This isn't so much a question on what to do to treat insomnia, as I've pretty much read everything under the sun to try and treat it, but more what do people do to try to minimise the negative effects it can have if chronic.
How do people stay positive after a poor nights sleep? For me it cripples my mood, not just because of the physical effects but because you know and worry you aren't healing/functioning well with poor sleep. Somehow it would help to try to forget about the night you've just had and get on with the day as best you can.
What do people do during a restless nights sleep? Do you physically try to get out the bedroom? Just lie there? Go and do work on the computer? read? What thought processes do you try to encourage when you are lying there wide awake at 3am?
I have some deep issues that I feel are contributing to my insomnia, mainly revolving around adrenal and digestive health. I'm doing the best I can during the day to treat these but allot seems to effect my sleep. Whether it's taking something that alters the gut ecology, or something for the adrenals which can amp you up too much when it's not supposed to or you react adversely.
I've had sleep "issues" as long as I can remember. The Paleo diet helps a lot as does regular exercise. Though if I am strict very low carb, after a while (few weeks to a few months depending on exercise levels), it seems like I get out of the happy zone again. So the best routine for me to have good sleep (and generally good energy / health / mental function) is the Paleo diet with either moderate carbs (50-100g per day), or very low carb but with a decent amount of carbs about 2x per week. I lose weight best with very low carbs (<= 25-35g per day), so sometimes I have to choose between sleep and weight loss.
I have a tendency towards bimodal sleep, especially as I get older. Interestingly, my dad was the same way, as was my grandfather on the other side of the family. I wonder if it might be genetic. If I fall asleep in the 9:00-10:30pm range (early for me) I almost always wake up at about 2-3am and am completely unable to go back to sleep, I'm wide awake. I've learned that I should just get up and get out of bed and do something for a few hours, usually I will read, or post to PaleoHacks :-). Then at about 6:00am, I get tired again, it hits me suddenly, and after being wide awake for several hours, I can fall right asleep. At this point I can sleep 2-3 hours. This adds up to a full night's sleep, but obviously sleeping from 6-9am gets in the way of a job or getting the kids off for school, so what often happens is I skip the second phase and don't get enough sleep.
To avoid this, if I can force myself to stay awake past 9-10pm and then fall asleep in the 11am-2am range, then usually I'll sleep until 6-7am, which varies from almost enough sleep to plenty of sleep. I would prefer to get 8 hours every night but my long-term average is probably closer to 6 hours.
In any event, I almost always wake up several times during the night, and almost always at 4am. My brain is obviously very active at that time and that is when I usually have a lot of anxiety about something or other, which I would prefer to process sub-consciously but obviously my brain has other ideas. If I have something particularly stressful going on, this will wake me up and I won't be able to go back to sleep.
I have tried all kinds of sleep supplements / meds such as Tyelenol 3 and melatonin, which both gave me weird hallucinations and left me feeling drugged all the next day. I am scared to try Ambien after hearing stories of people waking up and cooking a pound of bacon and not remembering it. Alcohol doesn't really help, and the leafy green just stimulates my brain more rather than making me sleepy.
About the only things that do work for me are diet, exercise, and trying to keep a pretty consistent sleep schedule.
I have this Bio-Brite alarm clock that I bought to help me wake up on winter mornings that uses light therapy. It has a light built into it that dims or brightens. One of the features that I didn't realize it had was that once you set the alarm and turn it on, the light some on so you can read or whatever. Then the light slowly dims over the course of about 20 mins which sort of lulls you into sleep. Works pretty well.
I've also found that I can't take my laptop to bed with me or any backlit device. Those keep me up.
I supplement with 3mg melatonin when I can't sleep. It's a pill, yes, but for me it's better than lying awake for hours. Usually puts me out within about a half hour of taking it.
You might also try avoiding bright artificial light at night, which messes with your sleep cycle. I found that when Hurricane Irene knocked out my power for a few days, having only candles and flashlights after the sun went down got me to go to sleep much earlier than I usually do. It limits what you can do after sunset, of course, but it certainly encourages a healthy sleep cycle.
I have some insomnia issues sometimes. There are a couple of things you can do if your not already. Don't watch any t.v. or use a computer 2 hours before bed, instead read a book before bed (not in the bedroom though). Make your bedroom a place for sleep only, black out your windows and don't do anything in your bedroom besides sleep. When I follow these guidelines I usually sleep well. Try them and sweet dreams.
(Disclaimer – this is not Paleo or natural) – My sleep problems were not necessarily getting to sleep but waking up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. What has worked wonders for me is taking 1-2 teaspoons of children’s benadryl before I go to bed. It seems fairly benign since it is (I think) the only antihistamine approved for young children, and I am taking children’s doses. Just about all of my sleep problems have gone away. My problem was that I would wake up, and before I could get back to sleep my mind would start working on something. That has all seemed to go away.
I tried all the stuff before: laying in bed waiting, or trying to be productive - reading, watching TV, doing computer work, but I don’t know if I really preferred one over the other. I probably “relaxed” better reading or watching TV, but I don’t know if I felt any better the next day.
I've got a pillow speaker so I listen to podcasts when I can't sleep. I never hear the end of any of them! and because it's a cheap MP3 player that doesn't fast forward I always have to start from the beginning again. I've heard the first 20 minutes of Dr Andreas Eenfeldt on Livin La Vida Lowcarb 3 times now!
How much sleep are you getting on average? Have you tried doing things to lower your cortisol?
I would get your Reverse T3 and cortisol check as soon as you can. These issues can really mess with your sleep.
You say you have adrendal and digestive issues... have you tried basing your diet around white rice, some easily digestitble fruit and only a little meat + some fermented foods? Bone broths? If your having adrenal issues, you really need the carbs, and white rice is considering the easiest to digest.
For gut issues, you might just have too much endotoxin going on which can keep you up.... have you tried activated charcoal? Paul Jaminent recommends this or cholestryamine as a binder for endotoxins. Are your gut issues fungal or bacterial?
I am guessing your issues might be endotoxins or cortisol or both.
I also know you have mentioned hypoglycemia before... have you tried any glucose control supplements? If you need carbs to cut down your cortisol, blood sugar regulators like chromium and cinnamon might help. Blood sugar dysregulation messes with sleep as well.
You also mentioned constipation in another thread... maybe you have a thyroid issue?
I had terrible insomnia for 6 years, and could not get to sleep without Benedryl or some other type of pill.
For other reasons, I cut out sugar, dairy & gluten from my diet and then consulted with a naturopath. Testing revealed that my cortisol levels were peaking at 9pm when they should be at a low level. For this I took a supplement called "Cortisol Calm" (safe and food based according to my nd)- 1 pill in the evening (I think it was 1/2 hour before bed maybe?) I didn't even finish the bottle before I accidentally realized that I could get to sleep and stay asleep without my usual sleeping pill. I just forgot it one night and never needed it again. I've slept like a baby ever since. I also maintain good sleep hygiene (always getting up at the same time, no naps, etc). If I stay up way too late and experience a racing heart when trying to fall asleep, I take one of the left over Cortisol Calms and doze off (but that's only been a few times in the last 3-1/2 years). I can't tell you what a relief it is to be off all meds and finally sleep normally.
I'd suggest consulting a naturopath to see if underlying unbalance of hormones might be an issue. I suffered for years, and I know how debilitating and frustrating it is not to sleep.I wish I'd searched hard for the underlying issue a lot sooner than I did!
I hope this helps someone out there. Diet and a short stint with 1/2 bottle of a supplement worked a miracle for me...
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