Insomnia

Hi, just wondering if anyone else suffers or has suffered from insomnia

I have had insomnia for about a month now and have tired a number of things to help me sleep including drowsy anithistamines, cutting down on caffiene etc but nothing is really helping

and I was also wondering if anyone has tried/done something to sleep better, my doc gave me some sleeping tablets today but I can't take them for long as they are addictive

Lejaya

13 Replies

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  • Hello,

    I have suffered from insomnia for a while now partly due to my asthma. I too was given sleeping tablets from my G.P. but I found that they made me very drowsy during the day. They did help me go to sleep but didn't stop me frequently waking up. The only thing I found that worked was winding down an hour before I went to bed for example i found reading helped. Once i went to bed if I wasn't asleep within 15 minutes I got up and read or listened to music untill i felt sleepy then i tried again.

    I hope you find something that helps you get a better nights sleep.

    Sadwheezer

  • Hi Lejaya,

    I can relate to your problem - sleeping is often a bit of a problem for me.

    Pred and theophylline/aminophylline can both cause insomnia, as can other prescription drugs. Anxiety or depression can also cause poor sleep and early waking. Of course, being breathless due to poor asthma control is also a major cause of poor nights, as is pain.

    If you are struggling to sleep because of breathlessness, then obviously you need to see your doctor and get a review of your asthma medication. If you think you might be anxious or depressed, you should talk to your doctor about that, too - other symptoms of depression are persistent low mood, tearfulness, lack of interest or enjoyment in your normal hobbies and activities, feelings of hopelessness, poor appetite and weight loss.

    Other than that, I don't think there are any easy answers. Sleeping tablets are a short term solution, but, as you say, they can be addictive, and they don't tend to produce 'normal' good quality sleep - rather, they can produce a 'drugged' sort of sleep that is often not particularly refreshing. They can sometimes be of use in 'breaking the cycle' and re-establishing normal sleep patterns, so you may find that if you take them regularly for a few days and then stop taking them, you may continue to sleep well.

    There are other things you can do to try to help you sleep - things that are usually referred to as good 'sleep hygiene'. It is important to have relatively fixed times at which you go to sleep and wake up, and try to stick to these as much as possible - a short lie in at the weekend will not do any harm, but it is best to get up at roughly the same time and avoid sleeping for lots longer at the weekend than you do during the week, if you can - I know that this is easier said than done! If you can, it is also important to avoid napping during the day - again, I know this can be really hard, especially if you are exhausted because you have not slept well at night, but if you nap you will find it even harder to sleep the next night and will get into a vicous circle.

    You should avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and heavy meals for at least four hours before you go to bed. Eating just before bed can cause indigestion which can contribute to you having trouble getting to sleep. Regular exercise, if you are able, will help to make you more physically tired - even light exercise is better than none. Exercise right before you go to bed can make it harder for you to go to sleep, though.

    Your bedroom environment is important. Obviously your bed should be comfortable and the room should be at the correct temperature and well ventilated. In summer, thick curtains will ensure that you are not woken too early by the sun - not so much of a problem now that the days are getting shorter! Try to block out as much noise as you can, too - if you are trying to sleep in a noisy environment, earplugs (ideal for hospital!) or a white noise generator can be useful. Ideally, your bedroom should only be used for sleeping, rather than for studying, watching TV, and other daytime activities. If it is not possible to do this, for example if you have to study in your bedroom, try not to do this on the bed - reserve the bed for sleeping.

    Try to have a night-time ritual that will cue your body to the fact that it is bedtime. Having a snack and a milky drink might help - there is some evidence that snacks of complex carbohydrates or low GI foods may help to avoid blood sugar crashes that will wake you up later. A warm bath before bed might help. Relaxation exercises can also help. If you are worried or anxious about any specific issues, it can be useful to write then on a piece of paper, and put the paper in a drawer or a bag outside your bedroom, so that you will hopefully mentally consign them to somewhere else, and not think about them, as well. Reading for a while before you go to sleep can help, although you shouldn't read a textbook or anything too mentally taxing. Watching TV whilst you are trying to get off to sleep can be a bad idea - it stimulates your brain instead of trying to shut it down a bit.

    If you lie quietly in bed and can't sleep, or if you wake up in the night and can't get back to sleep, experts recommend that after about 20 - 30 minutes, you get up and go to a different room, if you can, and do something different, preferably a quiet and relaxing activity, such as reading or having a warm bath. Avoid bright lights as they will send signals to your brain that it is time to wake up. Again, TV is not thought to be a good idea, and surfing the internet as a cure for insomnia is also thought to be not ideal (not really practicing what I preach, tonight!). Covering your alarm clock so that you can't continually keep checking what time it is can be useful.

    When you wake up in the morning, try to get out of bed straight away, rather than lying there dozing for a while. Try to expose yourself to sunlight as early as possible in the day (again, difficult in winter) to remind your brain that it is time to get up. If daylight is not possible, try bright room lights.

    I do realise that some of these things are extremely difficult to do, and despite the fact that I sometimes have major sleeping issues, I probably only manage about half of these things! Even if you just change a few things, though, it may be of use and might just make the difference.

    Hope this helps

    Em H

  • I often awake at night and if I can't get back to sleep again, I have a DAB radio at my bed side and put BBC Radio 7 on a sleep timer. They often have good comedy/plays on at night and I soon find myself dropping off as it stops the worry/stress of feeling that you can't get back to sleep.

  • thanks for all your advice and I will probably try some of the things you suggested, my main problem is that I only have insomnia when I have to get up for work the next day, I just lie in bed bed and worry about not getting any sleep atall which of corse makes falling asleep even harder. I think I have just got into a habbit of not sleeping on work night nights which is really hard to break!

    I was also wondering if lack has of sleep has an effect on the immune system, and does it make you more vulnerable to infection?

    Lejaya x

  • Chronic lack of sleep does impair your immune system, and also puts you at increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and psychiatric illness, among other things.

    This increased risk is usually only seen if lack of sleep has been a problem for months or years, but there's no doubt that insomnia will certainly contribute to feeling 'run down' and less well generally, even if you've only had it for a short time.

    I know people who have HSV (the cold sore virus) who say that they always get an outbreak of cold sores if they have been 'burning the candle at both ends' for a few days.

    It's probably not a dramatic effect, if you've only been having trouble sleeping for a few weeks, but it won't help.

    Sleep well

    Em

  • Lejaya, I empathise. Insomnia is really horrible. I have had intermittent, but severe, insomnia (by which I mean no sleep at all, all night) for several years. Then every few nights I would sleep for a few hours from sheer exhaustion. At times it has made my life a complete misery, and induced anxiety about my inability to sleep, to the extent that at one stage I was having panic attacks as soon as I got into bed. I've tried all the sleep hygiene things that Emily recommends, and they do help, but the most important thing is not to get anxious about it. That just increases your adrenaline and makes sleep impossible, a real catch-22.

    However, as my main problem is falling asleep, I personally now find a double whisky nightcap helps to relax me (no more tho, I measure it out carefully!). I know this goes against all the advice but it works for me. Then when I wake up, hopefully not til about 3am, I have my CD player and earphone ready by my bed with a particular sleep-inducing music CD (will let you have details if you email me). I really enjoy listening to this CD and nearly always find that I either fall asleep listening, or afterwards am so relaxed that sleep follows.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with the occasional short course of sleeping meds, to help re-establish a pattern. My gp is very understanding & will prescribe if necessary but I do try and avoid these if I can because as Emily says, the sleep quality is not as refreshing as natural sleep.

    Try and nip this in the bud if you can and don't let it become a big problem.

    Polly

  • I have BBC radio 4 / world Service on my radio and have got so used to it now that It helps me sleep. I initially used to leave the radio on as it distracted me from the noise from the upstairs flat.

    I have herbal tea before bed and if I wake up and cant get back to sleep I will often get a mug of herby tea.

  • Hi polly, that is a long time to have insomnia for, and it really is unpleasnt when you lie in bed worring about not being able to sleep, but I might try the alcohol before bed thing!

    I asked my doc what she thought the cause of my insomnia might be and she told me that most of the time no one ever finds out what the cause of their insomnia is, I only find it hard to sleep when I have work the next day and it's so frustrating! but I think I'm just gonna give these sleeping tablets a try and maybe try going to bed earlier so I have longer to fall asleep!

    Lejaya

  • HiBefore my asthma started to get bad again I was fine with sleeping. But now that i am on some stronger asthma medication I too am finding it hard to sleep at night and either have trouble sleeping or get woken by some very vivid dreams. I am trying some herbal teas. I go to the asian supermarket in leeds and i get some different teas to try. I have found that i sleep slightly better when i have had some japanese roasted tea. Also i am trying reading before i go to bed instead of watching tv or listening to my music. Unfortunatly it's part of my life style now and my job working in a local hospital also doesn't help much either. :) All i can suggest is trying some different things that usually help you relax. Also go with the alchohol thing. a small glass of wine or beer does help sometimes and aslong as you don't go nuts with it you will stay within your allowed weekly allowence of units. James

  • HiBefore my asthma started to get bad again I was fine with sleeping. But now that i am on some stronger asthma medication I too am finding hard to sleep at night and either have trouble sleeping or get woken by some very vivid dreams. I am trying some herbal teas. I go to the asian supermarket in leeds and i get some different teas to try. I have found that i sleep slightly better when i have had some japanese roasted tea. Also i am trying reading before i go to bed instead of watching tv or listening to my music. Unfortunatly it's part of my life style now and my job working in a local hospital also doesn't help much either. ^^ All i can suggest is trying some different things that usually help you relax. Also go with the alchohol thing. a small glass of wine or beer does help sometimes and aslong as you don't go nuts with it you will stay within you allowed weekly allowence of units. James

  • *raises hand in the air* Ive been insomniac since I was 12 on and off. In the last 2 months Ive been affected by several reasons.

  • I find tele is wonderful to get me off to sleep when i first go to bed. All I have to do is switch the tele on to watch something with volume quite low (almost anything will do) and I'm asleep in less than 10 minutes. It can be quite frustrating at times so if I really do want to watch it I make sure I record it as well so I can watch it back another time. My problem is getting back to sleep when I have been up in the middle of the night.

  • I'm bumping this up for sparkle fairy!

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