One of my symptoms with Dysautonomia was major insomnia. I went weeks without hardly any sleep at all. I was miserable and desperate, so my doctor prescribed different Benzodiazepines to help. (At different times of course.) I tried Ativan, Xanax, and finally Klonopin. For me, Klonopin seemed to be the only one that helped. I’m finally starting to wean off of it after a month, thankfully (you don’t want to take these drugs for too long if you don’t have to) because my sleeping patterns are getting better. I still struggle from time to time but I’m learning to manage through it. Let me tell you, insomnia is one of the most miserable things to suffer from when you have an illness that makes you tired all the time! It’s like you’re so beyond exhausted you can’t sleep and physically, you have terrible and weird symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle – one bad night’s sleep leads to a rough day, and then worrying about not getting sleep the next night – and the worrying keeps you up again… and the cycle continues. So, as someone who has suffered from insomnia for many years, I want to give all you other “walking zombies” out there some advice so you can get some sleep, and not go psychotic!
TIPS FOR CURING INSOMNIA:
- Have a regular sleep schedule – I can’t stress this enough. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This has worked wonders for me.
- Do something active during the day, even if you don’t feel like it. Getting yourself naturally tired from exercise and activity can really help you sleep better. Just don’t do it right before bed.
- Avoid heavy meals before sleeping. Try to wait about 3 hours afterwards.
- If pain is keeping you up, try some over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve.
- Avoid caffeine, tea, high-sugar products, and any other stimulants after mid-day.
- Do something relaxing before bed – things that have worked for me include: reading, journaling, drawing, prayer, a warm bath/shower, a massage, stretching, and breathing exercises. Try a few and see what works for you. You want to have your mind focused on something light while keeping your muscles relaxed. If you maintain the same routine every night, you will “teach” your body that it’s time to sleep.
- Avoid daytime napping if you can – it can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at night.
- Examine your sleep surroundings – the best way to sleep, according to experts, is in a cool, quiet, and dark place. Lights stimulate your brain, so keep things as dark as possible.
- Make sure you’re comfortable – you have the right amount of pillows, blankets, the right room temperature, etc.
- Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that has many purposes, one of them being controlling the sleep/wake cycles. You can naturally raise your serotonin levels by using some of the techniques found here at WAYS TO RAISE YOUR SEROTONIN LEVELS NATURALLY.
- Watching TV or being on the computer can actually stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep, so avoid these activities right before going to bed.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes or so, don’t just lay there and wait. Get up and do some light, relaxing activity (like those mentioned before) and try again. Try, try, try again.
- Counting sheep? Not a bad idea. As you’re lying in bed – do some different “mind tricks”. For example: counting to or from 100, saying the alphabet backwards, or thinking of something you’ve memorized and recite it back to yourself.
- If you struggle from feeling restless – try to stay in the same position for 100 seconds, counting to yourself, and resisting the urge to move. I’ve fallen asleep many times using this technique.
- If you have a racing mind (like me) and it just won’t stop, you probably can’t sleep due to stress – try your best to reduce the stress in your life. Figure out what’s causing it and get some help if you feel that it is out-of-control. Cognitive behavior therapy is very effective for insomniacs and so is self-talk. You can learn some of these techniques by clicking: CBT FOR INSOMNIA.
- Also for the mind, I use a box fan. It’s simple, but the constant and calming noise helps me sleep a lot. There are also audio sleep CD’s you can by that have relaxing music or calming pulses that are said to help trigger your brain waves for sleep. These are good ideas for the racing thoughts that keep you awake.
- If you haven’t struggle from insomnia before, check with your doctor or pharmacist about your current medications – insomnia can be a side effect of certain prescribed drugs.
- Most of all – QUIT WORRYING about how much sleep you’ll get, how you’re going to feel the next day, the next night, etc. Actually, the human body can function normally on as little as 5 hours of sleep. Don’t sweat it too much if you don’t get the recommended 8 hours every night. And even if you feel just absolutely terrible the next day (which I have many times and I know how bad it is, really) just know that you WILL get through it and sooner or later your body will have to sleep and it will just give in. The misery won’t last forever. It truly is amazing how much your brain can be “conditioned” to respond a certain way, and how much control you have over balancing things out.
If none of the above natural methods help you, talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe you some sleep medications or recommend over-the-counter products that may help. And it’s okay to take something for a while – to “get over the hump”. I did. Others have. Going without sleep can severely interrupt your life, make you feel horrible, and be dangerous for your health and safety. Sleep is essential to feeling physically well, helping your symptoms, overcoming your illness, and improving your mood and mental well-being. Don’t suffer more than you have to. Get the help you deserve.
NOTE: If you’re like me and have read all the horror stories about Benzodiazepines or other sleep medications and this or that – stop!!! Those sorts of terrible things don’t normally happen. And thinking about it and worrying about it will just make you feel worse. Of course, any controlled substance-type drug you take must be done as directed by your doctor and taken with caution. And if you want to get off it, it’s totally do-able. (DON’T ever quit cold-turkey!) Just take it slow and wean yourself according to your doctor’s prescriptions and advice. It’s not that bad.