Sleep struggles and strategies

Contributed by: Night Owl Connie
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, January 2012

[Connie is 68 years old and she lives in the state of Washington]

I have arthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, a fused neck (C2 to T1), depression, allergies, celiac disease, & more. I’ve had trouble sleeping all my life, but the increasing health issues have made it even more difficult.

I am a night owl; no point going to bed just to lie there for hours.  Even when I do, it is a job unto itself to sleep.  I have a 2” memory foam topper on a fairly firm mattress, use sheet blankets & flannel pj’s in winter, make sure my pillow is just right (not too flat or too puffy), & in winter, keep the bedroom door closed during the day so it stays cold in there (62-66 degrees).

I pre-heat the bed with an electric blanket, & turn it off when I get in, otherwise I end up too warm, even on low setting.  I use enough covers to stay warm, & have a spare blanket nearby just in case.  I always wear socks to bed, summer & winter, as they say it helps one sleep better if your feet are not cold.

To deal with the back pain, I sleep with a pillow under my knees when on my back, & lengthwise between my legs when on my side (from knees to ankles).  I have a sipper bottle, eye drops, & mouth moisturizing gel by the bed in easy reach (book case headboard is great; stash tissues, flashlight, lip balm, etc. within reach).

I have a sleep CD on my player, next to the bed, which I put on continuous play if I’m having a really bad night.  It really works.  If I am doing ok after a while, I turn it off (it has a remote, which I keep handy).  I got the CD from the Internet; there are several to choose from; I have two I use.

I try not to use sleeping pills, but resort to them in desperate times (when some of my other health issues arise or I’m particularly stressed or upset before bed).  I have used melatonin, theanine & GABA for years; I think they help.  I do use 1 mg. clonazepam at night, or I wouldn’t sleep at all.

I don’t take pain med. before bed; it keeps me awake, as do muscle relaxants.  Medication reactions are different for everyone.  Eating too much too close to bed time is also a mistake.  I can’t go to bed hungry, so have a bowl of cereal & maybe some fruit.

I live (& sleep) alone, so I can do whatever I need to get to sleep.  My room is totally dark (blackout cloth on windows so NO light gets in), & I have a towel rolled up at the bottom of the door to keep light out also.  To see my way to the bathroom, I have a motion sensor light on the floor, so when I walk by, it lights the way so I don’t run into anything.

Even with all this, I don’t sleep very well (FMS I presume, & low grade pain).  I believe I have done everything I possibly can.  I also turn the ringer off on the phone before I go to bed (no early calls for this night owl) & my cats are trained to be quiet until I get up.


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