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evegrimm's avatar

Help with some sleep issues?

Asked by evegrimm (3695 points ) September 10th, 2009

I’ve been having several sleep issues recently. Maybe fellow Flutherites can help!

I can’t fall asleep quickly. It takes me an hour+ to fall asleep without a benadryl or meditation. My brain just refuses to quiet down. Some things to consider: it’s always 6+ hours after I drink my afternoon cup of coffee; I should be tired; I had this problem as a youngster as well.

Any ideas for things to help? The only things that have changed recently are moving (but I was okay for the first couple weeks) and changing my birth control. (I don’t think sleep issues are a side effect of the Pill.)

Secondly, my hypersomnia is acting up (again). Before, it was attributed to Accutane + depression, but I’ve got that mostly under control now. I can’t think of anything that would make it be nasty again. Any ideas here?

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated!

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29 Answers

Darwin's avatar

I would suggest that you stop drinking any coffee after 12 noon, and substitute motion or working while standing to stay awake during the day. And there is nothing wrong with meditating in order to go to sleep. That is how I have always gone to sleep. It is an excellent way to calm one’s mind.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Have you tried giving your brain something else to do? Back when I had sleep issues, I would do a set of bed stretching exercises where I stretched every muscle in small groups, starting at my head and working down to my feet, and then when I was relaxed, I’d do a mindless number repeating game that kept my brain busy while my body fell asleep.

The counting game I used was countint 1–2-3–4-3–2-1 and keep repeating, and adding one more number occasionally. I think I finally bored my brain to sleep with that little trick. =)

astrojams1's avatar

insomnia’s a real bastard.

0. try avoiding caffeine completely for a few days.
1. if you’ve depression, address that. depression is a leading cause of insomnia. perhaps it’s a signal that you should change something in your life like your career, or your field of study, or whatever…
2. if you find yourself unable to sleep, don’t try to force it by laying in your bed frustrated for an hour. leave your bed and read something mindless for about 20 minutes or until you feel more tired.
3. try making your room only used for sleeping. don’t allow any distractions into your bed (food, tv, studying, whatever…). you have to train your brain to associate your bed with sleep and nothing else.
4. force yourself onto a schedule—avoid sleeping in the day.
5. good diet, exercise, blah, blah…

these were all tips given to me by a doctor. it helped.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

For almost 3yrs I have suffered from bouts of insomnia, due mostly to lifestyle changes and stress in living a new way. At first I tried medications and then just drinking myself to sleep but stopped that last year and decided to bear it out instead. For some reason, our brains want to be on in order to muddle through something important and we’ll go down when the body gives in or the brain give in. I keep busy with things like fluthering after work, games, writing and listening to music. I find if I lay down that I won’t exactly sleep but will nod off for maybe an hour here and there, obviously enough to get me by as I’m still up and running and in not too bad a condition. I also will do some quick exercises to wear myself down if I feel my body is really jumpy and not just my brain. Every little bit helps, gives yourself a break.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

When I can’t sleep, I get up and get a really boring book. (I keep some old textbooks around for just that purpose) Any book will do though, as long as it’s not too interesting or entertaining. And I lie in bed and try to read it.

Usually that works for me when nothing else does. On the nights I can’t sleep and don’t do it for some reason, I’ll often stay up until 7:00 or 8:00 am, or just not sleep at all.

I also make a big point of using my bed only when I want to sleep. It’s really hard to do, but I think it helps a lot.

YARNLADY's avatar

This sounds like a broken record: eat healthy foods, ⅓ fruits, ⅓ vegetables, ⅓ grains, meats, snacks, and such and at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. Walk or equivalent exercise l mile every single day.

A hot bath or shower always helps me, and a walk, then cool down/relaxation for an hour. I love playing Yahtzee online, with a warm glass of milk before I go to bed.

Garebo's avatar

I say this too much, but I am convinced, SSRI’s may have a lot to do with it; otherwise, exhaust yourself in exercise, but not before sleep.

evegrimm's avatar

@Garebo, what are “SSRI’s”? (Are they depression meds? ‘Cuz I’m not on anything.)

@astrojams1, I won’t be avoiding caffeine because of the horrible headaches I get when I do. (Hi, my name is evegrimm, and I’m a caffeineaholic.) As far as the “depression” goes, unless it’s hiding, I’m not depressed. I’m not ecstatic, but then again, my normal mood isn’t. Also, the room where my bed is isn’t used for anything but sleeping. (My “bedroom” is actually my study.)

@Darwin, I actually drink coffee in the afternoon because I like the way it tastes, not because I need it to stay awake…but valid point. Thank you.

@evelyns_pet_zebra, yes, meditation/counting helps, but I’m wondering why it’s happening now. I didn’t used to have problems falling asleep. (And I dislike doing it. ...I’m not sure why. It could be because, as my therapist pointed out, I hate not being productive.)

@hungryhungryhortence, if I stayed on Fluther, I would never sleep. :D Seriously, though, I need to literally “shut down” for the night, or I’ll keep going, and next thing I know, it’s 6 AM.

@La_chica_gomela, that’s some solid advice. I can’t think of any textbooks on hand, but I’ll see if I can find some. :)

@YARNLADY, I agree, hot showers do make me sleep easier, but I only shower twice a week. (I hate getting wet.) I am eating a lot healthier than I did a week ago or so, which makes me think it’s the healthier food keeping me up (lol). I do walk a lot, too—being at school and taking mass transportation kind of forces me to.

knitfroggy's avatar

I have trouble sleeping a lot of the time. I’ve been taking Melatonin and it seems to help me. I sleep really well and wake up feeling really good. It’s cheap at the pharmacy and worth a try.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

As far as hypersomnia coupled with insomnia (just remembered that part of the question), do you keep the same schedule every day, as far as when you wake up, and when you sleep, and nap. If not, can you? I find I have a lot of sleep issues when my schedule is constantly changing (like right now).
Right now I can’t wake up or go to bed at the same time for even two days in a row and it’s driving me nuts!

Also, (just saw your last post) with regards to food, changes in eating habits change your metabolism which is a big part of regulating when we get sleepy and when we’re alert. Could it be that before you started eating healthier, you were getting a sugar-rush (any simple carbs can do this, like pasta or a few rolls with dinner, not necessarily sweets), and then crashing, which was helping you fall asleep? Maybe try eating dinner earlier?

drdoombot's avatar

Caffeine stays in your system for many hours. You should at least try to ween yourself to a smaller amount and have it earlier in the day.

I read 2–6 comic books every night before going to sleep. Reading in general makes many people sleepy, so that could work for you.

When I’m actually laying there with my eyes closed and I can’t seem to fall asleep because of my thoughts, I use a little mental trick: I imagine a movie theater screen, but instead of seeing a movie, the rectangle is just black. The black rectangle takes up almost the entirety of my imaginary vision, leaving only the edges open. Any thoughts or feelings I might be having are happening off-screen, in my “peripheral” vision, a place where I can’t really make them out. My focus is on the “movie” of a black screen. If some thought comes to the forefront of my conscious, I push it to to the edge, always looking at the black rectangle.

I’m not sure why exactly, but this helps me quickly get over any racing thoughts or restlessness and fall asleep easily.

evegrimm's avatar

@drdoombot, I might try that. (Most visualising techniques don’t work for me.) Reading doesn’t make me sleepy unless it’s a veeerrry boring book. I like reading too much. :D

@La_chica_gomela, it’s not so much eating “healthier” per se, as it is eating more fruits. I’m trying to eat three a day, but otherwise, my eating habits, crappy as they are, are basically the same. (I don’t eat enough.)

For the most part, I keep the same hours. I’m in bed between midnight and two and awake around 9 or 10. Unless I’m feeling particularly somnolent, then I might sleep 12–15 hours and still wake up tired.

@knitfroggy, if I still have issues after a while, I’m definitely going to look into melatonin.

Garebo's avatar

Good for you!

Kraigmo's avatar

Keep taking the Benedryl until this problem passes. Start with half a pill (12.5 mg) building up to a maximum of 2 pills per night. Maybe you already do that.

In addition to the Benedryl, take 1 mg Melatonin, building up to a maximum of 3 mg per night.

So the maximum combined you would ever take would be: 50 mg Benedryl plus 3 mg Melatonin. But save that maximum for later, and build up to it.

If you still need more than that, then add 1 can of beer, or a few pinches of a sleep inducing herb such as Valerian Root.. or… i’m sure you can think of one other.

And stop meditating before bed, that’s not relaxing. That’s active stress-relief, that should occur much earlier in the day, preferably prior to 6pm. I’m generalizing of course, though.

Also: make sure there are no visible clocks in the darkness of your room. If you have any LED clocks, tape foil over all exposed lighted areas. That’s especially important for the clock. Never look at it. Make sure you already have it set early in the day, then turn the thing around and keep it at that. Make sure there are no sources of visible light in your room. If lights from outside create a dim blur, add whatever takes, like blankets or foil, to make those windows dark. Cover up all other LEDs, such as on computer routers, stereos, etc. Never listen to the radio or TV because they always announce the time every half hour, which is jarring, plus there’s a lot of loud projection-talking. If you need such noise, listen to a podcast or an internet radio show, something monotone, like Alan Watts or Thic Nhat Han or something. Or for some people, just white noise would be best, like a fan or air conditioner. But make sure its totally dark.

And with the Benedryl and the Melatonin combination…. you will have a window of tiredness in which to lay down and go to sleep. If you are up doing things instead of laying down and reading or just laying there, then you will miss the window of opportunity and it will pass by, and you’ll be in for a long night and have a tired next-day. So about 25 minutes after taking those pills, be sure you’re in bed, reading until you feel your eyelids get heavy and its hard to read, then at that point, that’s the magic moment, turn the last light off, and go to sleep.

evegrimm's avatar

@Kraigmo, I just might try the melatonin.

And yes, I did notice the “window of tiredness”—great name, btw.

Really? Meditating before bed isn’t relaxing? That seems kinda counter-intuitive to me…care to elaborate? (not being a troll, really want to know.)

Also, has anyone tried catnip tea for insomnia? It’s supposed to work well, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Kraigmo's avatar

@evegrimm I shouldn’t have assumed I know what you mean by the word meditation. It depends on the kind, as to whether it is bad for sleep, right before bed. If you do that kind of meditation where you visualize each part of your body calming down until your whole body feels less gravity… then that is fine. Or maybe you do some sort of breathing or other exercise i’ve never heard of. But if you’re sitting in silence just thinking thoughts, or lack thereof, or saying a mantra… then that is active stress relief, and can cause your mind to be quite active for several hours afterwords, as it lets go of its stress release. Thats according to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, but it is also my experience too that matches his warnings on the subject.

And I tried catnip. Tried the tea, and tried smoking it. It has a very subtle effect, not worth the effort. Not as good as chamomile, even, which is quite weak too.

evegrimm's avatar

Chamomile is yucky. “Having drunk it, I can see why people bathe in it.” (not mine)

Garebo's avatar

All for Melatonin-it works wonders, but don’t buy the cheap grocery store crap made in China, probably had Dioxin in it. Also, Melatonin is a strong radical scavenger or anti-oxidant, so it is good for you, just don’t take it in the day, then bad for you. It rides with your natural sleep cycle, it has become a reliable sleep aid for me with no side affects. It is tough getting use to it at first, that is when most people give it up, because it initially can keep you up. After you figure it out, it is awesome-dosage and timing is critical.

Kraigmo's avatar

one other thing about melatonin…. the dreams. Thats the big side effect. and i like it

Judi's avatar

Don’t totally write off the birth control. Hormones are powerful and mysterious things.
Now if I could get rid of this headache and get back to sleep myself!

dee1313's avatar

I think you need to eliminate caffeine from your diet. I know its not what you want to hear, but especially since you get a headache when you don’t drink it, it can really be affecting the way you sleep. There is nothing good about caffeine. Google caffeine and insomnia. Yeah, caffeine can do it. It can also make you fat, but that’s not the point.

Take some medicine to help the headaches. Watch what you take, though, since some headache meds have caffeine in them.

I keep a routine to kind of tell my brain I’m ready to sleep. I turn off all the lights, make sure the doors are locked, wash my face, brush my teeth, take my night meds, get cuddled up in bed, and relax. I have a small floor heater that I set to fan so the sound kind of drowns out my own thoughts, so that helps too.

If you don’t get distracted easily, you could try reading a super boring textbook (math books are always great reads! :P). That doesn’t work for me because my mind would wander elsewhere.

You could watch television to sleep. The history channel is good. Interesting enough to keep your attention, but not so interesting that you’re super into it. Getting in the habit of watching television to sleep is a hard one to break though, and I’ve never had good sleep by doing it that way. I get put to sleep, yes, but that sleep usually isn’t good.

Turkey is said to have stuff in it that makes people sleepy.

Personally, I wear a mask to bed (two actually, but that’s because one is tighter and the other is bigger). Light bugs me, and I have a hard time keeping my eyes shut if I don’t wear them.

I don’t know if you’re in a relationship or not, but sex always helps me.

Meditation helps, but not right before bed. Stress can keep you up, so meditation helps calm that, but doing it right before bed isn’t a great idea. When you come home from work, eat dinner, and then meditate. Then go about and do whatever else now that you’re relaxed.

When I had trouble sleeping, I’d eat a bowl of ice cream before bed. The little bit of sugar doesn’t give me much of a high, but because of my low blood sugar, it gives me a low. Not a bad, shaky feeling low, but enough that I get drowsy and can sleep easily. If you’re going to try that and you do have low blood sugar problems, it is essential that you eat breakfast in the morning.

I used to have a terrible time sleeping. It used to take me between 30 minutes to an hour to sleep, and that’s assuming I was tired when I went to bed. Since I don’t ingest caffeine anymore, and I’ve eliminated the sources of stress in my life, I sleep like a baby, even on this new medication that can cause difficulty sleeping as a side effect.

Oh, another thing that has helped me in the past is to write about my day in a journal (paper journal is better because writing is quieter than typing, and you’re not staring at a bright screen. You can turn on a lamp to kind of give a mood-lighting feel (low light makes me drowsy) and can do it in bed so you don’t have to move much once you get your thoughts down). Do this at least an hour before you intend to fall asleep, because sometimes it woke me up and I started rambling about things. After a bit, though, I could close my eyes and my head felt clear. You can also keep a to do pad of paper near by and read it in the morning so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to do things the next day.

vaokcal's avatar

My daughter could not get to sleep at night from the time she was an infant. It was a very difficult situation. At age 9 she was diagnosed as adhd. The med adderall made a huge difference in her overall disposition. It seems odd that a stimulant could relax you, but it stimulates the part of the brain that helps you relax.
I assume that you have had a total physical and consultations with ‘specialists’.
One other thought is sleep apnea, but that involves waking up during sleep, but you don’t know about it and you are generally very tired.

mattbrowne's avatar

No cadio/endurance training in the evening. After this kind of training wait at least 2–3 hours before going to bed.

wundayatta's avatar

Don’t watch TV for at least half an hour (preferably an hour) before you go to bed. It jazzes up your mind, and makes you want to stay awake. If you can get decent sleep at night, the hypersomnia should diminish somewhat.

However, if, when you sleep, you are constantly waking up (but perhaps not consciously), then you really aren’t getting refreshing sleep. You may suffer from sleep apnea. Do you know if you snore? Do you remember waking up a lot? Do you have tiny moments when you hold your breath or just stop breathing for a little while?

These are all signs of sleep apnea, and if you have any of them, you should consider getting evaluated at a sleep clinic. Sleep apnea is caused by relaxation of soft tissue in your throat, blocking the air passages. It can be caused by being overweight. It is associated with heart problems and high blood pressure.

There are many anti-snoring devices on the market, although I don’t know how well they work. A dentist can make a device that pulls your lower jaw forward, thus opening up your breathing passages and allowing you to breathe properly. There are also CPAP devices, which blow air in your nose at night. They blow with enough force to keep your air passages open.

Anyway, if you do have hypersomnia, it seems to me like it would be a good idea to get evaluated by a sleep doctor anyway. If you fall asleep a lot during the day, or while sitting, or even driving the car and coming to a stop at a stop light, it’s not good.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Try to develop a bedtime routine. minimize stimuli (TV, radio, internet, etc); If you live with an SO, ask that person to assist you. Some types of cuddling can be very relaxing. Also, I find that Sleepytime Tea by Celestial Seasonings, taken about ½ hour before bedtime, can be very relaxing.

My (non-professional) feeling is that if you can conquer the insomnia, the hpersomnia should take cre of itself.

Good luck, and sweet dreams!

evegrimm's avatar

@all, I don’t think I have sleep apnea. As far as I know, I don’t snore, and (normally) feel rested when I wake up in the morning. Also, I sleep like a log and only startle awake when I feel like I’ve overslept. :D (Happens more often than you’d think.)

However, my dad has sleep apnea (had?), so if it’s hereditary, it might be something to look into.

@dee1313, I understand where you’re coming from with the caffeine thing, but two of my favorite things in the world are coffee and tea, so I refuse to give them up. (And just switching to decaf isn’t an option, because I enjoy many exotic and flavored teas that aren’t produced caffeine-free.)

It seems like most of you suggest a routine before bed, which is actually a great idea. I will try that.

@vaokcal, I haven’t consulted with professionals, because it’s never been a big issue before, and as far as I know, I don’t have any other symptoms of ADHD/ADD. I was always a somewhat quiet, calm child. However, it might be something to look into.

By “hypersomnia”, I mean sleeping for 10 or more hours per night, not falling asleep at inappropriate times. (When I can sleep for long stretches, I sleep for 12–15 hours at a time, and wake up feeling tired. Then I’m back in bed about 12 hours later.)

Thanks for all the great responses so far!

dee1313's avatar

@vaokcal You might say Adderall has helped me too, but its hard to tell. I used to have a terrible time getting to sleep, but when I married and moved, I was no longer in school or working, so I was sleeping all the time (the longest was 16 hours for me), and I’d get tired after 12 hours of being awake because I was used to sleeping so much. For a bit there I’d sleep for 6 hours, be awake for 12, sleep for 6 more, be awake for 12 more, etc. Since I’ve been on Adderall, my sleep has been more regulated, and its been a deeper, better sleep. I’ve also switched to a day schedule instead of trying to be awake when my husband is, and I’ve been more busier, so that might be part of it.

@evegrimm I was a quiet (shy), calm child too. I developed a whole bunch of things to kind of describe how I thought. My mind is a train station, you have trains of thoughts, and I ‘train hopped’ a lot. I’d just from thought to thought to though, and sometimes ‘lost my map’ because I couldn’t remember what topic I was thinking about prior to it. I had never thought I had ADD, and I always did well in school. I hated reading assignments, though, and they took me forever because my mind would wander while I was reading. I’m more focused now. I still do the ‘jeez this is boring!’ thing, but I don’t have to keep going back and reading the same paragraph because I couldn’t concentrate on it.

I’m starting to think that I functioned so well because I had adjusted to it, and developed habits to accommodate it. Some of those habits are not helping any more. I used to fidget with things while I read, but its distracting now.

avvooooooo's avatar

I have this “positive thinking hypnotism” (or some such thing) CD. Put that bitch on for 10 minutes and I’m out. Never get past a certain point. Downside… I don’t know what’s said after I pass out (nor am I tranc-y, I’m just out). Upside is that I wake up the next morning, no perceptible harm done.

I suppose I could sit there when I’m wide awake and hyper and listen to the whole thing and not get more than drowsy, not follow the directions… but since I haven’t had any ill effects that I’ve noticed, I’m not that invested in finding out what’s being said.

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