Insomnia? . . . and some ideas how to combat it.

by Jane Robinson, Cambridgeshire Lupus Group, UK.

(First printed in Lupus UK News & Views, Spring 2000 Number 60)

Everyone will suffer from a bout of insomnia once in a while. It is quite normal! people with chronic conditions, however, are more susceptible to insomnia than the average person. This can be due to many reasons including the stress of being unwell, the worry and the anxiety as well as from the medication (for example a side effect of corticosteroids can be insomnia). Over the years and trying to combat insomnia, I have read and taken advice from many sources and here are some of them.

  • Have a routine for going to bed.
  • Do not have a hot bath right before bedtime, have a warm bath about an hour before you retire.
  • Have a hot milky drink, the calcium and amino acid, tryptophan, in the milk is released when      heated and this will help induce sleep.
  • Herbal teas and sleeping tablets can work for some people. They often contain passiflora,      valerian and other plant extracts that help induce sleep. Many of these are available from      health food shops or over the counter from your pharmacist.
  • Open a window - fresh air will make you relax more physically.
  • Take regular exercise - this will help you feel more tired and make the sleep you do get deeper.
  • Avoid coffee and tea in the evening. The caffeine that they contain can stay in your system for      6 to 12 hours!
  • If you can't sleep, try and do something with your time but make it a restful activity like      reading. You don't want to stimulate your system anymore!
  • Use essential oils either in a bath or from burning that encourage sleep such as lavender,      camomile or majoram.
  • Don't get too hot in bed! remove a blanket or turn down the electric blanket.
  • Read before you go to sleep - lose yourself in a good, or boring book.
  • Invest well in a mattress. You spend 6 - 10 hours a day on average closer to your mattress than      anything else. Make sure it is a good one.
  • Don't set your alarm clock, wake when your body tells you to. Something we can't always do,      but when you can, do!
  • Use relaxation techniques such as meditation or those taught in yoga sessions to help your      body relax.
  • Over and under eating will disturb your sleep. If you are hungry late evening, try having a      digestive biscuit before going to bed.
  • If you can't sleep at night take an afternoon nap. Whilst it may seem sensible to make      ourselves so tired we sleep the following night, we do have two rest cycles a day, one at night      and one in the early afternoon.
  • Hide or cover your clock - so you don't know how long you have been tossing and turning and      then you are less likely to worry about it!
  • Change your bedding regularly, enjoy settling down to clean bedding.
  • Keep a pen and piece of paper by your bed, if you wake thinking of something to write it down      and then you don't have to stay awake all night trying to remember it!
  • Write down how you are feeling in journal, diary or letter to a friend.

    Remember that not all of these will work for you, some will, some won't, some will at one point and not again. I think the biggest thing I have learnt with bouts of insomnia is for them not to get to you, to try and make good use of the additional time in the day.

    Sweet Dreams!