After all that we go through with chronic pain, to loose sleep is truly unfair; and that comes from someone who doesn’t even believe in the concept of fairness in this life. If insomnia can create all sorts of havoc in healthy individuals, it can be devastating for sufferers of chronic pain. So what’s an invalid to do? Well, I’m going to go over some ideas that have been medically tested and approved. Please understand, this will not be an automatic cure all, you will not enjoy blissful sleep just because your room temperature is between 67 to 70 degrees. However, if you’re not doing the basics, you’re fighting yourself. Here are some of the tried and true:
- No caffeine past 2pm.
- If you smoke, either put the fire out or quit. Period.
- With pain medication on board, I’m assuming you’re not adding alcohol to the mix. If you are--stop. Period (Again).
- Try not to nap during the day. This can be very difficult, but what you are trying to do here is make sure your circadian cycle doesn’t get so out of whack you lose “normalcy”. Keep the day, day and the night, night.
- If, like me, you spend a lot of your day in bed, make sure the room is bright during the day, dark at night. Most experts believe that a bed is only for sleep (and marriage perks) and nothing else. The idea, bed should equal sleep. If you’re confined to your bed, can you move to the couch sometimes? If that’s not possible, use clothing and covers as your body’s cues. For instance, dress for the day, pajamas at night. Cover the bed and use a light cover during the day, turn down your bed at night. Mints on the pillow, optional.
- Turn your clock around if you find yourself fixated on it. It’s like watching the clock at the DMV, doesn’t do anything but get you more revved up.
- Try journaling an hour before sleep time. Get it all out so there’s nothing on your mind when you want to shut it down.
- Hot baths or showers may make you feel good, but increasing your body’s core temperature before sleep could be a mistake. If you must, try a cool one instead.
- On the other hand by all means use a hot cup of herbal tea before sleep. Chamomile, mint, or any flavor without caffeine that you enjoy. I’m not a warm milk kind of guy, but if that works for you, then go ahead and enjoy.
- When it comes to eating, this will also be a personal preference. If you must eat, try and make it a small protein snack. Try an apple with peanut butter, or a half a sandwich on whole wheat bread. Some people swear by a bowl of cereal, they believe the milk really helps. Well, okay, but easy on the sugary, kids cereals; which by the way, the kids shouldn’t be eating at anytime.
- Watching the tele before sleep? Don’t. You can catch that episode the next day on the station’s website, or hulu, or your DVR. And if you don’t, it won’t really matter all that much. At least you’ll get some sleep!
- Use eye masks, ear plugs, nose strips, anything that either cuts out external irritants or makes you more comfortable.
- Conversely, a fan may help make the temperature more comfortable and give you some white noise if that works for you.
- Do some light reading. Be careful of getting sucked into a mystery or true crime lit though, you may not want to find yourself with a great page turner at 2am!
- Pray. Here again, this isn’t the time for a deep theological discussion with your Creator. Use nighttime for praises and thanksgiving.
I am hoping that at least some of these will be new to you and can help give you some relief. I’ve been on the long insomnia stretches and it’s no carnival cruise. One item I didn’t put in the bullet points is more of a product endorsement. My wife and I use a Select Comfort, king size bed with dual controls; one for her side and one for mine. Other than an old, traditional futon we had for years after we first got married, this is the greatest mattress we could possibly own at this time. It’s pricey, but it has been worth it for us. Finally, you’ll notice I didn’t mention sleep aids as in medication. That is such a precarious topic for chronic pain patients, it must be discussed between you and your doctor; that means over-the-counter medicine as well. How about you? Did I miss something? Do you have a no fail method? Have you been there, tried that and still can’t get some zzzz’s? I’d love to hear from you and see what works for you.