Insomnia. Apparently, it is quite common. Defined as “habitual sleeplessness or inability to sleep,” this is a frustrating part of life for millions of people. Some struggle with getting to sleep. Others struggle to stay asleep. According to medicalnewstoday, there are many causes ranging from psychological and medical issues to technological media being present in the bedroom. The diagnosis of insomnia covers a wide range of people and blankets a myriad of diagnoses.
In the Trenches
When my doctor first asked me about my sleep, I was eyeballs-deep in parenting a non-sleeping 1 year old and rambunctious 3 year old. I kid you not, my 1yr old slept only eight nights the first 14-15 months. She was a tiny, healthy little thing that simply did not sleep. “This too shall pass” was a frequent phrase for me. I was also working full-time. A glowing picture of sleep, I was not.
So what do you say when your doctor looks at you and says “How are you sleeping?” My reply was simply that I wasn’t but isn’t that what most parents in the trenches say? Was my situation really any different?
Insomnia and the Brain
The nervous system is an amazing superhighway transferring messages (stimuli) along the neural pathways. Central command is the complex powerhouse known as your brain. Have you seen the Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’? That’s a fun illustration, but it does so much more than just control feelings. The brain delicately sends out messages for voluntary and involuntary muscle movements. When you have a lesion – it screws everything up.
If I could find my latest disc with my annual MRI pics, I’d post one. It’s fascinating. Every year when I have my MRI, our hospital sends me home with a copy with the current scan and a copy of the previous year’s to take to my neuro. I go home and pour over these images trying to note any changes. Thus far, I haven’t had any since the first one showing the initial lesion(s).
Autoimmune fatigue is a different kind of animal… and it likes to snowball. For example – I like to run. I can run a half-marathon and be tired at the end. I might even “hit the wall” in proverbial running terms. It still isn’t the same kind of fatigue as autoimmune fatigue. When the real thing hits, you really don’t have a choice about “should I stay and work 15 more minutes on that project?” or “I wonder what we’ll have for dinner tonight?” It is a cancel or postpone whatever you can, tone it down, rest, keep your eyes open and body awake enough to safely get everyone home type of reaction. It is bad — and I didn’t really understand that until I experienced it.
The kicker is…. just because you rest doesn’t mean you sleep. When you don’t actually sleep, your body doesn’t get the deep REM cycle it needs to heal. Thus begins the snowball effect. It doesn’t always start with autoimmune fatigue, but you can bet that after a few days or weeks of not getting that deeply needed sleep you are seriously tip-toeing along the edge of the autoimmune cliff.
I fall into that category of insomniacs that don’t have a problem falling asleep, but can’t seem to stay that way. Who am I kidding??? When I tuck my littles into bed, I’m probably drooling and unconscious before they are…
Back to an appointment with my neuro… He suggested a few options:
- No media 30 minutes before bed
- Amitriptyline (wide range of uses!!!)
- No caffeine
- Empty bladder
On top of those options, I’ve found that regular exercise and making sure my magnesium levels are sufficient are the keys to a full night’s sleep. Not every single night, but the majority are better with the assistance of these supplements. I can’t handle even the lowest dose of amitriptyline, so I take a half dose if its been multiple days seeing 2 or 3am. At a half dose, I still have weights on my eyelids at 9am and my amazing husband handles the school prep and drop-off.
When I do see 2 or 3am, I try to make the best of it. In the quiet of the wee hours, creativity flows and deep heart-wrenching prayers are said. If only there was a good way to record that creativity in the dark and warmth of my bed? I feel comfort in those deep prayers and sometimes an indescribable spiritual peace.
If you suffer from insomnia, I strongly encourage you to talk with your doctor and open your mind to possibly look at “outside the box” remedies (exercise, lavender, lifestyle changes, quiet meditation/prayer time).
As with all things, a positive outlook is something I strive for. Psalm 34. It’s worth the look.