I have been an insomniac since I was a kid. I have some fond memories of it really. I don’t think it ever really bothered me that much as a kid that I Could stay up later than everyone else. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of it. I love to read at that time. To write. Still, do. It only became problematic when I went to university and had more early classes. I mentioned it more than a few times to doctors but they do not do anything for chronic insomnia… except give you those some sleep hygiene tips you have already learned about years ago. And those tips are essentially:
• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine up to four hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine builds up in the body through the day so it is best to avoid after lunch. (we should avoid stimulants anyway… but seriously this is hard to do when you feel so fatigued from Not Sleeping)
• Maintain a consistent sleep pattern of waking up and going to bed at the same time. (Well going to bed at the same time, not necessarily falling asleep at the same time obviously)
• Avoid late night snacks. If you do snack stick to small snacks that have a lot of carbohydrates in them as these tend to aid in making you feel drowsy. (I pretend chips count, but let’s pretend I didn’t say that.) • Never exercise before bedtime but try to exercise regularly even if that exercise is going for short walks, yoga or doing some stretches.
• Have no distractions in the bedroom. No TV, video games, iPhone or laptops. Do not do your work in the bedroom. Or snack. The bedroom should be reserved for sleeping or sex and we don’t want our brain to be associating the space with other waking activities.
• Make the room as comfortable as possible for sleep. Use blackout curtains to reduce light or a sleep mask. Use some method to reduce background noise whether that is earplugs, meditation music or a white noise machine. Ensure the room is not too hot or too cold.
• Do not take frequent naps but if you feel that you need to keep them under an hour. (I have a hard time with this one. I have the overpowering need to nap sometimes… being sleep deprived and all. But sometimes I set my iPhone alarm to wake me. And sometimes I ignore it)
• Do not watch TV at least an hour before bed because it is stimulating for the brain and makes it difficult to relax. The same can likely be said for being on the computer. (Also if you are an insomniac like me, don’t read a good book… or you might just read it to the end. Read a crappy book instead.)
I think most of us insomniacs are familiar with all this. I know my insomnia became more complex when I began to work. I learned, for example, I cannot work shift work because my already horrible sleep habits do not adjust to different sleep cycles well At All… and this leads to a significant increase in migraines. I also learned that working itself, as in getting up early for work every day, leads to migraines because I am sleep deprived. I do not fall asleep well into the night. I do not stay asleep. But I have to get up early. It was the reason I was put on a sleeping pill in fact. My doctor at the time said I was in fact sleep deprived which she could determine by all the sleep paralysis I was getting as well as the morning migraines. They do help a little. Help for the morning migraines. Never helped with the status migraines though.
Which brings me to the additional problems with sleep. That being painsomnia. When you are in too much pain to sleep. This is quite an additional problem and a difficult one to overcome. I have tried self-hypnosis… but to be honest I can’t even be hypnotized so no idea how I would do that on myself. I have tried meditation, and that at least has a calming effect. I have tried sleepy time teas. I have tried biofeedback.
The fact remains that since I am not working I do not fight it as much. If my body wants to stay up later and get up later, and this works for pain as well, then I will do it. For now. I like staying up late. I have always been a night owl. I always enjoy the time to myself I guess. And have always loathed mornings with a passion. Not to mention if I get up early, I get a migraine early, which is no fun at all.
It just doesn’t work for anyone else. Appointments. Calling insurance people. More appointments. All these commitments the insurance company wants. Then the pain clinic. None of which are on my sleep cycle. Which is disruptive and migraine-inducing. Sometimes I think I should just force myself back into societies routine, but that never worked out for me. Something in-between?