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I Can't Sleep...Now What?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Dr. Rob, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. Dr. Rob

    Dr. Rob
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    90% of my clients have less than ideal sleep, and some studies suggest that 70% of the population isn't getting the recommended amount of sleep. I'm not an ideal sleeper and I use both natural (e.g., diaphragmatic breathing, maintaining a very dark bedroom at night and a light-flooded room during the day, etc.) and medicinal (e.g., Klonopin) ways of getting good sleep. My clients consistently ask for new ways to get quality sleep and, while I point to various studies in reputable journals, there really isn't any cure-all for every person.

    Focus: How do you get yourself a good night's sleep? This thread should include both the traditional and the more idiosyncratic. Please skip the clearly unhealthy (e.g., excessive boozing (although that is fun, but not "real sleep" in terms of the standard sleep cycle), overdosing on prescription meds, or anything illegal). If at any point this topic becomes a post on ShrinkTalk.Net, I'll be sure to credit you on the idea if you'd like, just include that in your post or send me a direct message.
     
  2. DrFrylock

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    I go to bed when I'm tired and don't get up until I'm not anymore. Unfortunately my circadian rhythms don't quite align with the rotation of the earth, so the best way to get a GOOD night's sleep is to go to sleep whenever I'm tired, which may be 4 or 5AM. I am pretty convinced I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which is in Wikipedia so it must be real. Basically, if I go to bed at 8PM and only get 5 hours' sleep, I'm fucking useless when I wake up. But if I go to bed at 5AM and get 5 hours' sleep, I'm pretty good. It's weird. I have (fairly) flexible work hours, so nobody cares if I come in at 10 or 10:30 as long as I'm not missing any meetings. If some asshole schedules an 8AM meeting with me, or I'm at a conference that starts at 7AM, that's the worst.

    My biggest problem is that my body's wakefulness is driven by my brain's knowledge of whether we technically have to be awake or not. So if it's the weekend and I'm away from my computer and hanging out with the girlfriend and I can't get any work done, my brain says "oh, good, you don't have anything else going on" and I get practically narcoleptic. Same if I'm at a conference or something and I've woken up at 7AM and have to just sit there and listen to some people drone on and on for 8 straight hours. Brain goes, "you don't need to know any of this shit and you can't get up and leave, seems like a GREAT TIME FOR A NAP" and then I'm in a bad way.

    Luckily I have no problem actually falling asleep as long as it's late enough. Two minutes and I'm out, and then I could sleep through a tornado.
     
  3. Kubla Kahn

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    Lifting weights always helped me to be tired enough to get a full 8 hours and Id usually have to force myself awake with coffee if I had to stay up to work on school projects or what ever. I exercise now but not as heavily as I did in the past. Having your whole body physically tired helps when trying to fall asleep. Though I usually have to work out in mid to late afternoon, workouts can give you a huge energy boost and that's not good if you do it at 9 at night and want to be in bed in an hour or so (at least for me). I also refuse to keep TVs and computers in my room as the majority of the time they'll keep my awake. I am also hopelessly addictive to coffee or espressos so Ive had to keep my intake in check to no later than 3 pm.

    Most of the time if I can't get to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night and can't get to sleep I do two things. I'll either listen to my Ipod or watch TV on the couch. This only works if my mind has been racing and I need to distract myself. I have 10 seaons of the simpsons on one of my ipods and can be out like a light before the first act break. But a lot of times keeping focus on something or having something on in the background keeps me up.

    My second and more effective method is taking a shower, this really really help when I wake up and can't get back too sleep. After towling off and getting back in bed Im out really fast and the sleep it ten times deeper than it was before. I heard on a morning show, might have been that lame Doctor panel show with the dillweed wearing scrubs, but they have a physiological theory on why this works. Something about the water acting as sweat cools the body which in turn uses more energy on temperature control than it would have gone to consciously thinking maybe? It kind of sounded bogus but taking a shower works for me.
     
  4. Dyson004

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    If I'm too wound up to naturally go to sleep from stress, anxiety, or what have you, I take an OTC supplement called melatonin. It's a chemical compound (a hormone I think, but I don't remember for sure) that naturally occurs during our sleep cycle. It provides a warm and fuzzy feeling that lulls me off to sleep with no adverse side effects like dry mouth or grogginess in the morning.

    I first started taking it at the suggestion of my Tai Chi instructor back in '06. It's worked wonders ever since. I try not to use it if I don't need it, but for times (like tonight) when my mind is racing from the events of the day, I'll pop one or two and it usually puts me to sleep within 30 minutes to an hour.

    Beyond that? I meditate or perform reiki on myself. For interested parties, reiki is a Japanese healing modality that the NIH recently studied for its affects on depression, anxiety, and chronic pain (and unfortunately found insufficient evidence to continue research into its effectiveness.)

    I also make sure I'm wearing socks. It's easier for me to fall asleep if my feet are warm.
     
  5. Durbanite

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    I'm not a big fan of taking pills (I'm one of those lucky ones who gags on about 3/10 pills I'll take, even with water). I sleep like shit, all the time. I'm lucky if I go 3 hours without waking up, and I usually wake up at least twice a night. The fucking fridge compressor turning on will wake me up. Sometimes, my asthma wakes me up too. I must sleep in weird positions because I wake up from cramp at least twice a week, which also sucks. Basically, everything wakes me up. Too quiet, I'm awake. Too noisy, I'm awake. I do keep my bedroom as dark as I can get it, though.

    My parents, kind people they are, both snore like Gatling guns. My dad has the unique ability to snore on his side. I probably snore too, but I wouldn't know.

    Some weekends, I'll be unconscious for most of the weekend. I think that's how my body plays catch-up.
     
  6. Disgustipated

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    Fuck sleep. I have a love hate relationship with it.

    As noted ad nauseum elsewhere, I've been diagnosed with a condition called idiopathic hypersomnia (which is latin for "really tired, don't know why") by a sleep physician. It's kind of a diagnosis by exclusion and doesn't really explain anything, but is apparently related to narcolepsy. Basically I'm really tired, all the time. Even on dexamphetamines, I'm usually more alert but I'm still exhausted. I can almost fall asleep anywhere, any time. I have, in the past, fallen asleep while writing and typing. Not unusual? Try doing it at 10am after an 8 hour sleep.

    Any time I sleep, I wake up feeling worse than before I fell asleep; especially if it's a daytime nap. As far as the doctors know I'm either producing excessive sleep hormones, or my body isn't re-absorbing them efficiently.

    Added to that, I wake up in pain from my joints stiffening up while I sleep. Usually it's the pain that wakes me if I don't set an alarm.

    So, to answer the focus: I've never had a good night's sleep. You know that refreshed feeling you get in the morning after a great sleep, where you feel like you can take on the world? Fuck you, I've never had it. I'm not bitter.... really.....


    fuckers.
     
  7. lostalldoubt86

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  8. Juice

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    A few ways...

    1. Beating off. In all honesty, sometimes when I'm lying awake in bed, the best way to relax myself is to rub one out and then I'm usually asleep within 5 minutes.

    2. Red Wine, for the exact reason you get tired on Thanksgiving. It has melatonin or tryptophan or whatever it is, and makes you pass out. Another good one is a cup of tea with honey instead of sugar.

    3. Reading. Nothing knocks me out faster than reading, even if it's a book I'm really into.

    I'm really hesitant to try sleeping pills because I wouldn't want to become dependent on them. One day you're taking an ambien, the next you're buck naked and dead in a hotel room like Heath Ledger.
     
  9. TX.

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    Usually a hot shower does the trick for me. Sometimes it makes me so sleepy that I either go to bed with wet hair (awesome) or I have to force myself to dry it before laying down.
     
  10. fleafly

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    I have no full proof ways for me to fall asleep. Usually if my mind is going on something i'm stressing about there is a very little chance I'll fall asleep. Saying that I've found having a fan on helps me relax end eventually fall asleep. Unless my "RLS" is going, then there's no way. When I was working out on a regular basis I was able to fall asleep better too.
     
  11. Revengeofthenerds

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    I swear up and down by acupuncture/acupressure. Sometimes even a single appointment will take care of it. And no I'm not a hippie.

    For those times when you really, instantly need to go to sleep, it's melatonin for the win. Long plane rides and airports especially, I pop 3 mg of it and I'm down for the count.
     
  12. ASL

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    I'll second melatonin. It's especially nice because it doesn't leave you with that groggy feeling more aggressive sleeping pills do.
    Aside from that, I feel that it's important to use your bed or bedroom for sleeping. Don't hang out in bed and watch TV, lie on top of it to study, etc. If you're always in bed then actually going to bed to sleep seems to loss some of its purpose.
     
  13. bewildered

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    I find that exercising in the evening is better for me than doing so in the morning. I am an absolute zombie in the morning, and though I have tried jogging at 6am, it doesn't work for me. When I exercise at night, it tires me out so that I can sleep comfortably in 4-5 hours post-workout.

    In order for me to get to sleep at the time I want at night, I set my alarm for a bright and early time in the morning and force myself to wake up. I've screwed up my sleep schedule many times (weekends, holidays, etc) and find that if I force myself to wake up early, I'll be tired during the day and want to go to bed at a more appropriate time the next evening. If I force myself to wake up at a certain time, and actually go to sleep the next night when I'm tired, I find that I can fix my sleep cycle in a couple of days.

    Something kind of random, but sleep related: I find that if I'm not getting enough sleep on purpose (studying all night for an exam the next day, for instance), when I finally do sleep, it's like my body remembers exactly how much sleep debt I'm in. I sleep, almost to the hour, the amount I missed in addition to my usual night's sleep. So if I slept for 2 hours last night when I was cramming, I'll probably want to sleep 12 hours the next day. If I'm in sleep debt for several nights, it also takes several nights to fix my sleep deprivation.
     
  14. Bogan

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    I've always had a shitty sleeping pattern. Through Uni I worked nights at a department store, and now I've spent the last five years working in labs for grad school. Late nights/all nighters and long experiments well and truly fucked any circadian rhythm my body tried to follow. I'm mostly writing up now, so can sleep more and am enjoying it, but I'm still keeping odd hours and find it hard to fall asleep. In fact, it's 2:30AM right now and I need to be up at 6 to work (cashie yard work as my scholarship is up. Bastards) but am not at all tired, so this thread is rather timely.

    On focus, I find reading and the old cliche warm milk can help me fall asleep. Also listening to TED talks or watching docos in bed works a treat - maybe I find the voices relaxing? I actually function fine on little sleep though, so I don't really bother trying to sleep if I'm not tired. Getting up after 3 or 4 hours can be hard but once I'm up it's all good.

    Slightly off topic, but I had one of these puppies a few years ago and it actually worked quite well. Looks like shit and seemed cheaply made though, which is a shame.
     
  15. Saint

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    I have had insomnia as long as I can recall. (I'm in my mid 30's) I think that this is the root of my drinking problem. I just could never shut my mind off when trying to sleep, so I started self medicating as young as 14. I have tried all sorts of herbal remedy's, but so far no dice. I have 1 friend that recommends taking 4x the amount of otc Melatonin and I have yet to try it. I have tried the otc nightol and unisom or whatever, and even when taking 3x the recommended dose I still pop awake at 2am. I refuse to take ambien or some such because I am scared of putting my subconscious in charge. There are bad things in there. I guess we all have "our cross to bear"
     
  16. cynismus

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    Like others have stated, getting some form of exercise (cardio or lifting) really helps me fall asleep at a normal time.

    However, if I haven't done anything active, a hot shower or playing Solitaire on my phone for 30 minutes usually helps.
     
  17. lust4life

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    Having sex does wonders for my ability to fall asleep. Unfortunately, mentioning sex has the same effect on my wife. Thus, Ambien CR.
     
  18. JGold

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    If I'm having trouble falling asleep, it's almost always because there's something on my mind. Reading a book or listening to soft music usually does the trick within 10-15 minutes, as it forces my attention elsewhere. Watching TV doesn't help as much because I only half pay attention. If things get really bad, I'll have two or three drinks and I'm out in no time. (Hey, you said not to mention excessive boozing. Two or three beers isn't excessive.)

    EDIT: Almost forgot, I actually do also have a somewhat idiosyncratic trick. Sometimes when I'm in bed with my eyes closed and sleep's not coming, I try to list all the girls I've slept with, in order from first to last, including details of the encounter. That's an exercise in goddamn concentration. I guess it's a bastardization of counting sheep? That, or minor narcissism.
     
  19. hamshackler

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    Focus: Benadryl. It's dirt cheap and 2 tablets knock me out in an hour or so (although it does leave me a bit groggy if I don't get a full 7 hours). I''m trying to only use it for nights before I have a test or something so I don't build up tolerance/addiction, but it's tough to resist sometimes.

    I've heard of people using the natural product melatonin, but that stuff is horse shit as far as I'm concerned. It's actually indicated more for helping people with jet-lag, and not nightly sleeping. But if it works for you, then more power to you.


    As for the non-pharmacologic methods, the best thing I've heard is don't lay down in your bed just to toss and turn or lay awake deep in thought - that trains the body to be used to staying awake while your in bed. It's best to get up and do a small task, something that would take 15-30 minutes, and then try sleeping again. Also, physical activity during the day is a great way to tire yourself out and make falling asleep easier.

    And of course, beating off is also a great way to fall asleep. Nothing like putting your mind at ease by tricking it into thinking it's just spread it's genetic seed.
     
  20. audreymonroe

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    I have had issues with sleeping for as long as I can remember. I hesitate to call myself an insomniac because (correct me if I'm wrong) I always associate that with either not really needing sleeping, or not sleeping that long. The problem is falling asleep for me. When I do eventually fall asleep, I'll sleep for around nine hours if I don't have an alarm. When I'm doing my version of sleeping well, I go to sleep around 2 and wake up around 11, which I don't mind, but would like to get it to 1-10, unless of course I get a 9-5 job. (If I'm asleep before 2, it means I'm sick, depressed, or exhausted, which has only happened when I'm travelling and constantly doing something. I haven't been able to replicate that exhaustion for my normal life, even when I have a really active day.) Then, without warning, I'll fall into this phase of going to sleep between 4:30 and 6 and, since I'm doing my sleeping in the morning, I sleep for maybe 20 minutes at a time because there's so much noise that wakes me up. I haven't noticed any patterns for what triggers it, but I cycle back and forth between these two throughout the year. Sometimes, the problem is I won't get physically tired until so late, and sometimes I'm really tired but my mind won't fucking shut off enough to allow myself to fall asleep. I've heard people complain about not being able to fall asleep in a half an hour...if I'm asleep under an hour of actually trying to get to sleep, then I'm doing alright. I usually toss and turn for hours, sometimes giving up and getting up to do something again for a while until I think I'm tired enough to try again.

    I have tried EVERYTHING except prescription drugs. Melatonin only works intermittently, and that's usually when I take it at 4 out of desperation. When I take it before 2 because I actually have to get up in the morning, it'll send me into this half-sleep where I'm dreaming but am still aware of tossing and turning and then I wake up after two hours and am more wide awake than before. I've tried deep breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxing exercises, a glass of wine, a glass of fucking warm milk like I'm a toddler, reading, listening to calming music, all of the OTC drugs that make you drowsy, this homeopathic stuff that you spray on your tongue, counting sheep, counting sheep backwards, masturbating...basically everything you can think of. I don't really drink coffee. Showers wake me up. Physical activity makes no difference. I am seriously at my wit's end and am now looking into sleeping pills. I've been doing the research and I can't tell if they're a good fit for my type of sleeping problems, and I'm actually on my way to discuss it with a doctor in a few minutes, but if anyone has had any experiences (good or bad) with them, I would love to hear about it (in a message so this doesn't get derailed).