Sep 26, 2010

sleep, and what to do when it's elusive.

morning, sunshines!

hope my fellow americans are sound asleep right now, and everybody else, well, i still haven't figured out what schedule you guys are on, but i hope this finds you well!

it's about 3:30 AM right now, and i've been up and at 'em for a while now. this is the latest i've slept in quite a few days... strange, right? weirdly enough, i've actually gotten used to it and don't really mind it too much most days (insomnia is a really common part of fibromyalgia).

because of this new habit, though, i've been trying some new techniques to help me sleep, and thought i'd share a bit. so can we talk about sleep real quick?

i'm obviously no expert, or i'd still be sleeping right now! but i have tried a battery of different methods to deal with sleeplessness, and thought maybe my experiences would help you guys navigate your own potential issues (that i pray you don't ever have!).

ambien - i tried this drug when i first got diagnosed with fibro. it was a while ago, so i'm not sure how fair my evaluation is but i do remember it not working for me, and the little bit of sleep i did get made me terribly groggy when i took it. however, one of my good friends has used it for years and he swears by it, so i think it all depends on how your body chemistry reacts with it. i don't think i had any other side effects, so i'd say if you're desperate, it's worth a shot at least.

antidepressants - there is a strong connection between insomnia and decreased serotonin levels in the brain, which is also (not shockingly) a cause of depression. while i was on Prozac for a very short while in high school for depression, i recently was prescribed a different one (Lexapro?) to manage my sleep.

i know plenty of people who have amazing results with them for both depression and sleep issues, but my body does not like these kinds of drugs! i become paranoid like someone is "watching me," my heart races, and i sweat a lot... not good! i've always come off antidepressants quickfastandinahurry.

fibromyalgia prescriptions (Cymbalta, Lyrica, etc.) - fibro and nerve issues are characterized by a problem in the same part of your brain depression is, so many medicines prescribed for fibro are also prescribed as antidepressants. i know fibro doesn't apply to most of you (praise God!), but i just wanted to let you know my opinion on these medicines. i've met and heard from many people that thrive on them and feel like the meds have given them their lives back, and i'm very grateful for that! but for me, i would consider these meds a last resort: they are incredibly hard on your body. the process to adjust to them is severe, and the side effects can be crippling. i have never felt more like a zombie than when i was on these. just my thoughts!

melatonin - this is a natural supplement often used to promote healthy sleep patterns. it helps your "body clock" establish a sleep schedule. it took me a few weeks to realize that my problem wasn't my sleep patterns, but that i couldn't stay asleep. while melatonin did help me feel sleepy at the same time each night, i would still wake up after a few short hours. if staying asleep isn't your problem, just getting asleep in the first place, i would definitely recommend melatonin! i didn't experience any side effects, other than frustration :)

5-HTP - this is the supplement i'm currently taking. i just started taking it a few days ago, so the verdict is still out, but i have high hopes for this one. 5-HTP is the herbal version of tryptophan, which promotes raised serotonin levels in the brain (my problem in the first place!). i'll let you know how it goes!

SAMe - this is the next one i might consider trying. it is commonly used to help patients with chronic pain sleep through the night. a few nights i've realized it actually was the pain responsible for waking me up, so i feel it'd be worth a try possibly. SAMe is also a natural supplement, but it's a bit pricier than most supplements so i'm trying it last (college kid!).

tequila - haha i'm just kidding, i'm not getting that desperate!


i hope my experiences help shed some light on insomnia and the methods available to you, should you need it. we all go through times of struggling to sleep, and that's normal! when you do have that random, restless night, here are some things you should try:

- concentrating on relaxing breathing. take a deep, slow breath for a count of four, then slowly release it for a count of for. repeat ten times.

- don't allow your mind to run away with itself. nighttime is the time to shut off your mind. if you can't stop it from running, keep a notepad next to your bed and jot down all your thoughts before you sleep each night so you don't lay awake trying to remember something important.

- i know i sound like your mom, but establishing a routine is crucial. if you don't regularly go to bed around the same time, your body will constantly struggle to know when to sleep. please, please, please honor your body and its sleep patterns! we're big kids now - let's be responsible if at all possible.

- do something that deeply relaxes you before bed, as well as if you wake up in the middle of the night. meditate, pray, do some gentle yoga (one of my faves), stretch, or read a calming book (no stephen king!).

- don't turn on the light if you can help it, and use a small, soft glow to read by. your computer isn't a great bet because the screen can be stimulating to your brain. bright lights tell your brain it's morning, so this applies to going to pee, too!

- if all else fails and you're still awake 30 minutes later, get up! laying in bed will only stress you out and reinforce that sleepless pattern. do something quiet and non-stimulating until you feel sleepy.

- as much as possible, don't stress. yes, not sleeping sucks, but worrying about it pretty much guarantees you won't sleep, and that you'll feel like crap the next day. take one day at a time, and don't allow your mind to wander about how you'll function tomorrow. you can do this!

the best comfort i've had though my insomnia?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)

this has been my battle cry for the last year or so. what a gift to know that even when i am an absolute wreck (which is often!), God still provides the opportunity for me to be powerful! i am capable of living this life victoriously even though i will struggle so much - praise God!


have you tried any sleep remedies?
what are your tips for sleeping well?


  1. Omigosh! It's 5:30 and I've been awake for the last hour so I definitely needed to read this. Yeah, I have trouble sleeping most nights. I've tried a lot of those medications and they've been unhelpful for me as well. I think you're right. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just go with it! I think I'll get up now and go read the news! Love you girl - stay strong!

  2. I'm sorry that you are struggling with sleep! Though it seems like you are occupying your time well by writing up some fabulous posts :P

    Back when I was restricting and underweight, I had such awful insomnia. I remember laying there for hours... some days I don't think I even got an hour of sleep in. I never took drugs for it or anything though... in fact, I didn't know that there were many common prescriptions!
    Weren't you scared that you might get hooked on sleeping pills?

    Thankfully, my insomnia has cleared up so much since I've reached a healthier weight and started eating normally :) I get on average seven hours of beauty sleep every night.. and I love it!

    My tip for sleeping well? Eat something. I don't know if this only applies to people who have had anorexia, but my body responds very well to a large nighttime snack. If my stomach is even remotely empty, sleeping is much more challenging... also DON'T drink tons of water or tea, because if you do happen to fall asleep, you WILL have to get up to pee :P

    <3 Tat

  3. Susan – sending you big hugs. Thanks for the encouragement, comrade!

    Tat – at that point, I would have eaten kitty litter if it had given me some relief. But no – I believe you only get addicted to things you give yourself permission to rely on. I never planned on taking sleeping pills for one single day longer than absolutely necessary, and now I don’t take prescriptions at all.

    p.s. – can I just say how proud of you I am!?! You are so strong!

  4. I tried Sam-e for a LONG time and it did nothing for me. I hope you have better results!!

  5. i've used melatonin before and it did the trick! what about Valerian root tea?

  6. hope the sleep gets better! I used to have trouble going to sleep and falling back asleep after waking up I tried ambien, ambien cr, lunesta....the works my psychiatrist is really laid back. About antidepressants, I take effexor for mood and have been on it a while. I used to take something else forgot its name. I have tried melatonin also when I had sleep problems. I just hope your body will let you sleep soon!

  7. :( it makes me so sad to hear you are struggling with sleep! I hate not being able to sleep. It's been my experience when im not doing well mentally i cant sleep.

    I tried ambien years ago and decided i didnt need it anymore. I have a slight aversion to medication to say the least..

    Love you & hope you get to sleep tonight

    Dana xo

  8. i wish i didnt have to have relied on over the counter sleep meds in the past, but i think sometimes u get into a sleep rut/insomnia cycle in which u feel so desperate to sleep ur willing to try just about anything! usually my body might go through two days on 3 hours sleep but then it catches up the 3rd day and i sleep for a good 10 or 11 hours.. but if it keeps progressing i grab a sleep med. thankfully i havent had to use one in around 6 months or so. urghh but if u know u need ur sleep because u have a big event, or exam, or meeting to go to, its so much harder to accept insomnia huh!

    XOXO <3

  9. You wrote this at 3:30am? Crazy.. but if I couldn't sleep I would be doing something similar. Thankfully I don't have too much trouble sleeping and when I do have nights where I can't sleep I just roll with it because I know things will eventually work themselves back out.

    I hope the 5HTP helps! Sleeping is lovely and no one should have to struggle with it.

  10. thank you everyone!!!

    thedelicateplace - thanks for the suggestion! i haven't tried it yet because at the time i was taking another medicine it interacted with, and my doctor mentioned it might be hard on my stomach (inflammed by ibs). did it upset your stomach?

  11. i got tired just reading that much about sleep! i would hate life if i couldn't get the sleep i love so dearly. hope all goes well with it.

  12. Great post Rebekah! I struggle with insomnia a lot too. The hardest part for me is that I worry so much during the day, and honestly get so bored, that I just want the peace of sleep for my brain to shut off at night and when I can't get it I freak out sometimes! I think it is a good point not to worry about not sleeping, it just makes it worse.

    I have personally been using Melatonin for about a week now and it is REALLY working for me. I also bought a bottle of 5-HTP but haven't tried it yet since the Melatonin is working. Good luck with that and with the SAMe too, always worth a try!

  13. It's 9pm and that means it's me bed time, and that makes me glad. My body is kinda on a crazy clock, and can't seem to switch things up even if I beg it to. I can try with all my might to stay up past 11pm, but I turn into a sleepy grump and movie night tends to be cut short because of it. I'm thankful for the shut eye but sometimes it'd be rad to pull an all-nighter and paint 'till 3am or... bake... :)

    Praying for you, girl. My friend has insomnia 'cause of her fibro, and her sleepless night stories always make me wanna switch spots with her just for a night so she can get some hardcore shut eye. I can't imagine going all day without a good night's rest. Take care!

  14. I struggle with insomnia and nighttime pain and fibro so I can relate. I've done trazadone (an anitodepressant for sleep) and ambien and I don't like the side effects. I do like melatonin but sometimes it's not enough. I take a slow-release that keeps me asleep a little better. I also just started taking low dose naltrexone which is pretty amazing for getting me to sleep (almost too much so, I am not getting in my 1/2 hour of pre-bed reading). It's also a treatment for chronic fatigue that I'm trying. Not many docs know about it and it's an off the label use but it can really help some people. Sleep well!

  15. My brother in law found SAMe to be very effective for him. He has sleeping issues also brought on by other health problems.


questions or comments about my thoughts?
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