Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the medications, dosages, and treatments described here are not meant for any readers to use as their own diagnoses and dosages. I have deliberately been vague about actual medications and some of their dosages to prevent this. They are described here purely for the purposes of showing fellow insomnia and anxiety sufferers that there is help for them out there and that there is hope for them. Please seek professional medical help if you need it.
Since my post about when things started getting better in the last quarter of 2016, not much has changed to be honest. I’ve been careful not to spread myself too thin and just focus on work, exercise, and getting better and things have gotten better. There isn’t one moment in the last few months that I can pinpoint where suddenly things got better. It’s been a slow process and has happened gradually.
Oh, there’ve definitely been small changes that I’ve noticed and this is why I’m not letting myself get worked up about my insomnia not being cured. Because I don’t think it ever really will be and all I can actually do is just focus on the present and put one foot in front of the other.
Around December time I noticed the first change. Usually I would spend most nights each month sleeping in the guest room. I would either try and get to sleep in my own bed and would eventually move into the other room or I would just admit defeat before even going to bed and go straight to the spare bedroom to save myself the hassle of having to move beds in the middle of the night and carry all my things over too.
In December, I noticed I was able to spend a lot more nights in my own bed than the spare for a change. I tried not to get too excited about it as insomnia has been a huge lesson in humbling experiences but, for the first time in months, I was actually sleeping in my own bed and hadn’t moved into the other bed at all.
My body finally got used to the new mattress and those ‘new mattress’ aches went away. I couldn’t feel my partner move at all during the night and vice versa. We were finally able to not disturb each other thanks to the new mattress. And, of course, my sleep started improving. I’m not sure what was the cause – getting a new mattress or medication or meditation or relaxing into my job or exercising more or cutting sugar out of my diet or changing reading devices – but I do know that all these things have worked together to help my sleep improve.
I started being able to sleep through the night more frequently without having to take extra medication throughout the night and I was sleeping a lot deeper. The effects of this were amazing. I was more clear of mind, more focused, had more energy each day, felt more positive, and I could go on and on. This was such a huge shift for me that I started realising that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that I could be getting to a place very soon where I would be mentally comfortable with weaning myself off the sleeping pills. A daunting thought but realistically I know that a person cannot be on them forever. So I decided that during the December holidays would be the best time to try this when I would be 100% relaxed. I would treat it like an experiment and if it didn’t work then I wouldn’t be hard on myself.
I’ll talk more about the weaning off experiment in another post 🙂
At present, I haven’t slept in the other bed at all since November 2016 and it has been wonderful! I hadn’t realised what a negative effect not sharing a space with my partner had on us and it was really great to be able to share a bed again. We also swapped sides of the mattress. I have a tendency to snore sometimes or breathe heavily and he breathes incredibly heavily during sleep. Up until that point we had been sleeping in such a way that we were facing each other and annoying each other. I’m also a hot sleeper (thanks, PCOS!) and slept on the side furthest away from the windows whilst he hates any cold air on him in the night and would often shut the windows. Swapping sides was for the best! We can both now breathe heavily or snore facing away from each other and I can have the windows open without bothering him too much. (Although, I will admit, sleeping hot is still a problem for me. Does it ever subside?)
I also bought myself a Kindle. I am a book lover of note but unfortunately proper books have become too expensive (yes, I do realise I contributed to this cycle in the end) and weren’t ideal to read at 3am with my partner trying to sleep. Reading has really helped me through the worst of the insomnia and does help me feel sleepy again so it was important to me to have something to read off. I got a Kindle Paperwhite so that I could read during these waking moments without having to move to the other bedroom and be able to use a device with lights that won’t wake my brain up entirely. This blurb from the Amazon site made my mind up about getting one:
Won’t tire your eyes in the dark
Kindle Paperwhite guides light toward the surface of the display with its built-in front light—unlike back-lit tablets that shine in your eyes—so you can read comfortably for hours without eyestrain. Adjust your screen’s brightness for great reading in any light.
And I could easily access a ton of books with just a click and fraction of the cost of a physical book. Win! I wasn’t 100% sure about the device not waking up certain parts of the brain but I figured it’s worth the try – after all, I already had insomnia 😉
The Kindle has been awesome! It’s one of the things that has contributed to my improved sleep. I no longer have to leave the bedroom and go to the other room so that I can read to try and fall asleep again. I can just whip this out, select a soft light setting, and read until I fall asleep again. More often than not I find myself nodding off again after a paragraph or two. Reading helps quieten my mind which makes it a lot easier to fall back asleep. This doesn’t always work, sometimes there’s just no chance of me getting back to sleep, but these moments are becoming less frequent with time. Thank goodness!
In December I also started feeling the positive effects of changing my diet. In early December I decided to give the I Quit Sugar eating plan a go. I’d heard that cutting sugar out of your diet had amazing effects on people with anxiety and while the anxiety was lessening it wasn’t going away despite my efforts. At that point I figured trying IQS really couldn’t hurt, if it didn’t help the anxiety then at least I would’ve cut sugar out. We all know that stuff is just nasty.
In the first month or so I didn’t really notice any changes, but slowly after a the second and third month I noticed there were less butterflies and heart-dropping anxious moments throughout my days. I’m happy to say now that I haven’t experienced excessive and non-conducive amounts of anxiety since December.
I wouldn’t give the IQS eating plan all the credit for this but it certainly can’t be ignored. Changing my diet on top of the positive effects of changing jobs, changing mattresses, medication, meditation, not having to stress about changing bedrooms in the middle of the night, keeping a sleep diary, and feeling well enough to increase my exercise again have all helped me sleep deeper and longer. Yes, I do still wake in the night. Yes, sometimes I simply cannot fall asleep. But these moments are starting to become less frequent and I am so thankful for that.
There is nothing more stressful than not being able to fall asleep and feeling the horrific effects of continuous nights of no sleep. I still do have awful days due to exhaustion but I try not to get too stressed about it. If you’re struggling through these moments on your own, please do reach out for help and/or support. It will make a world of difference to not have to experience this alone and will take a little bit of the weight off your shoulder. When it comes to medical intervention please do take the time to visit your doctor about this, it is so worth it!