicious cycle- the less you sleep, the more you need something to face your day.
If you have insomnia, I feel your pain. Maybe something I have tried might work for you.