Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am going to be talking about my experiences with insomnia as the next installment in the “My Diagnosis” series.
Insomnia is a pretty complex beast that can be caused by so many things. Most of us with chronic illness also struggle with our sleeping. It’s pretty hard to sleep when you are not feeling well. I personally feel that my insomnia is a result of my other illnesses rather then being something unto itself.
My whole life I have struggled with slowing my brain body and making my body still. My ADHD brain wants to be on go mode all the time and my ADHD body wants to be in constant motion. Neither are particularly helpful when you are trying to get sleep. For me it isn’t a factor of feeling anxious. Sure, that happens sometimes, but it’s not usually the case. What is usually happening is that my brain will be wandering around on itself while I’m settled in and trying to go to sleep and then WHAM! I get hit with a really interesting idea that I just have to pursue. Or I just get the impulsive need to check on work that I have been working on or question if the stove was left on or I hear a random noise in the house and can’t stop thinking about what it might be so I have to go look and see what it was.
Having chronic pain has also been a major factor in not getting enough sleep. It is really hard to get comfortable and stay still when I am hurting. It is usually in my legs and I find that they get this deep ache at the end of the day that just gnaws at me. This aching feels better when I am moving my legs and doing that makes it really hard to get to sleep. My gastroparesis can also contribute to the pain that keeps me awake. When my stomach is hurting it feels like someone has driven a spike in through my chest right were my sternum ends. Hard to sleep with that feeling.
Palpitations from my POTS can also keep me awake. While I know that they are benign, they still feel awful and it is difficult not to feel anxious when it feels like your heart is trying to pound itself out of your chest. I usually don’t get any sleep at all on those days. With the discomfort of the palpitations alone it is hard, but the addition of the anxiety that always comes with it there really isn’t much chance for sleeping.
The most frustrating part about insomnia to me is the second wind effect. There is a point that you can actually be so tired that your body engages the adrenaline system to help you maintain the energy levels that you need to keep going. This is great when you need to stay awake and get things done. But it makes going to sleep impossible. In addition to this is the fact that having POTS also means that my body often dumps adrenaline inappropriately. This means that it can give me a boost of adrenaline when I don’t need it (like when I’m soundly sleeping). Or it could mean that when I do need the adrenaline it gives me a ridiculous amount of it.
I’ve never found a great treatment plan for getting the sleep that my body needs. But one thing that I have found super helpful is embracing the idea of resting. Practicing resting has made me feel a lot better when I am not getting sleep and has actually made it so that I am getting more sleep then I was. It is not realistic to think that I will somehow have a perfect sleep routine that will give me great sleep every day. There are way to many factors against my sleep for that to be a realistic goal. So, I have instead decided to embrace the idea of imperfection and resting.
So what does this mean in practice. It means that I celebrate every hour of sleep that I get instead of lamenting about the sleep that I didn’t get. I have times that I designate for resting with the hope that the resting will convert to sleeping. But my focus is on the resting. That means that I work on making my body comfortable enough to be still. It also means that I do things to help settle and calm my busy over active mind. Resting has many benefits. It is not as good as getting sleep but it is better than getting nothing.
I think that the thing that embracing the idea of resting has really done for me is instilled in me the value of not being productive. I find that now that I am embracing resting, I am also saying no more often to things. I’m not working as many hours and I’m not going to as many social events. I’m respecting my body’s need for resting. In America culture there is a strong push for us to always be busy and active. This is not a healthy was for us to live and it sure isn’t helpful for getting the sleep that we need. By embracing resting, I have made slowing down part of my life style. I personally think that has been really helpful.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!