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What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Posted by newbie_in_nj 6b E/Central NJ (My Page) on
Thu, Nov 12, 09 at 1:59

...but you're exhausted?

I've slept 45 minutes in the last 24 hours and tonight isn't looking much more promising.

My doctor is switching meds for me and my body doesn't like it one bit.

Spent most of the day doing laundry while chicken stock cooked. Then used stock to make chicken veggie soup for my sister who's sick from her class sneezing and coughing all over her...LOL.

The longer you go without sleep the harder it seems to get to sleep and STAY asleep.

Not much good when I'm awake as I can't concentrate very well.

This has been going on for 3 weeks and I'm getting ready to crack. Can't handle feeling this way just when I have family holiday cooking/cleaning/hosting duties coming up.

Somebody remind me how Mom handled all of this with more grace and grit than I seem to have!

Doctor looks at me like I have two heads when I don't want another pill to counteract the side effects of the first and second ones he already prescribed!

Sorry for whining but I'm beat and there's nothing to do but get through it until it's over whenever that will be.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Yike, I was going to try to offer some help here, but not sure I can. Sounds like you have a much tougher "can't sleep" situation than average. Three weeks of not sleeping is something I would think the medical profession would consider a bit of a crisis - my last two doctors surely would have. They also took seriously my concerns about side effects of any medicine - so while this is going on, you may consider whether it's worth getting another physician?

Is the change in meds the single problem with the lack of sleep? If so, your physician ought to be able to prescribe a temporary sleeping aid that won't interact with the other drugs. If you don't want to take another drug (and I totally understand that), ask him/her how long these side effects are expected to last - it does sometimes take the body awhile to adjust to new medications. Maybe you can tough it out, if it won't be much longer - but 3 weeks, eek.

Is this being compounded by tension? I sometimes found that when I can't sleep, I start worrying about not being able to sleep, and worrying about a pile of other things - thus "spinning my wheels", and guaranteeing a sleepless night. For such possibilities, I recommend the following:

(1) from dear sister, the No Lists mantra. The typical woman who awakes in the middle of the night starts running the following day's (or week's, or month's, or lifetime's) to do list through her head. To which dear sister starts repeating the mantra, "no lists, no lists". Kind of works on the counting sheep philosophy.

(2) seriously boring book. For me, a math or computer book will do it, as I won't have the energy to try to understand the material, and it's all Greek to me. Geneology lists from the Bible work pretty well, too - after awhile, the begats and begots get fuzzy. History or philosophy might work for some. Read until your dreams start to mix in with your thoughts, then put the book down and you should be able to drift right off. A good novel may sometimes work, but it can have the opposite effect - you get so into the story it wakes you up.

(3) Herbal tea - but you would want to clear this with the doctor first, as some herbs, like ephedra (which I don't think you'd take for sleep anyway), may be counterindications to the medicines you're already taking. Celestial Seasoning's Tension Tamer is pretty safe, I think. Anything with soothing properties - valerian, mint - might be helpful.

(4) Deep breathing/meditation/mantras - focusing on breathing deeply and regularly is usually pretty relaxing. Making an attempt to clear the mind of all thoughts but perhaps one word might help. Repeatedly reciting (in your head) a memorized word or passage might help.

(5) Check your before bedtime habits - if you eat close to bedtime, you will be putting your body in a work mode as it is digesting. Kill any caffeine in the evening, and from the early afternoon if you are particularly sensitive to it. Ditch alcoholic beverages - they may put you to sleep, but they will interfere with your staying asleep. Are you watching mind-engaging TV or movies close to bedtime? You want the more mind-numbing varieties. And don't exercise close to bedtime - contrary to what you might think, it won't wear you out, it will wake you up.

(6) Depends on your nature, but if it's available, good sex might help. For some folks, though, it wakes them up. For me, it pretty much relaxes me and puts me to sleep. Bad sex doesn't help anything, so unless you have a good, dependable relationship, forget that avenue.

I hope some of that helps. If all else fails, I really would consider trying to get a temporary sleep aid - 3 weeks is a long time to go without sleep. Keep us posted on how you make out, and good luck!

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

So sorry to hear about not being able to sleep. I've had that problem, mostly due to stress and deadlines, and it is no fun. I hate the way it prevents me from being able to focus or make decisions, and my emotions get all messed up, too.

Not sure if this is an option for you, but what works the best for me is exercise. Unfortunately, the more tired and stressed I am, the less I feel like doing anything. But, if I walk (briskly) 5 miles a day for 3 days in a row, then I can't stay awake past 10 PM to save my life. If you can find someone to walk at a good pace with you, the time really flies by as you walk and laugh. I walk in the morning or late afternoon, never after dinner (or I'll get hungry all over again and end up eating a second dinner). If 5 miles at a time seems like a lot, try walking 3 miles in the morning and 2 more miles in the afternoon. If you have a safe place to walk at work, you can knock out 2 or 3 miles at lunchtime and only have the remaining 3 or 2 miles to walk after work.

Also, I have found it's easier to wind down if I limit the sodium after 3 PM. If I have pizza at night, it takes forever to get to sleep. I guess there is more salt that I realize in the cheese. Oddly enough, caffeine does not seem to affect me very much.

Hope you find a solution soon,

Lois in PA

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I forgot one helpful thing that is so often helpful I can't believe I forgot it in the first go-round - check up on aromatherapy, and add a soothing scent to a nice, warm bath - that will help tense muscles unwind.

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I'm a caffeine/nicotine fiend. Caffeine doesn't seem to affect me as I always have a hot cup to unwind when I come in the door. May just be habit. I know smoking is bad but I know I'm not going to stop. I don't smoke in the presence of anyone...out in the garage with door open 12 months a year at my father's house.

Lois, worst thing about it is getting all wrapped up in knots when this happens. That upset feeling when you're just tired and your mind is darting in different directions is disconcerting to say the least.

My startle reflex is on hair trigger right now. Just what I need...more hot flashes...LOL.

The one thing that calms me is getting outside whether gardening, cleaning up, raking or walking. When I lived closer to the beach I used to do 6 miles every morning at sunrise. It's magnificent without crowds in the Fall and through the Winter. I've fallen off since not close anymore and not always safe to be walking alone while it's still dark out. I'm getting one of those "head lamps" so I don't have to carry a flashlight. Gotta commit to walking again. It's great for clearing the system and mind all at the same time.

Thanks for good wishes and suggestions. Getting my behind in gear is the hurdle to self-help here.

Getting lots of cooking ahead done which makes my father and niece who lives here pleased as punch. :)

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I have had difficulty sleeping for years. Lots of physical disorders can make it worse. Hormonal changes, menopause can add to that too. If you have explored those as reasons for your sleeplessness first, then the next thing to do is figure out what might be preventing you from sleeping. Is it stress? Do you have a habit of thinking through problems or 'to do lists' when you shut the light off, as Drippy pointed out? Are you getting enough exercise as lois pointed out? Are you eating something that could cause wakefulness?

I had a young friend once, who had small children and over the course of a few months, she related that she was struggling with depression. Further discussion revealed she was not sleeping. Visiting her at her home, I saw that she made a whole pot of regular coffee and had cup after cup in late afternoon while we were visiting. I asked her about it and she said that was her second pot of coffee for the day. I tried to explain to her how much of an effect the caffeine would definitely have on her sleeplessness, but she was convinced that she was used to it and it wasn't keeping her awake. Months later, she became so depressed after worse and worse sleeplessness, she ended up having to be hospitalized for depression. Once in the hospital, they stopped the coffee of course, and she started sleeping again and could then better handle her challenging life as a single mom.

It amazed me that this young woman, could not even consider the fact that the coffee might be part of the problem and never even tried to eliminate it to test it out for herself. I think it is pretty common though, for most people to not even be aware of what foods have caffeine in them. I cannot tolerate even small amounts of caffeine after lunchtime without it effecting my sleep.

Over the years, I have read books on Sleep Hygiene and incorporated some of the suggestions into my routine and most of the advice I can offer are what I read that worked for me. I tried sleeping pills and that worked out badly in the end. One prescription I took, kept having to be increased to keep working and then I was on too high a dose and had to come off it. Another prescription created high liver enzymes. So I became unwilling to go that route entirely. I used Melatonin for a few years. It seemed to work very well to help me go to sleep at night. But during a blood work up with a naturopath for something else, we discovered that I had too much melatonin in my system so I've stopped using that too.

Exercise and fresh air has become my mantra of late. I find that when I exercise outdoors enough, I always sleep better that night. I have to really work at keeping my mind off problems when I am under stress. I set aside a time during the early part of the day, to think through a problem and come up with any solutions that I can do and then when there is nothing more you can do, work at letting go of it. At night, it has been a long standing rule for me, that I never allow myself to think of problems or tasks that need doing the next day. Sometimes I will practice 'belly breathing' which starts me yawning within minutes. Sometimes I review photos of the garden in my mind, which is a safe pleasant activity that almost always allows me to fall asleep.

One thing I learned from one of the books I read, that getting anxious and worrying about 'not sleeping' just makes it worse. So I get up within 30 minutes if I am awake at night and go and enjoy myself until I get sleepy again. Turn on the TV or pick up a book, or get on the computer. I sometimes need a little snack since I have some physical problems that effect blood sugar. I get sleepy after I eat something. If I don't get back to sleep, I try to stay awake the entire next day and get some fresh air and exercise and I usually can sleep well the next night.

Too bad you didn't have someone to read 'Good Night Moon' to you before bed. [g] Hope you find something that helps.


RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

prairiemoon2 said, "Too bad you didn't have someone to read 'Good Night Moon' to you before bed."

Oh, what a sweet deja vu thought! We used to read that to my oldest niece (now 27) every night. When it was time to turn out the light she'd hop out of bed and scramble over to the window where she'd rip open my mother's good shade and squeal, "Good night, Missy Moon!"

I finally came home from my father's when I still couldn't sleep at 2:30 AM this morning. I've slept over 7 hours and it feels great. Guess I needed a break from the "have to's".

I also slowed down the tapering off one medication.
I think I was trying to hurry things up a little too much.

I know intellectually I should limit caffeine intake and exercise more. Since I broke my wrist (twice) in early September I haven't been able to do planned bed expansions and regular outdoor upkeep/gardening activities. Big time bummer. I don't feel as well when I can't get outside and move around and getting something accomplished. It's my escape at my father's place and I've come to love the new found gardening bug.

Thanks for all the suggestions and shared experiences.

Sometimes many answers are shrouded in one's own denial of some sort. I gotta reach around and give myself a good kick in the behind.

At least I've gotten some much needed rest and true relaxation. :)

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

newbie, our DD used to ask for that book every night, too. :-) Kids say the cutest things, don't they? 'Missy Moon'

I usually look at gardening as my only exercise, [g] but last year, after gardening season ended, DH and I tried to incorporate walking into our routine, when he was recovering from a back injury. Of course it had to be at night when he got home from work and it's dark by then, so our favorite Pond was out of the question. So we decided on a nearby small town square that was lit up at night instead of an indoor mall. It worked out very well. We may try it again this year, since we've gotten out of the habit.

I think you said something very profound, newbie. I agree that often denial is part of what blocks most of us from solutions. Annoying, isn't it? [g]

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Newbie, I have fibromyalgia and I freq have sleep problems. I have a script for Ambien that works pretty well for me. I have found that if my sleep isnt right, then the mental cloudiness is much worse. I also found that (as you said) the longer you go without sleep, the worse it gets. It seems if I can take my sleeping pill for just a few days, then it seems to reset things, break the cycle, and for awhile I can sleep again without pills. My doc freq wants to try me on this new fibro pill or that one, and I refuse. because anymore it seems that these new pills are being put out to the market extremely fast, and frequently we are hearing about serious side effects from them later. it just doesnt seem that our medications are getting the strict ,long period of testing that they used to have or something. So as with most of my pills, I only take when I really have to have them.
Also if I cant sleep, it does no good for me to lay in bed for hours and toss and turn. So I give myself about an hr, and if I havent gone to sleep or gone back to sleep then I get up. I will either watch TV, or play on the computer for an hour or so, then try again. it seems this short distraction helps get my mind off of whatever it is obsessing over, and I can quickly go to sleep. My mother used to read.When I was younger and before the fibro, I raised 5 kids( 2 of which were twins which meant when the twins were born I also had a 3 yo, and 7, and 9 yo), went to school to become an LPN, then worked part time to full time as an LPN, and took classes thru homestudy for my RN( which I scored very high in and completed in a yr or less), took care of a lg home,Plus had time for whatever crafts I was into at the time, and some gardening.And now I wonder how I did it all.

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I just wanted to mention that Ambien is the medication I was taking for a year. I started out like Tammy, just taking it for a night or two to get back on track every once in awhile. But during an extended period of not being able to sleep, I ended up taking it every night, then not being able to sleep without it. It's very tempting to have a pill that will allow you to fall asleep and stay asleep when you are missing sleep regularly. After a year, I had upped the dose to 3x more than I started with because it stopped working at the lower doses. I was told by a doctor that was a toxic dose, so I stopped it altogether and haven't taken it since. It took awhile before I could adjust and figure out other ways to get some sleep, but right now I am doing pretty good in that department.

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I have taken my ambien for couple of weeks straight. And then when i go off, just give myself a few days again, to try and sleep on my own. Usually I do, but it depends on whats going on with the fibro. At one time it seemed like it was no longer effective as prescribed,when I was taking fairly regular, so now I just take it for short periods and try again without it.

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Reading all your messages has been like hearing the latest updates on my three sisters. That's a compliment and sincere thank you.

Crohn's disease, Graves disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis (Rheumatoid/Osteo)have reared their ugly heads among my 3 sisters but left me inexplicably unscathed. The family is an autoimmune minefield...LOL.

After the ONE night I went home to get some sleep I came back to my father's house to find 2 cars and no father. When your 82 year old father is MIA without explanation you naturally worry.

Turns out he had a second serious bout of Atrial Fibrillation and went to the hospital without telling me.

Ask me if I wasn't feeling guilty for leaving him and upset with him for not calling me. He didn't want to interfere with me taking my best friend to a colonoscopy appointment Monday AM.

I didn't sleep again Monday or Tuesday nights but got a couple hours sleep earlier tonight when I landed back at my father's with Pop in tow from hospital/cardiology office.

No Coumadin yet until results of 3 week montoring device show if he's having small episodes of A-Fib when he gets chest tightness on treadmill at gym. Coumadin and exercised induced symptoms are the worst for him. He's extrememly active physically (so he doesn't fall asleep!) although we're having memory issues.

Well, I've whined again but it feels better to get it out.

I went outside yesterday at first light to rake and do a little garden clean up. It was glorious and relaxing.

If all stays well for next week or so I'll have cooked my 5th Thanksgiving dinner and actually gotten somewhat used to it. Part of family will be here and Dad can have his turkey dinner without dietary restrictions of blood thinner. He's all about his food but luckily for me not picky...LOL.

All in all, I'm a pretty lucky chickadee tonight. :)

Good wishes for all of your health challenges as well. I think I'm going to get some Lavender heat wraps to relax me when I'm exhausted but can't sleep.

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

newbie....sorry to hear you have such a problem with autoimmune problems in your family. That stinks. :-( I hope your sisters have things under control as much as possible. Not easy conditions to deal with.

Happy for your Dad that he gets to look forward to no restrictions on Thanksgiving. [g] He sounds like an interesting person. Great that he is so active at his age and sometimes at that age, people have less interest in food, so that is great that he has some. He sounds pretty healthy actually for his age and considerate of you too. You are lucky. :-)

We are going to our DD's for Thanksgiving for the first time because our stove conked out and we can't get the new one delivered until the beginning of December. She is excited about hosting her first Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Hi Newbie,

Another chime in for you! Hope you have had some more sleep, my what a lot on your plate... Also hope your dad is ok.
A dear friend has been going through several rounds of back surgery and was having a HORRIBLE time sleeping with trying to find a comfortable position. He sent a link to me of a podcast of meditation music with voiceover. He listens to it nightly now and swears by it, has been sleeping like a baby for a solid week.

If you have iTunes click on the link "The Meditation Podcast on ITunes" left center of page. It will also play straight from the web page.

There are 11 episodes, Episode 6 is for sleep. There is a bit of intro before the actual session. Their voices are very soothing, but I believe you can also listen to a cd without the voice.
I've been dealing with anxiety issues this last year and have been listening to several of these. It has helped me calm down quite a bit. Let me know if it is helpful to you.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving (turkey is a good sleep aid!)


Here is a link that might be useful: meditations for relaxation and sleep

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I have always been a good sleeper ;-) But menopause changed that. I'd fall right to sleep but awaken in the middle of the night and be unable to go back to sleep. I took HRT for a couple of years and that helped some but that's all behind me now. If I had several nights when I didn't rest well, I'd take 50 mg. of OTC Benadryl (diphenhydramine). It never failed.

I'm an anesthetist and used to use IV benadryl in my practice. If I gave a patient a spinal anesthetic I often also gave IV benadryl to make him sleep for a while. Worked well without the frequent respiratory and circulatory depression caused by more potent barbiturates, benzodiapazenes and narcotics. And avoids dependence on those more potent things. It's available OTC and pretty cheap. It's an antihistamine, not a sleeping pill, but causes drowsiness as a side effect.


RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

Ive been using ambien for months now. its very effective and you wont get addicted to this drug. It works fast. I ordered it from

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I've tried all these frilly fru-fru otcs to fall asleep and nothing works, I'm not thinking of anything before bed to stress me doctor had tried every prescription med out there, with no success, finally found with a combination of strong meds I got 3 hours of sleep nightly, then I lost my insurance and the md won't refill my scripts, so i've had to cold turkey it, so for 3 months now I get, if I'm lucky, 1 hour of sleep nightly, it's broken up into 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there. i'm nauseated all the time and can't sit or stand for too long or I fall asleep

Tips for getting good sleep

I used to have problem of sleep, as I go to bed on time but sometimes I lie there for a while and can't fall asleep. Someone suggested me some tips I found good change in me. You can also do a start by trying to take your mind off any racing thoughts. With help of a picture a relaxing scene that involves sleep and build that scene in your mind.If that doesn't work and you're still wide awake, try getting up for a short time. Get out of bed and do something relaxing that might make you feel drowsy like playing some word, Sudoku games ( if you'd like to play it) Getting up for a short while can help if you have trouble falling asleep sometimes or if you occasionally wake up and can't go back to sleep. But you don't want to have to do it every night. If you have trouble falling asleep, it's best to train your body to wind down and relax with a pre-sleep routine each night. In medical language physician used to call it as "good sleep hygiene." because 3 weeks is a long time to go without sleep, It can be create a big problem ahead. So better you change your regular schedule and put time for your sleep and health.

This post was edited by CallmeRachel on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 5:05

RE: What Do You Do When You Can't Sleep...

I've had sleep problems most of my life and I'm 70 years old. I've had bouts of not sleeping but the most dangerous is when I can't manage to wake up. I once fell off of an examination table in the Dr's office, falling asleep in the middle of a sentence. I had all sorts of tests and doctors including a psychiatrist who came to the conclusion I was totally sane but had a crazy condition. I couldn't think, I could barely talk. I couldn't do the most simple tasks. I could fall asleep standing up. I didn't dare drive. I could barely take care of my family.

I noticed the condition started in October and went away in the spring. Then in the summer I would go into the no-sleep mode which lasted until September. Turns out it is how I am processing light frequencies. Now if I can't wake up ,I turn on the lights. If I can't sleep, I turn down the lights and wear sunglasses or glasses that get darker according to the amount of light. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. What started the whole mess was the glasses I got that changed color according to the light.

Good luck. There are special florescent lights that are very helpful.

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