Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tired of Being Tired: Natural Cures for Insomnia That Don't Include Death and Propofol

Sleep.  That thing we hated to do as kids but pine for as adults.  It's strange, really.  Our bodies need so much of it, to heal, to grow, to rest.  And yet it seems that the older I got, the harder it became for me to get good, quality sleep.  The kind where you actually wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.

I blame my children, because (for one) I have to get some blaming of my own in before they grow up and blame me for everything bad in their lives! Those kids!  Always ruining my fun AND spotless floors!  My insomnia took a turn into scary sleep-deprivation territory during the sixth month of my first pregnancy.  This wasn't your typical get out of bed a hundred times a night to pee because you're pregnant, on top of that I had heartburn so bad that I couldn't lie down flat.  And in case you're wondering, YES she was in fact a hairy baby.  But don't worry, she has grown into a lovely not-so-hairy girl.  So during this phase it got so bad that my OB prescribed me Ambien.  Yes, while pregnant. I was desperate.

And you parents know the drill.  The baby finally arrived and we entered a Brave New World of sleeplessness, but at least now we had something to display to account for our crazy-eyes.  My husband deployed four weeks after our first daughter was born and I (once again) moved back in with my parents.  Though I still didn't sleep well, I somehow made a routine that worked and time passed.

Fast forward a couple of years and baby number two was headed our way.  If you've been reading this blog for any length of time then you know that I had complications during that pregnancy that caused me to lose sight and have our baby a few weeks early during what I thought was just a visit home to Indiana.  You can read about that by clicking HERE and HERE aaaaaaaand HERE.  At one point doctors thought I had toxoplasmosis (which is gross and scary) in my eye and that's what was causing my blindness and infections, BUT... since then I have been told it is some form of autoimmune reaction, to what we do not yet know.  But my eye apparently hates me and wants to leave.  I've offered to poke it out if it doesn't straighten up, and apparently my threats worked because it hasn't reactivated in three years, THANK GOD!

During that time though I began researching my health and came across a way of eating called paleo, which you can also read about at length if you scroll back through posts on this blog. In a nutshell, it eliminates the most common inflammation-causing foods.  Changing the way that I ate changed my health and I firmly believe that is the reason why my eye hasn't flared up since then.  But…despite those positive changes (and they really have been amazing, beyond just my eye's health) I still suffered from my chronic insomnia.  I really think that being on subconscious alert for noises coming from a baby monitor for years on end through two back to back children does give you some form of parental PTSD.  Sneeze or shuffle your feet under the covers and I'm all:  WHOISITAND WHATDOYOUNEED?!?!  And so I took drugs to sleep.  Again.  But the odd thing about it was that the sleep they afforded me still didn't seem completely restful.  This had been going on for five years and I was pretty sick of it.  Jeremy liked to lecture me about my phone and how blue light kills melatonin and how HE KNOWS BECAUSE NIH TOLD HIM SO!!!!  To which I would always reply by pulling the covers off of him and telling him to hush while I looked at my phone under the covers.

And then we moved across the world again and he deployed again and I moved back to my parent's…again.  All these huge life changes not only added a lot of stress to my life, but they threw my sleep into an even bigger maelstrom.  New bed, new house, new sounds, new time zone ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.  I completed my third Whole30 (which is a very strict form of paleo intended to reset the body and eliminate more problem foods).  If interested, you can read about that HERE and HERE.  I was able to finally stop the sleep meds for a while but my sleep still felt fitful and I would wake feeling like I wasn't rested.  So. Over. It.  They call it Beauty Sleep for a reason, and I wasn't getting it.

Among the kabillion other changes we made when we got home, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer (because I like to pay people good money to yell at me and make me do painful things, I blame my father)  I talked to him about some of my nutrition and health issues and he referred me to Austin Dossey, who was the first person EVER that I had talked to who understood what I was saying about the connection with food and inflammation.  Do you know how awesome that is after doctors and the majority of your family blow you off and act like you're crazy for years?  They're all: Shhhhh, don't start talking to Jillian about food, she's got some "unorthodox" ideas about how it can actually impact your health.  THE NOTION!!  PSHAW!

I talked about my insomnia and how I felt that my lack of productive sleep was really a big factor to my seeming inability to ever feel really good despite my dietary changes.  He recommended I take some supplements and change a few things, which I will lay out for you in detail.  YOU GUYS!  I have to tell you, it all worked!  I did everything he said, some of which I had never heard of and some I already knew but I guess was just never desperate enough to do (*cough* get rid of the phone in bed*cough*). I have been sleeping-medication free for a week now and not only is that a triumph but something unheard of has happened:  As soon as I fall asleep, I don't wake up again until morning, meaning I don't even remember turning over (I am a chronic pillow flipper, COLD SIDE RULES!).  I literally fall asleep and wake up in the morning like a doe-eyed Disney princess sprinkling cheer like glitter at a kindergarten craft party.  Ask my husband, ask anyone who knows me, I don't do that.  I am the evil, scowling morning person.  At least until the second cup of coffee.

I thought that was just my personality.  Morning bitchy lady.  I have snarled at my husband for being too cheerful before I had coffee, but I now think it was because I was never truly rested.

So here is what Austin recommended I take and what I did:

Multi-vitamins with Relora

Lifestyle changes:
Stop using blue light in bed (this includes iPhones, iPads, computer screens) I am sooooo going to hear about a year's worth of I TOLD YOU SO's from my husband but HE WAS RIGHT!

Get out of bed when your body wakes up, this allows your  body to develop natural circadian rhythms. For me, this had been around 5:45 every morning.

Stop drinking alcohol…this was hard. I like my wine.  And I confess I had some this weekend, but I didn't sleep as well as the nights without it.

Eliminated caffeine after 3'oclock

It seems (from a plethora of late-night Facebook statues) that many people I know suffer from the same affliction as I did.  I wrote this in the hope that it might help someone out there.  Someone who is tired of being tired.