<thicc cajun accent>
Bruh. I can't believe.
I coulda swore I had wrote a blog on insomnia.
<back to regular accent>
Turns out, I did not. I talk about this with people alllll the time.
So. Here's a blog about insomnia.
It has curse words in it, and a lot of incredibly helpful information that you'll miss if you are unable to dismount your high horse over the curse words. Let's go.
Insomnia is a bitch.
Riiiight to the point.
You know exactly what I mean if you have ever truly suffered from real insomnia.
I don't mean a night or two here and there of not being able to sleep because the moon phase isn't in your favor or you had large iced coffee at 4 PM and you are in the deepest TikTok SnapChat (my brain said SnapChap) rabbit hole.
I mean insomnia. Chronic, persistent, life-ruining, defeating, physiological inability to sleep.
Like most things I write about in this blog (Saga of Soap Boxes), I, too have experienced insomnia.
I had it for 2 years. Straight. Following a series of traumatic, stressful life events that, again, occurred, over multiple years. My body chemistry was so incredibly f**ked, and one of the ways this showed up for me was insomnia.
At my worst, nearly a breaking point, I'd sleep from about 11p-1a (after tossing and turning for a range of 2-3 hours), or maybe 12a-3a. After being awake all day. No naps. And 3am... bam, the sun in my brain was UP AF.
The mental gymnastics should have won me a gold medal.
But! Being that I am the way I am... I never ever stopped reading and asking questions and I tried absolutely everything that came across my ears & eyeballs.
And: I was able to CURE my own insomnia, with MINIMAL help from pills, NO help from illicit drugs, and in spite of wine.
Curing my own problem with insomnia... actively trying every tactic I could...took nearly a year. Day in, day out, week in, week out of actively doing different interventions.
In this blog, I'll share resources, concepts, tips, and products that might help you, if you or someone you love suffers from insomnia.
Trazodone ain't the answer. Ambien ain't the answer. Restoril (the Rx med I used for less than 30 doses) AIN'T the answer. DRUGS, be they prescribed by your doctor, are NOT the answer for the AVERAGE person to learn how to sleep again.
LEARNING how to SLEEP again, TEACHING your BRAIN and your BODY to SLEEP again... THAT is the answer. Do medications have a part in that play? Absolutely, they can, but they are not the lead role. Sleeping is a basic human function. We are ALL born with the ability to sleep naturally. You did not come out of the womb requiring sedation to sleep. You may have experienced times of prolonged stress, worry, traumatic events, poor health, bad habits or a combo plate off that menu that sent your sleep patterns off a cliff. But... you CAN train yourself to sleep again.
Sleep training is NOT just for newborns and toddlers. Sleep training is for ANY human that cannot fall asleep and stay asleep MOST of the time! Sleep training is KEY for re-regulating your brain-bod axis and getting him or her back on your team.
4. This book right here is the TRUTH. I swear by it. I have recommended it to more people than I can count on all my fingers & toes & I do have 20. I just saw there is now a "Goodnight Mind for Teens" edition as well! Cool. Now listen. I read this book at least 2, but I think 3 times before it was drilled in and I fully embraced the process. So like, read it thrice if you have to, David.
5. I took Restoril (an Rx medication, a Schedule IV drug so...deemed not that habit forming by the DEA? Although it's a benzodiazepine like Xanax. IDK. I don't get it) nightly for about 1 week. It was too much, overcorrected, left me hungover, brain fog, jittery next day, took a lifetime to wake up/stand up, but, I used it. After that week I decreased to like every other night or every second night, then decreased again to using only if I absolutely could NOT be awake all night because of whatever I had to do the next day. If I ever used any other medication or supplement, it was Unisom, Magnesium or 3mg-5mg Melatonin. Melatonin made my already hellish nightmares/bizarre dreams worse, so if that is something you experience... 10/10 do not recommend. If I ever took one of these medications, it was for 1-3 nights in a row, then none.
6. BLUE LIGHT. I wrote a whooole blog about this: "I'm Blank". In this 2023 modern world, we are surrounded by fluorescence and LED and sooo much "light" alll the time. We are exposed to artificial light sources when we should see darkness. Habitually, chronically. Your smart phone is smart. It has the ability to tell you that it's time to stop using it... every day. It can change the color of it's screen from a white-blue to an orange-yellow. You can instruct it to cut you off... of social media, email, games, whatever... at a certain time or after a certain amount of time per day. USE these tools. Ideal: stop staring at any and all screens (except like the grey Kindle screens) 1-2 hours before you want to be asleep. That means TV, phone, tablet, computer, laptop, video games, Tamagotchi, Nintendo Gameboy, all 'em thangs.
7. Meditation. This doesn't have to mean sitting in butterfly with your hands in Oms on your knees. It can mean Progressive relaxation. It can mean repeating the same calming/happy/reassuring thought to yourself with background music. "Self-Soothing".... Green noise (which I only recently learned about thanks to a thing my husband sent to me to read). There is a "green noise" Pandora station. It is free. Guided imagery. These are all terms that you can type into Google or your preferred search engine.... and DO them! At the same time every night.
The app/podcast that I like the most for meditation is this one, because they are "mini" and more doable/less intimidating. Put some earbuds in if you sleep by another human, and go. Another time I listened to these was on lunch breaks (back when I had those). If you get a lunch break or any formal work break that allows you to sit in your car, connect your phone to your car speakers and play one of these with the seat back and your eyes closed. Imagine the difference that could make in how you feel/your mental state VS. scrolling social media or calling somebody on the phone to vent (bitch).
8. Caffeine. Caffeine is not necessarily problematic unless you are having it within 3-6 hours of your desired sleep time. Some of you are night shifters and some are day people. Caffeine doesn't affect all of you in the same way, but, if you are still reading this because you suffer from insomnia, and you have caffeine from coffee, tea, energy drinks, cokes, or other sources... eliminate... Caffeine is a rabbit hole. We consume it because we aren't sleeping and we aren't sleeping (maybe) because we consume it. Please remember: Caffeine does not give you ENERGY. Caffeine gives you STIMULATION. Food and sleep give you energy. Caffeine gives you stimulation: faster thinking, faster movement, maybe a poop, a self-limited burst of alertness, and sometimes even the jitters or heart palpitations. Energy drinks only give you "energy" if they contain sugar. And I 10/10 do not recommend consuming energy drinks outside of unusual circumstances such as driving for long periods of time.
9. Intrusive Thoughts, Rumination, Obsessions. You're exhausted. Maybe you have a lot of stress. Maybe there are really big things happening in your life right now. Maybe you experienced some real trauma. Maybe there is an outcome that you are unsure of. Regardless, it seems like our brains choose that INSTANT our heads hit the pillow to turn up the f**king microphone on the narrator of our minds. Intrusive thoughts can become obsessions, more about that here (D). The reason I mention this, is because insomnia is often a SYMPTOM of a bigger problem. And, being the root-cause-analysis fan I am, I'm ALWAYS going to remind you that (raise your hands):
A good therapist is priceless.
I can't emphasize it enough. You can swallow all the Ambien and Apothic Red you can get your hands on, and the problem ain't gonna go away unless you get down to the bottom of what's REALLY keeping you awake at night. Rumination is the behavior of reviewing and reliving and stressing and worrying about decisions you made, things you said, ways you acted. Again, bedtime just seems like the best time. <sarcasm> Root. Cause. Analysis. You have to live in your body. Avoidance behavior, letting things eat at you, denying there's a problem... it'll catch ya one way or the side way.
10. Cortisol. "The" stress hormone. Check this out:
"Circadian rhythm and cortisol
Your sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm. Every 24 hours, roughly synchronized with nighttime and daytime, your body enters a period of sleep followed by a waking period. The production of cortisol in your body follows a similar circadian rhythm.
Cortisol production drops to its lowest point around midnight. It peaks about an hour after you wake up. For many people, the peak is around 9 a.m.
In addition to the circadian cycle, around 15 to 18 smaller pulses of cortisol are released throughout the day and night. Some of those smaller bursts of cortisol correspond to shifts in your sleep cycles." (E)
This was part of my Insomnia problem. Half of it. The other half was PTSD. I chose to do a Saliva Cortisol test with Tyler Lafleur, a Functional Medicine Practitioner. (F) This is not a x1 blood draw or x1 spit in a tube. It was a all day spit in 4-5 tubes thing. Turns out, as he suspected: My Cortisol pattern was "backwards". I was "peaking" at the wrong time of day/night. Like clockwork, I was wide awake at 3AM. Every. Single. Night. For 2 years.
11. Magnesium. Ask ya doctor (oR oTheR PriMaRy CaRe ProVideR) to check your magnesium level. This is easy to supplement and can be 1 thing you do to help your sleep patterns and calm-ness.
12. Alcohol. It's simply a fact, fam. Metabolizing alcohol disrupts your sleep cycles. It also prevents your body from releasing stored sugar from your liver while you sleep. Sure, most people will find no sleep issue with 1-2 drinks in the evening, but you put back a bottle of wine or 4 margaritas, and you gonna be tossing and turning and sweating. Hangxiety is absolutely a thing. A drop in a substance called GABA is what gives you that anxious, maybe even tearful demeanor the day after too many drinks. Pay attention to what isn't working well for you. If you are over-drinking there are plenty of resources. This is a cool one: Sunnyside. If you use the app, tell em I sent ya ;)
13. Edited to add! IDK how I could forget my current favorite supplement. MOM: if you
pregnant, no go. Category X drug. For the rest of y'all: ASHWAGHANDA! Wee! I chew Ashwaghanda gummies in the evenings and they really, really help me to chill out. CHECK with your pharmacist or doctor to make sure this doesn't interact with any other medications you take BEFORE you spend the $$$. These are the ones I really like!!
At one point, I finally had enough, didn't care how much anything cost, I was going to figure this shit out. And I did :)
And you can too.
Insomnia is a betch. Every single person is different. What you respond well to may be different than what your friend responds to. Just because something worked for your mother doesn't mean it's going to work for you. If you need help, use this blog as a prompt for your googling.
A) Goodnight Mind Book Amazon Associate link: https://amzn.to/3DmfSGg
Goli Amazon Associate Link: https://amzn.to/46Vqbi0