BI Blog: Sleep

There is loads of information online about what to do when you can’t sleep, so you don’t need me to reiterate it.

Here are two excellent websites that talk about sleep and BI

Sleep Disorders and TBIs

More about sleep disorders

However, there are a few things I had to figure out for myself, so I’ll put those here in case they’re useful.

  • Doctors don’t like prescribing medication for sleep – and they are absolutely right to be reluctant. Strong sleep medication is addictive, and quickly becomes ineffective. However, taking strong medication for a short period of time (maybe only a few weeks) can be enough to get the body over whatever barriers it has created (fear, habit, whatever). Once you are through the initial barriers, it’s important to stop taking the addictive medication and move onto something gentler, then deal with remaining issues through other means.
  • If you have a tendency to wake up a lot in the night – DON’T LOOK AT THE CLOCK. If the desire to do this is too great, hide the clock before you go to bed. By looking at the clock when you wake, you are programming your brain to wake at that time. That might sound odd, but try it for a few days.
  • Stress about sleeping can stop you sleeping. It’s true you need to take lack of sleep seriously, but once you have come up with methods for dealing with it, you need to try and let the worry go.
  • If noises wake you up, then get a noise machine (although some people hate the sound of these). They make a constantly whirring sound like a fan.
  • As I said, there is plenty of conflicting information online about how to sleep, but one thing seems fairly universal – spend at least an hour before you sleep not looking at any kind of screen (TV, laptop, kindle). Instead do something restful, not exciting, not stimulating. If reading is difficult, then maybe drawing or listening to an audio book is better.
  • Don’t pay attention to your dreams. In this culture there is some focus on dreams as being important and oracular. With PTSD, dreams can become intense and seem important, but paying attention to them, especially writing them down, makes you more likely to wake up after having them.

As always any additional information in the comments is much appreciated.

15 thoughts on “BI Blog: Sleep

  1. Oh wow, i had no idea about that looking-at the-clock thing. Makes sense though, i guess, thinking about it. I know that if i have to be up in the morning by a certain time, waking up in the middle of the night, then looking at the clock and realising that i’ve now only got X hours to get any sleep can create anxiety, which in turn makes it all the more difficult to relax and get back to sleep.
    I’m not suffering from any BI or PTSD, so i’m not sure that the methods i’ve tried/ currently use would be of help, so i won’t go on about them. ( sometimes they don’t even help me, so..!) I’ve been a chronic insomniac forever, but i think it’s just part of who i am. Even as a kid i didn’t sleep much through the night. I often wonder whether my body clock was programmed for the wrong hemisphere or something, haha. Like if i moved to Norway, I’d suddenly be right!
    Speaking of sleep though, it’s just about that time here in Aus that i probably should get off the computer and go read for a bit to try to make myself sleepy!

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    1. If you have any good methods for overcoming insomnia, then please share them. I don’t think it matters how you came by it, (although I’m sorry you have to deal with it). We all respond slightly differently to methods for overcoming sleeplesness, so any suggestion can be useful. Although, maybe wait until you wake up 😉 Sweet dreams.

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      1. I don’t really have any good methods- that’s the problem! My only advice is quite fluffy and unhelpful, i think. Or just stuff that everybody has already heard, such as *try* not to look at any computer / TV/ phone screens during the hour or so before bed; try not to drink lots of fluids too close to bedtime, etc. I just try to do something that’s relaxing and enjoyable that doesn’t involve screens. For instance, i have some steel handpan drums that i play, and doing that can sometimes induce a calm, meditative state. But other times it can make me quite hyped up, haha. So that’s not very reliable. The only other thing i’d say to anyone experiencing sleeplessness ( and again, it sounds so fluffy) is to try not to berate yourself for not being able to sleep. I used to get really annoyed with myself, and mentally run through all the things i’d have to do the next day, and how hard they’d be to do without adequate rest. Although understandable, it clearly doesn’t help the situation. I’ve since made the choice to just accept rather than fight the fact that i’m awake, and kinda ritualise the experience: make a cuppa, grab a book ( or whatever else is relaxing, such as listening to music, or even something like knitting!) and just go with the flow. If i’m going to be tired next day anyway, i may as well get something out of the awake time!
        It’s a tricky one. I sometimes go for several nights without sleeping at all- or 5 days of about 3-4 hours per night, followed by one big 12 hour sleep! Segmented sleep is something i’ve embraced a bit lately. But it only works if i get to bed VERY early/ am tired enough to get to bed early. Sometimes things work; sometimes they don’t. I’ve never really come across anything that works consistently, so i’m at the stage now where instead of trying to combat the sleeplessness, i’m just trying to accept and work with it as best i can. Hopefully this will lead to less tension, which is better than nothing, i guess! Meditation probably helps a bit, although it takes a while to start feeling the benefits of that, and it’s quite hard to stick with. As you say, different people respond to different things, so it’s a complex subject. I personally think modern life is at fault more than anything. Back in the day before electricity and artificial light, we were probably more in tune with our natural rhythms. We’re all forced into routines that may not feel- or be- natural for us. Things like daylight savings ( so unnecessary where i live) don’t help. That’s a different rant for a different time, though!

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      2. Thank you, those are all really helpful. Knitting before sleep is a good one. Drums? I have visions of you enthusiastically leaping around like Animal from the Muppets, so it’s difficult to imagine that making you sleepy, but it sounds like your version of drum playing is more hypnotic and calm. I especially like the ‘accepting it’ attitude to insomnia. If you’re stuck with it, might as well use it and stop panicking. 🙂

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      3. haha, i’m laughing at the Animal from Muppets reference 😀 Unfortunately, this is what can happen if i’m in the wrong mood! But sometimes the calm version happens, and it gets me feeling more zen like 😉
        Yeah, the knitting thing- although it sounds funny at first- is a goodun, as it’s very repetitive, and again, quite meditative and calming. For me, anyway! Hopefully could help others. If nothing else, you end up with a few cool scarves! 🙂

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  2. Your comment about extraneous noises being masked by a ‘noise machine’ is interesting. We found that listening to a DVD with the noise of waves on a shingle beach was the absolutely best way to get to sleep at night as it masked out inner city sounds (car radios, doors slamming, sirens, blues parties) with a ‘white’ noise that had pleasant associations. Occasionally we accidentally had it on repeat and if we woke up in the night it sent us straight back to sleep.

    Then we moved to the countryside and were woken with the dawn chorus …

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      1. Ah, we’re now living in a very small quiet town, which has some of the amenities of urban living with access to(and views of) the countryside — so, the best of both worlds! It’s only the early morning sun that woke us early, the solution being black-out blinds and shutters …

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  3. I hope you’ve found some ways to help with sleeping. Insomnia sucks.

    I’ve always been an insomniac, although it wasn’t super bad. But with the fibro, PTSD, and bipolar now it’s near impossible for me to sleep like the “normal” people I know. I sleep with a fan on, both for the noise and the feel of air (also claustrophobic so no air movement = no breathing to me) but it doesn’t help much. I’ve tried just about everything you listed and most of it has stopped helping. The only thing that does help is the occasional use of a muscle relaxer when my fibro gets really bad.

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    1. I’m really sorry to hear that. I know that with bipolar, the insomnia should come and go, and PTSD usually has a point at which it calms down, so I hope that soon you will get a little relief. I don’t know much about fibro, other than it involves a lot of pain and my heart goes out to you for going through all this. I don’t know if this will be helpful, but have you read the book Living Well with Pain and Illness by Vidyamala Burch? It helped me a great deal with pain and stress, it was a big factor in me regaining health. Anyway, wishing you peace and calm tonight, and the chance to rest.

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  4. I like to listen to something. So I started with guided mindfulness meditations, and then I moved on to a podcast called Sleep with me, where some guy talks nonsense and effectively bores you to sleep. Now I use sleep hypnosis apps, but really I found all these methods pretty good. Just helps shut my brain up.

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    1. Thank you for the comment, every bit of info helps 🙂 . Myself I could never quite get into the sleep hypnopsis, but guided meditations I like a lot.

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