Today’s story is about me and my inability to sleep functionally. It has been a loooong time since I have been able to get a full nigh’t sleep. And not because of kids. This started well into my adolescence. I loved having sleep-overs with friends but whenever I would wake up, they would tease me about how much I snore and how loud I can get.
When I was 15, my parents took me in to get a sleep study done. It was then that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and a heart condition. I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and had to see a cardiologist to get yearly EKGs and wear a portable heart monitor, called a holter, every 6 months to monitor and track any progress in my heart that likes to stop and skip beats.
As I got older my sleep apnea got worse but my heart got better. It still skips but not as often as it did before. By the time I was married and pregnant (24 yrs), my sleep apnea was so bad. We were newly married and I didn’t really have an established doctor so I just went without. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Oliver (27 yrs) that I had a fantastic doctor and my husband told me that I should talk to him about getting a sleep study. I was able to do an in-home sleep study and from the results they found that I had sever obstructed sleep apnea and my oxygen levels dropped so low that they were concerned for baby Oliver who was about 8 months into fetal development.
I then had to get a CPAP to help keep me breathing at night. Man was that hard to get used to wearing.
So, with that problem now solved, we can talk about the reason I am writing this story today.
Have you ever dealt with insomnia before? If you have, I am so sorry.
I have been struggling with bouts of insomnia since I was a freshman in high school. However, as of late (I am now the dreaded old age of 30 lol) it has gotten much much worse. Staying asleep is no problem. It’s the falling asleep that is. As many of you know, my days are VERY busy and exhausting. I drive an average of 142 miles, just MEDICAL miles, Monday-Friday. We are constantly on the go. You would think that by the end of the day I would be so tired that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, right?
As soon as the sun goes down, my internal clock decides it’s time to wake up and I can not get my brain to shut off. At one point I was taking 5 over-the-counter sleep aides every night and I still wasn’t able to fall asleep. Once that started happening I called and made an appointment with my doctor.
I tried Trazodone, Ambien, Doxepin, Gabapentin, Nortriptyline, and Mirtazapine. Most of them did not work, one of them I found out I am allergic to, and 2 of them would work for a week or two before not working at all. I even purchased CBD gummies and not even taking 2 at a time would work.
Currently, I am taking 2 CBD gummies and 1 or 2 Mirtazapine pills every night and hoping that the 50/50 chance of it working are in my favor. So, my doctor referred me to another sleep specialist who I met with yesterday.
She told me that medication just isn’t going to work for me and that it is all in my head. Not in a mean way though. She told me that because of how busy and stressful my life is, the only time that my brain has to stop focusing on what I am doing and focus on everything else in my life is when my body physically stops and slows down. Which is when I go to bed.
She wants me to see a psychologist for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They will be able to help me do a deep dive into how I should start behaving so that I can reprogram my way of thinking and sleep habits. She gave me a list of things that I am now supposed to do before bed and said that this new bedtime routine is vital for me to start falling asleep before 2:30am.
- Exercise at some point during the day. Everyone should already be doing this but let’s be honest, most of us don’t. I being one of those lazy bums who doesn’t want to put the extra effort into being healthy. So, now I have to make an effort to do some form of work out each day, even if it is just a walk around the block.
- I am not allowed to go to bed until I start feeling tired. Whether that is at 9pm or midnight or later. I am absolutely not allowed in my bed if I am just going to lay there and not sleep.
- Take a hot shower or bath in the quiet dark from 10-15 minutes to relax my body.
- Get a notebook and write down every single thought that pops up in my mind. Whether it is a memory, a reminder to do something, a random nonsensical thought, whatever. I write it down and after 5 minutes I close the book and I am done. I have already spent my time on those and now we are done thinking about it.
- Meditate. I have the free version of Headspace. A guided meditation app. Spend 10-20 minutes meditating in a dark and quiet room. Center myself and get ready to sleep. I am choosing to do this in bed so that I am creating a calm and relaxing feeling to associate with my bed. Perfect for sleeping.
- Read a super boring book. Like mind-numbingly boring. Something that you have absolutely ZERO interest in. Like the manual for your BBQ or TV remote. Your brain is hardwired to fall asleep when it is bored. So I have to bore it.
So, last night I followed her directions. I started meditating in the living room but right at the end my husband walked in the door from work (he worked late last night and was not home until after 9pm) and started talking loudly and rustling papers. We chatted a little bit but I started realizing that I was getting out of my high of relaxation and “zen” so I decided to go lay in bed and meditate. I opted to do a 5 minute guided meditation and felt much better afterwards. Then I got out the super boring book.
I hate history so I downloaded a free History of the United States book and I got to page 2 before I passed out! It was amazing! Just starting that routine on day 1 and being able to fall asleep long before 2am was so wonderful and encouraging. I definitely underestimated the power of a boring book.
I am hopeful that with my new healthy habits I will be able to attain a restful night’s sleep every night and I REALLY hope that you are able to as well.
-The Lazy Mama