insomnia

Insomnia – I would do anything to sleep through a whole night!

You may not know this about me but I suffer from chronic insomnia. It’s not like I’m alone – between 15 to 30% of the world’s population suffer from insomnia and it is the second most common health complaint after pain.

There was never a time that I can remember that I didn’t suffer. Even as a child I was an extremely light sleeper and struggled both with going to sleep and with waking up several times every night. I also suffered from sleep paralysis and sleep walking – the latter until my late teens!

For many years, I was plagued by nightmares which only stopped in my mid 30’s. These days I rarely have a nightmare and when I do, it’s like I can’t be arsed to feel any fear. For instance, I could be dreaming about being brutally murdered (having my guts torn out or something like that) and I’m like ‘whatever.’

Of course, I often wondered why I couldn’t sleep through a whole night. While I have no proof, I believe my sleep-related problems mostly stem from not feeling safe and secure in my own home growing up.

Now that I have created a safe environment for myself, the problems should go away, right? The problem is that my inability to sleep seems to be hard-wired into my brain. Believe me when I say I have tried everything in terms of natural remedies, changing my habits and creating soothing bedtime rituals.

These days, I have no problems with falling asleep. If anything I really struggle if I want to read in bed, rarely making it past the first page. The problem is that I still wake up three times every night on average.

A recent doctor’s visit prompted this post. She asked me when I last had a decent night’s sleep. In reply, I burst into tears and told her I couldn’t remember – which is God’s honest truth.

On the plus side, waking up after most sleep cycles, I some nights remember up to five (sic!) dreams. Maybe I was ‘blessed’ with insomnia for this very reason. :P

Some of you may wonder how it is possible to function under a state of chronic sleep deprivation. I believe we adjust mentally (except for occasional end-of-tether days), but the physical body ends up paying the price. At the minute, I’m aware of lowered immunity and I have no doubt in my mind that it is due to lack of sleep.

I’m sharing this because I want to hear from other insomniacs out there… I want to know if you have figured out what the root cause of your sleeping problem is and what you are doing to sleep better – especially if what you are doing helps!

Angel Starlight Blessings,

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33 comments

  1. Mag · September 12, 2012

    I used to get my granddaughter asleep by “putting her on her own beach” I would get her to gradually work from her toes right to the top of her head tensing everything and then relaxing, each part of her body “sinking” into her mattress. I would then describe being in warm sunshine and walking down steps, feeling the sensation of warmth on parts of her body; then she would be walking on the warm sand; feeling it between her toes, seeing the blue sky, sea and feeling the sun. At the same time she would be walking towards the shade of a cool palm tree where she would then sit and listen to the waves coming up the beach and going back out again (with me doing the “swishing”). She can now PUT HERSELF on to her beach. She used to sleep like a top. Please try it. xx

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks for this, Mag. That’s a lovely thing you did for your granddaughter. I have tried various visualisation and relaxation techniques before falling asleep and yes, I do fall asleep feeling very relaxed. Even so, I still wake up a sleep cycle or two later. xx

  2. Jess · September 12, 2012

    I have the same problems. I wake up every night after about 1-2 hours sleep. I have tried everything from visualistion to strong sleeping pills. Nothing helps , the sleeping pills work for one night but the next it is the same.
    I have now a pill that should help my melatonin to work better, and it does. I woke up often before 6am and are not sleepy ( not so fun if you had been awake a lot during the night) and I get tired a little earlier at the evenings but I still wake up at least 2 times during the night and then it takes about 30min-1hour to get back to sleep.
    Now when I´m home and not working because of my kidneypain i can go to sleep or rest during the day, but i have to be restrective with that because otherwise i can´t sleep at night. But as you say Lisa, we remind more dreams that way:-)

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Hi Jess, thanks for commenting. Melatonin pills isn’t actually something I’ve given a go yet. Would love to hear how you get on with those long term. Maybe some of us are just meant to take ‘cat naps’ instead of sleeping the whole night through :)

  3. Val Serill · September 12, 2012

    I can’t remember a time when it didn’t take up to an hour of going to bed before I fell asleep. I still have no clue what the root cause of this could be. I’m inclined to think I’m just wired that way.

    I was in my 30s when I noticed I was waking up about every two hours (I’m 50, now) and have tried and read everything I can get my hands on to help me stay asleep longer. My sister recommended an over the counter sleeping aid. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of chemically induced sleep, but after a couple of years of this two hour cycle I was a bit desperate. Well, it actually had me asleep in under 30 minutes, but, two hours later, I’m awake. Not only did it not help to keep me asleep, I also felt like I was walking around in a fog the entire next day. No more of that!

    About a year ago, I came across an article that speculated night time lights could severely impact ones quality of sleep. Street lights outside the window, little night lights plugged into the wall, and even LCD light from the bedside alarm clock was enough light to interrupt the sleep cycle. The article’s author recommended using a sleep mask to block these light sources. I thought, what the heck? I’ve tried so much other stuff…

    I was surprised with how effective the mask performed. It doesn’t make me fall asleep any quicker, but I do sleep longer. I’m still not sleeping all the way through, but those two hour waking intervals have extended to up to five hours! As an added bonus, the quality of sleep has improved, too (or maybe it seems that way because I’m sleeping longer). I feel a lot less grumpy when I get out of bed.

    After sleeping with the mask, I average 3 – 4 hours in a row before waking up. It isn’t ideal, but loads better than just the 2 hours I’ve been getting for the past 20 something years.

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Wow! Thank you for this, Val – definitely worth trying! 5 hours sounds like heaven. I can’t remember the last time I had a whole five hours… Just need to find a comfy mask now! :)

      • Val Serill · September 12, 2012

        I’ve only had three or four of those 5 hour sleeps, but, boy OH boy, they were bliss! Before actually buying a sleep mask, I used a ski band and it worked like a charm. I didn’t buy the mask until the weather turned warm and the ski band was too hot on my ears.

        The next thing I want to try is one of those little machines of nature sounds. I’d like to find one with falling rain sounds – no thunder. The search is still on for one of those with a price tag I’m willing to accept. (Funny how a frugal Capricorn Sun trumps sleep deprivation.)

  4. Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

    Oh, you’re a cappy too, Val? :D Rain sound sounds perfect. When I wake up and I can hear rain outside my window, I usually fall back asleep much quicker. I had no IDEA they made machines for that. Off to shop for an eye mask on eBay now (CHEAP of course hehe)!

    • Val Sherill · September 12, 2012

      Yep, I am a goat girl. :D

      And I just remembered something: I heard a nutritionist on the radio talking about certain foods and vitamins to ease certain afflictions. One of those afflictions being lack of energy which she recommended taking a combination of vitamin B-6, Folic Acid, and the sublingual form of vitamin B-12. Since I was always feeling sluggish from the disruptive sleep, I gave it a try and have had really good results. After about 2 weeks of taking this combo on a daily basis, I began to notice a definite upswing in my energy levels. The challenge, for me, is to remember to take them everyday!

      The nutritionist also made a point of saying that vitamins need to be taken with food. If you take them on an empty stomach, they just pass right through your system and exit the body via the urine. You don’t have to eat an entire meal. If I remember correctly, a few crackers is enough. I prefer a few apple slices.

      And another thing: I remember reading about the benefits of St. John’s Wort for improving one’s mood. That was something like ten years ago, but i could never remember to look for it until about two or three months ago. At first, it didn’t seem to have any effect on me until I doubled the recommended dosage stated on the bottle. The label also suggests to take it three times a day. I only double the first dose, then (when I remember the second/third dose) take the recommended dosage.

      Of course, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor, first. Especially if you’re taking other medications.

      • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

        Thanks for the tips about Vitamin B and St Johns Wort. Another friend recommended Chlorella which apparently has lots of Vitamin B and antioxidants in it. It’s difficult to tell if it’s having an effect because I never really fully recovered my energy levels after the sinus infection I got before Christmas last year. Two lots of antibiotics did nothing in terms of boosting my vitality and I’m kinda mad at myself for not toughing it out with them but I didn’t feel I had a choice since I had committed to travelling to see family. Yet another lesson in putting self first. So. Damn. Hard.

        Oh, and about doctors… Don’t get me started. I used to work for them as a medical secretary and I also did medical translations professionally for three years. Let’s just say that my trust in modern medicine wasn’t exactly enhanced by my professional experience.

        I went to see my doc on Monday and one of the symptoms I have is a swelling behind my right knee. I said I thought it might be my lymph nodes. She told me it couldn’t be since there are no lymph nodes behind the knee. I’m still in shock. I’m seeing her again tomorrow. Should I print out a diagram of they lymphatic system and take with me? Jeezuz!

  5. monny · September 12, 2012

    I didn’t get any sleep tonight. For me, I think it’s the melatonin supplements. I have been taking them for at least 3 months now (strip and now gummie form) and all I can say is watch out for the side affects. I noticed that once I started taking them on a night by night basis, they will keep me awake, no matter the brand or form. If I take them at least 2 nights a week, the side effects of course are not as bad, but it might not put me to bed as well. If I take the supplements for three nights or more, I’m feeling out of it and up most of the night. My mom is also a light sleeper and it takes a prescription to knock her out. She says melatonin doesn’t have a strong affect on her as it does for me. I find that a good shower and clean blankets, pillow cases helps to make me more comfortable at night, otherwise I get all itchy. I do hope this helps.

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks, Monny. I had no idea melatonin could have side effects like that. Are they even worth taking at all then? And yes to the clean bedding – always sleep better after a night time bath as well :)

  6. Elizabeth · September 12, 2012

    There are three possibilities your doctor might have missed, which *might* explain your chronic insomnia.

    1. Fibromyalgia can cause severe problems with falling OR staying asleep. I have fibro, and the proper meds have helped me a lot (and no, they’re not habit-forming meds!).

    2. Bipolar disorder. Contrary to overdramatized scary news stories, not every bipolar person is a murderer! From Patty Duke to Robin Williams, bipolar people are usually very creative and intelligent, but have a simple chemical imbalance that can be helped with medication. Insomnia is a major symptom. Unusual emotional reactions can be a symptom too (like what you described, above).

    3. Chronic depression. Your past could be causing a low-grade depression you’re not fully aware of. Again, depression (like BPD) often occurs in bright, creative people.

    Please seek help from other medical professionals, until you find the source of your insomnia. There is help out there! ((hugs))

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks for this Elisabeth! I will try to get to the bottom of it.

  7. spiritspeak444 · September 12, 2012

    I too am a chronic insomniac. Mine is different as I get spells of insomnia. When I’m sleeping well I’ll sleep like a dog 10 hrs or more. When I’m not, I’m up ALL NIGHT. I’ve tried many things but I never want to take a prescription med. I used to use tryptophan until they took it off the market. Now I use meletonan and I like it ok. I don’t take it everynight but every other or once a week, I never want to get addicted to sleep aids. I have found that meditating before bed helps. I have several hypnosis mp3 files on my ipod as well as rain, wind, meditative music. I make sure these files are as close to an hour as I can get. I think there could be medical reasons and those reasons could be different as I see our insomnia patterns are different. I think some of us are just wired that way. Like some people are hyper, some not, some more psychic etc. By the way, I found that many intuitives struggle with sleep. We are intuitive during waking but we also get messages when our brain relaxes. The messengers want to be heard right? I tell my guides, ‘you may not need sleep, but I DO!!
    Peace P

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks P, I believe you’re onto something when you mention that many intuitive struggle with sleep. We are by nature more sensitive than your average person and it can be both a blessing and a curse. If we can’t find a way to change it, we have to find a way around it… Maybe acceptance is the first step. Blessings, L

  8. Jennifer Flint Designs · September 12, 2012

    I do all sorts of things to stay calm enough to sleep – I used to struggle with insomnia a lot as well. I meditate, exercise (not right before bed though), listen to Hemi-sync CDs, etc. but the thing I did that helped the most was giving up almost all carbs. I used to suffer from horrible nightmares, night sweats, all kinds of symptoms. Once I dropped the carbs (grains, sugars, etc.) and went on what is essentially the Paleo or Primal diet, I suppose, it all disappeared, and I sleep almost straight through these days (not to mention being thin as a rail). I’ve also learned to meditate myself back to sleep by rolling my eyeballs slightly upward – this helps to trigger the alpha state automatically, and gives you a more refreshing sleep.

    Best of luck to you, since I know how miserable all this can be. You might also try things like 5HTP, L-theanine, and magnesium before bed. All are supposed to have a relaxing effect. Valerian can also help, and you can get it in teas like Sleepy Time Extra. L-theanine is a substance naturally occurring in tea, and you get a fair dose of it with just one cup, or you can buy it in capsule form at the health food store. I’m a constant tea drinker, and it occurred to me that I may have been self-medicating my high-strung nervous system all these years, without being aware of it!

    As a side note, there is a little device called the ZEO that you can now get and link to your mobile phone. You wear a headband at night with a special sensor, and it tracks your brain activity while you sleep. It can show you where things are going wrong. If you get the mobile version, it’s not too expensive. My boyfriend has one, and he got it on sale for about $33. Might be worth a try just to get more information!

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Wow, that is a LOT of helpful information! Thank you, Jennifer! Paleo diet sounds very interesting. I believe it would be right for my blood type too which is 0. Apparently O’s are more intolerant to carby grains than other blood types. I’m really impressed that you managed to cut out ALL carbs. Do you have any online resources or books on the Paleo diet to recommend?

      I had to smile in recognition about the constant tea drinking… Guess who’s sitting here with a cuppa right now? :)

      Will check out the ZEO too – I happen to like gadgets! :)

      • Jennifer Flint Designs · September 12, 2012

        I gave up carbs out of sheer necessity – check out my recent blog post, The Hunger Games, for more details. Try marksdailyapple.com for starters on the Primal diet. That’s quite a popular site. Good luck! :)

  9. Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

    Thanks again, Jennifer. Just read and commented on your blog. Wow, how interesting! I do believe that many of us intuitives suffer with conditions that cannot be diagnosed through Western medicine. I hope you don’t lose too much weight!

    • Jennifer Flint Designs · September 12, 2012

      Me too! Obviously I’m a rather extreme case. But let’s keep each other “posted” on our respective blogs, and maybe we can help other people out too! :)

  10. Diana · September 12, 2012

    Hi Lisa. I love your blogs.I am sorry you suffer so. Have you tried acupuncture for your insomnia? I have found it to be helpful for many things, though I dont suffer from insomnia in the way that you do. My first thought was also that perhaps you have a kind of PTSD that makes you wake up alot in the night, stemming from your family stuff. I believe there are things you can do to confront/heal that (I’m sure you’ve done alot already.) I have heard of good results using EFT for hard to diagnose things.
    Also, in chinese medicine, the hour(s) that you wake up are associated with certain organs of the body, which are associated with differrent emotional issues, such as grief. Sometimes knowing what your body is trying to tell you helps immensely. You might try researching those, or visit a good chinese herb doctor who can diagnose and prescribe chinese herbs.
    I have other issues at night- like severe leg cramps. I find that doing my spiritual practices VERY regularly like the MP, LBRP etc., and then when I am doing my nightly prayers, I simply say “I want to sleep through the night comfortably, painlessly, and my legs will be relaxed all night” really gets results.
    Good luck!
    Cheers, Diana

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thank you very much for all your support and advice, Diana. Sorry to hear about your leg cramps but glad to hear you have found ways of coping. It’s tricky but I’m sure I’ll find a way to cope and manage this problem too. I wake up after pretty much every single sleep cycle so I guess I have very few organs that function normally. :P

  11. Anne · September 12, 2012

    I always considered insomnia as being unable to sleep at all, not waking up several times a night.
    I myself wake up 3-6 times a night, every night, because I have to “go potty” so to speak. :) I have tried cutting out all liquids as much as 4 hours before bed and still wake up every 1-2 hrs.
    I also often nap during the day, not only because I am tired but because I can almost always get 3 straight hours of sleep during the day and it is wonderful bliss.
    I completely understand how waking up several times a night feels and on the rare occasions when I sleep 5-6 hours straight I feel so energized and emotionally happy, I really don’t know what to do with myself.
    There is that plus side of remembering the dreams though! My family loves hearing about my detailed, vivid, full color and sound dreams the next day. Eventually I get the “how do you remember so many of your dreams?” I try to tell them they are a lot easier to remember when you wake up right after having one, or right in the middle of one.
    I had sleep paralysis as a child/teen, as well as rare prophetic dreams, and “flying” dreams where I went and watched people. Oh and the lovely past life dreams where I got to (and still get to occasionally) watch and feel myself die over and over again before I woke up screaming several times a week (being stabbed in the chest hurts even in dreams).
    I do sleep with a nightlight, so my entire room is light enough to see, though I don’t see that affecting me negatively since being without it would be unthinkable. I am terrified of the under-the-bed monster and closet monster. I’m in my 40s, no I’m not nuts, and logically YES I know there is no such thing as those monsters, (and that a demon really isn’t going to get me when I wake up at 3am) but that doesn’t stop me from having my chest seize up so I can barely breathe, while I have a near screaming panic attack if I wake up and the damn light is out. hmmm maybe that is why I enjoy napping during the day so darn much. LOL

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. A definition of insomnia is, “difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or non-restorative sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning or marked distress for more than 1 month.” (copied and pasted from Wikipedia) By this definition you do suffer from insomnia.

      Napping has been proven to have many health benefits. You are lucky to be able to take naps during the day… and so am I since work from home. But many people who have the same problem still have to get up and drag their backsides to work every day. That’s the real nightmare.

      Would you not rather be able to sleep with the light off? You might be able to manage that with some therapy. Your melatonin levels would be normalised and you would sleep better.

  12. antonrossi · September 12, 2012

    I don’t know if mine is insomnia some sites seem to think so. I basically wake up (after the first couple of hours) on the hour pretty much every hour. By the time my clock goes off in the morning I am already anxious and tired! I am currently trying magnesium tablets under a friend suggestion and it seem to be working as I wak up much less. I will finish this 30 days course and up the dose after (this was a lower dosage since I wanted to try it first). Apprently 90% of the population lacks magnesium so it is not a bad thing anyway :). Good luck with your sleep xx

  13. Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

    Thanks, Anton – you too! Let me know how you go on those. I find that the dietary changes I have made (excluding most carbs and dairy) and getting the bulk of my nutritional content from fruit and vegetables is making a big difference. If I was depleted of minerals, I’m certainly making up for it now. I kinda shudder when I think of all the crap I used to think of as ‘food’ – processed crap that does more harm than good. I’ve also taken a white month. If you’re sensitive and intuitive, I think alcohol is more prone to affect your sleep. xx

    • antonrossi · September 12, 2012

      You are probably right. I don’t eat that much processed food to be honest, just the odd one if no time. I can’t do no carbs I won’t be able to go to work, I need to keep them balanced but still there. I should eat more veg yes, however it would help living in a place where the veg are actually fresh lol. Magnesium is very easy to get depleted on even if eating a balanced diet. Alcohol probably does not help..but hey we live once ;p, I’ll see how I go to be honest it is probably stress more than anything else. It does not help also that I still cannot get spirit to repsect night boundaries. blessings to you my friend :)

  14. Val Sherill · September 12, 2012

    About that Paleo diet, I came across this ebook that is available for free for Kindle (as of this posting). If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon offers a free app for the computer and other devices.

    UK:

    USA:

  15. Val Sherill · September 12, 2012

    Holy cow! When I submitted the above comment, only the text link was visible. Now, it’s showing two huge images of the book cover and looks SO spammy. If you do not want to approve it, I will certainly understand!
    OH! And I apologize! (I’m also embarrassed ~blush~)

  16. melissa · September 12, 2012

    I feel your pain with the no sleep thing. I have tried everything form melatonin to sleeping pills, the sleeping pills worked but i got addicted to them and took a long time to get off them. One thing I have tried that has worked is Neocitrin before bed, The antihistamine in it puts me to sleep for a little bit. still looking for the big cure.

    • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd · September 12, 2012

      Thanks Melissa! I think sleep hugely depends on feeling safe and supported in life… I’m still working on that bit. It may well be a life-long project for those of us who grew up in abusive home environments.

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