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Insomnia- The Evil Witch of Sleepytime

Updated on June 14, 2015

What is Insomnia?

I came to the conclusion that I was not a good sleeper when I was an Officer in the Canadian Navy. We had to do training for a week in 'the bush' in British Columbia, and I didn't sleep a wink for an entire week. And, I was fine. No one else was able to function very well with no sleep, but I had no problem with it. I would crash on the weekends, hard- but during the week I had more energy than anything.

After I was out of the Navy, I decided that I was going to put my insomnia to work for me. When the rest of the house goes to sleep- I become alive.

What causes insomnia?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Medical Causes of Insomnia

There are many medical conditions (some mild and others more serious) that can lead to insomnia. In some cases, a medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in other cases, symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for a person to sleep.

Examples of medical conditions that can cause insomnia are:

  • Nasal/sinus allergies
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
  • Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Low back pain

Medications such as those taken for the common cold and nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, and depression can also cause insomnia.

This might be true- but in my opinion- insomnia is caused by STRESS.

I lay awake at night worrying about how I will pay the bills- how my children are doing in school, whether or not I like my son's girlfriend (I don't, in case you're wondering)

I also worry about work- there is so much pressure to make money at my job.

I worry about my family's health, my father and mother in Canada, my dog.. My cousins..

I worry about my appearance- my weight, my health, my body type. Sometimes I lay in bed worried that my husband is going to stop breathing. I actually used to watch my children breathe when they were babies- I was so sure they would stop in their sleep.

I would say the only time I had a medical condition that didn't able me to sleep was after I had a few surgeries- and when I had lobar pneumonia- THAT was a bitch to try and get comfortable- very painful.

Having said the above, the mayo clinic also credits depression and general anxiety to insomnia.

Insomnia & Anxiety

Most adults have had some trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some it's a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis. Anxiety symptoms that can lead to insomnia include:

  • Tension
  • Getting caught up in thoughts about past events
  • Excessive worrying about future events
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • A general feeling of being revved up or overstimulated

It's not hard to see why these symptoms of general anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. Anxiety may be associated with onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep), or maintenance insomnia (waking up during the night and not being able to return to sleep). In either case, the quiet and inactivity of night often brings on stressful thoughts or even fears that keep a person awake.

Some people also suffer from restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. My husband could wake the dead in a graveyard a hundred miles away with his snoring and spouting and snorting all night long. I have, after 15 years of togetherness, learned to deal with it though.

Not All Fun and Games..

Insomnia sucks. For the millions of people like me, it's very hard to get a good night's sleep. I take ambien and xanax and have for years, but that doesn't always help. I have so many thought racing through my brain at all times. I do eventually get exhausted and in the 'I don't give a crap mode' but this is normally at around 4 am, and it's really hard to wake up in the mornings. Insomniacs know this. It's hard to function with no sleep. Feeling like a zombie all day is hardly a recipe for productivity.

Here are some of the ways I deal with my insomnia- maybe it will work for you- and maybe it won't, but I thought I throw it out there for anyone who might be at their wit's end.

How Wendi Controls Insomnia 101:

1) Never eat after 7pm. Snacking WILL keep your body up, especially anything with caffeine or sugar. Your body has to process food- it's not conducive to sleep.

2) Avoid caffeine altogether. Some people will say 'ARE YOU CRAZY?' I mean, coffee is an insomniac's friend in the morning. I do not drink any type of caffeine ever. It makes my heart race. I do love coffee so, but I can handle the way it makes me bounce off the walls. There is no sleeping with coffee.

3) Get an Audible membership. For all of you who say you can't listen to a book on audio because you can't follow the train of thought- it's perfect. You lay down and put in comfortable earbuds. I always use skullcandy earbuds because they fit nicely inside my earlobe. I put on a book and lay down comfortably and I make a point of really trying to get into the story. I know when I am falling asleep because- believe it or not- I start to dream that I am the narrator or part of the story! Audible has saved me from listening to my husband snore, and I really can't sleep without it.

4) If you can't sleep- get up and do something productive. Vacuum, watch some Netflix- write a hub- get something done that you've been meaning to do. Heck, it's better than laying there waiting for Mr. Sandman to come. The worst thing that will happen is you will be tired the next day. I personally think that's half the reason why people experience insomnia- they are so worried that they won't get enough sleep and not be able to function, that they don't get enough sleep!

5) Wear something comfortable to bed. I like my jammies and tshirts. My husband likes lingerie but you know, it all looks the same rolled up in a ball on the floor. When you're done with your business, put something cozy on. Women will have a surge of energy after sex, men will fall asleep before you can get up to pee- it's just the way of the world. Make yourself comfortable!

6) Turn off the television and all of the lights. The best sleeping room has no TV, no lights- and simply a comfortable quiet place to sleep. Sleeping chambers are becoming more and more popular with builders. I will admit I have a tv in my room, but we turn it off strictly at 10:30 and never leave it on. If you have to fall asleep with the tv on, try not to.

7) Get up in the morning and go about your day. Try and get some kind of exercise, even if it's taking the dog for a walk. Spending time outside will make you sleepy. Swimming always makes me tired and relaxed.

8) Take a hot bath. Hot baths work to relax you and allow your body to get into sleeping mode.

9) Make your room cool. It's a known fact that people sleep much more comfortably in a cool environment. Have you ever tried to sleep when you're sweating your buns off? Being from Canada, my mom and dad always cranked open their window in the dead of winter and used duvets. They truly think that they get better sleep at about 50 degrees- and there is nothing worse than trying to sleep in heat.

10) This is so cliche, but try and let go of your anger before you go to sleep. Being agitated is not conducive to resting well.

Supplements and Foods that Can Help Insomnia

1) Limit alcohol. I don't know about you but if I drink, I wake up and feel like crap with dry mouth and a headache. Alcohol really disrupts my sleep pattern

2) Do drink tea (I hate tea), but there are so many teas that can help a person sleep. Chamomile, honey lemon, or just honey tea. Honey is a wonderful, natural wonder and can help a person sleep and it can even help with hay fever. I don't think as a society, we value honey enough.

3) If you like your bedtime snack, make it light- like fruit, yogurt, or fat free milk. Eating anything heavy will impair sleep.

4) St John's Wort- it's a herb. St. John’s wort is most commonly used for depression and conditions that sometimes go along with depression such as anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. There is some strong scientific evidence that it is effective for mild to moderate depression.

5) Cinnamon - As of 2011, there is no scientific evidence that cinnamon helps facilitate sleep. However, the scent of cinnamon was clinically shown to increase alertness and decrease frustration while people drive, according to a 2009 study in the "North American Journal of Psychology." Although this study examined smelling cinnamon rather than ingesting it, it may suggest that adding cinnamon to warm milk or any other food or beverage meant to induce sleep might have the counterproductive effect of making you more alert. As a result, it may be more beneficial to skip the cinnamon at bedtime. If you add cinnamon to milk, you get the addition of tryptophan- that sneaky stuff found in turkey to make you tired after you eat your Thanksgiving meal.

That Stuff In Turkey That Makes You Sleep- Seinfeld-ism

How About You?

Do You Suffer From Insomnia?

See results

Sources

National Sleep Foundation

YouTube (Seinfeld Clip)

www.eatingwell.com

Mayo Clinic


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    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 23 months ago

      Hi Wendy! I have had insomnia since I was a child, so this was right up my alley. I think you covered many of the causes and offered several excellent solutions. I, myself, have to use melatonin PLUS benadryl, and often an additional herbal combo sleep aid, plus sometimes a muscle relaxant on top of those, AND keep a fan going for white noise because any little sound wakes me up. So I can totally relate to this! Great and thorough coverage of the topic :-)

    • lyoness913 profile image
      Author

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 23 months ago from Overland Park, KS

      Thanks for your words Carolyn. As I type this I have taken my sleeping meds, drinking a glass of wine (on vacation), and thinking I need to take a couple benedryl if I have a chance in hell of sleeping tonight. :( Take care of you!

    • lyoness913 profile image
      Author

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 23 months ago from Overland Park, KS

      MK- my schedule is so messed up- I get my sleep when I can! Thanks for the comment!

      -Wendi

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 23 months ago from Long Island, NY

      I have insomnia once in a while. I do the same as you mentioned in item 4, I get out of bed and find things to do when that happens. Then I go back to bed when I'm feeling tired again. I also use chamomile tea as you had mentioned. But I keep forgetting about adding honey to my tea and I'm glad you mentioned that as a reminder. Very useful article. Voted up.

    • lyoness913 profile image
      Author

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 23 months ago from Overland Park, KS

      Hi Glenn,

      Thanks for your comment! Funny you mention it, I just did that last night. I hope you can get some sleep in the future :)

      -Wendi

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 23 months ago

      As a teenager I had insomnia. I tried counting sheep but it was too strenuous a task for me, as I was unable to control their speed. I always used to end up losing count!

      Cheers!

    • lyoness913 profile image
      Author

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 23 months ago from Overland Park, KS

      Quicksand,

      Ha! Thanks for the laugh today :)

      -Wendi

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