Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Night Night Sleeping Beauty

For most of chemo, and after my surgery, insomnia was a constant problem, wide awake till the wee wee hours.  During the second phase of chemo, Decadron, affectionately known as chemo crack and given to counter the allergic reactions associated with Taxol, was the main reason my insomnia started.  It was drug induced.  I was wired on steroids.

What happens though is once your body gets used to that schedule, it's as if it thinks that is THE schedule, and the insomnia continued.  I wish I had gotten help sooner.  By the time I did, I was beside myself and very concerned.  I knew it was affecting my ability to heal, and seriously affecting my positive spirit and hopefulness.

Once I was able to get my pain under control about three weeks after BLM surgery, I started sleeping better and I was determined to get more and better sleep.  Don't wait three weeks to figure out your pain is not being managed, ask for a different medicine.  Vicodin had always worked for me, but it didn't after chemo.  I needed something stronger, and Dilaudid did the trick.

These are some of the changes I made that have really helped me.  Yes, there are still nights I am up late, but it's the exception now.  I also sleep through the night.  What a miracle!

I had read somewhere our bodies naturally start sending signals to us around 10 p.m. that it is time for bed.  I did feel those signals, but I ignored them.  Once it was midnight or 1 a.m., it became easier and easier to stay up.  Then I'd be so tired the next day, I'd have to nap, and the whole cycle would start again.

I made a goal to have lights out by midnight, and knew I had to change some of my patterns and habits for it to happen.  Chemo was not the only factor.  Menopause is too, having been thrown into it involuntarily.

These were some of the habits that affected me going to sleep and staying asleep, and what I did about it.

Worry.  Writing and journaling earlier in the day or evening helps me purge my brain and clear out the mental clutter.  When I write something down, I don't have to keep reviewing it and processing it.  I write in my journal or post in my blog, then read what I wrote, and I am better able to let it go.  Don't use bedtime as your thinking time to work out your problems.

Drinking too much tea or water before bed.  I have meds I take at night, and like having a cool glass of water on my nightstand.  I realized I was drinking way too much before bed and having to wake up to pee several times.   I take the meds earlier now and only have a sip or two if I need it after 9 p.m.  Only decaf hot tea at night, preferably chamomile.

Dressing too hot or too cold.  I have always been a pajama girl, and more so since Motherhood.  You Mothers out there understand this, nothing worse than a kid coming into your room and your big booty is hanging out of the bed.  Pajamas are best when they fit the season, as in the winter, my arms need to be covered and my body warm.  In the summer, I can get away with less, like a comfy sleeveless nightgown.  Either way, lightweight cotton jersey pj's are best.  And good sheets!  Flannel sheets in Winter, and silky sheets in the summer.  Delicious.

Winding down.  I have a ritual about the last hour or so before bed that helps me wind down and end my day.  I light a candle on my nightstand, and when selecting candles for the bedroom, I only use scents that are for relaxing.  According to a study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, some scents, like Jasmine, relieve anxiety and promote sleep as well as traditional sedatives, without the side effects!  [Thank you Natural Health magazine.]  A flame less candle is a great way to go if you are worried you'll fall asleep before blowing it out.  Just remember, citrus smells energize, don't use those to promote sleep.  If you aren't a candle person, aromatherapy lotions work well too.

Set up your nightstand with the things you love, especially beautiful things to look at.  My nightstand has rocks and crystals and snowglobes and crosses and flowers and little books.  Literally small books, that fit into your palm, and have great quotes or happy thoughts such as The Little Zen Companion by David Schiller or Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado

I enjoy reading a bit before turning out the lights.  Always something positive, inspiring, hopeful, funny or spiritual.  One of my favorite treats is to read from a favorite childhood book before bed, like Charlotte's Web, Peter Pan, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Giving Tree. 

A small high carb snack before bed helps, like a few whole grain crackers, or a small piece of fruit.  Complex carbs!  Turkey is not the only food high in tryptophan.  So are bananas and yogurt.

Slow deep breathing is an easy relaxation technique.  It's almost like doing biofeedback on yourself, by slowing your heart rate and getting you into a content and tranquil place that makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.  Counting your breaths is a good way to stay focused on your breathing, and keep your mind clear of thoughts.

Speaking of counting...  Counting my blessings.  I try to have my conversations with God early in the day!  Bedtime prayer for me focuses on gratitude and naming my blessings and people, not problem solving or guidance.

All of these small changes in habit have helped me get a better night's sleep, without drugs.

I forgot something, really important!  The "E" word.  Exercise.  Moving and stretching my body during the day helps me sleep better at night.

I hope some or all of these help you.  Sleep is so important for your immunity, healing, coping with stress, and how you look!  Make your bedtime ritual a soothing, calming, enjoyable one.  It will change your life.

Night.  XOXO

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