Well, the change-of-weather insomnia issues are starting again. Last year, I had a hell of a time dealing with temperature changes and getting enough sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night, too hot. And/or I would wake up at 4:30 — too cold.
The early morning hours are the worst for me. When the temps start to dip just before sunrise, is when I’m fast asleep and unable to pull more covers up over me to keep warm. Then, I wake up shivering an hour or two before I’m supposed to get up, and my head gets going, thinking I should just get myself up and get into the day, since my head is going, anyway.
But my head’s going at a weird-ass pace, and it’s coming up with all sorts of strange thoughts (all of which seem perfectly logical to it), and if I stay in that “groove” it’s a total dead-end.
On good days, I realize this before I have wasted too much time obsessing over stupid shit. One of the benefits of knowing about my brain injuries and understanding the consequences is being able to self-monitor a whole lot better than I could before I knew why I do/think the things I do.
Actually, “self-monitor” is probably not the best word, because at 4:30 in the morning, I’m not particularly adept at gauging the quality of my thinking. “Self-critique” is a better choice. Or even “self-doubt” — because a good dose of skepticism when my head is off to the races can be a powerful antidote to early a.m. crazies. Just being aware that I am capable of coming up with all sorts of insanity when I’m sleep deprived — and knowing that it’s not because there’s something wrong with me — it’s my brain acting up again — helps me stop the cycle of madness before it takes me into the morning hours.
On bad mornings, I get stuck in a loop and end up just getting up after lying there staring at the ceiling or tossing and turning while my brain is obsessing. I’ve had one bad morning like that in the past week. On better mornings, I can get my attention back to my body, do progressive relaxation as I remind myself that whatever is holding my attention hostage will be there in another few hours, and it could be that the things it’s locked onto are not going to be that big of a deal when I actually do wake up… and then I can roll over and go back to sleep.
One of the things that tends to wake me up during colder weather is pain. If I don’t stretch adequately before going to bed, I often wake up at 3:30 with my back and legs in knots. Not fun. And then my head gets going. Sometimes I can stretch and crack my back and get my legs to settle down. But sometimes even that doesn’t work to help me. It’s maddening. Especially when my head gets going yelling at me about not remembering to stretch or take Advil.
I need to start taking Advil again before I go to bed. During the high summer, when I was ultra-active, swimming regularly and out and about a lot, I had less pain. I was pretty vigilant about what I was eating, I took more time to shop and prepare my meals, and I was moving a lot on a regular basis.
I was also better about taking my vitamins, especially magnesium, which someone told me helps with pain. I had been doing really well with taking my vitamins — B-Complex for nervous system support and to help me with stress… D for immune system support, bone health, and cancer prevention… Magnesium for joint pain… and Chromium Picolinate to help my body with insulin production and how it handles sugar.
When I take these supplements regularly, I notice a marked improvement in my daily well-being, which in turn helps me sleep better. When I’m stressed throughout the course of each day, I tend to get over-tired, and when I’m over-tired, I push myself even harder. That leads me to put in longer days and get all revved in the evening, which makes getting to bed at a decent hour harder. Then, when my body is all fried form the daily stress, I’m susceptible to increased pain and temperature sensitivity, not to mention waking up in an adrenaline rush.
Those adrenaline rushes are no fun at all. Out of the blue, I wake up in a frantic panic, all systems on full alert, my heart pounding, sweat pouring out of me, the sheets soaked, and my chest clenched up tight. I’m on full alert, out of nowhere, and it’s a good thing my spouse and I have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for the past year and a half — if they were in bed with me, it would not be a good thing. I can’t guarantee, either, that I would be able to tell that they pose no threat to me. I might lash out at them — that would not be good. That’s no way to live. I had an uncle who would wake up in panics and hit my aunt, thinking she was attacking him. No way do I want to repeat the performance. He was killed in a tractor trailer accident out in the Southwest about 30 years ago, but those inexplicable and totally unexpected attacks left a mark on my aunt that’s still there.
Yeah… stress… When you’ve been tweaked and freaked-out way too many times, it can really do a number on your nervous system. Fortunately, when I was much younger, I learned how to slow my heart rate and chill out my system. It has to do with the breath — slow, measured breaths… stopping the breath at the end of each inhale and exhale, and then slowly continuing. It’s all about the breath. When I was in high school, at track practice after school, my heart would sometimes start beating so hard it felt like it was coming out of my chest. I would hyperventilate, and I would start to feel like I was falling down a deep hole. All this, just because I was at track practice. I suspect that my concussions throughout my childhood and adolescence may have had something to do with it. It’s my understanding that concussion can lead to more extreme heart rate variability, where your heart isn’t beating at a steady pulse all the time. So, perhaps my concussions had something to do with it.
I have to admit it worries me a little now, when it happens, because I just learned a few years ago that I have a slight heart murmur. Nobody ever mentioned it to me before, that I can recall (or maybe I just don’t recall). So my heart health is a bit of a concern to me. And when I wake up in a cold sweat, with my heart pounding a mile a minute for no reason that I can tell, I get concerned.
I start to talk myself down and start to do my slow, measured breathing, which brings me back to a stable state. Still and all, I’d rather not be waking up at 3:30 a.m. with this crap.
So, clearly it’s time to start taking my vitamins regularly again. I’m not sure why I stopped. Maybe I was feeling fine and didn’t feel like taking them — for about a week. While I was taking them, I was getting good sleep, I was pretty chilled out in my daily life, and difficult things were not derailing me as much as they have been lately. I don’t want to lay it all at the feet of supplements, but you know what? When I was taking my vitamins, I was sleeping pretty well. And I want to sleep well again.
Another thing I’ve been trying, to deal with the pain and anxiety, is homeopathy. I’ve got a friend who’s a homeopath who swears by it. They actually had a “widow-maker” heart attack a few years back, died on the table and came back, and proceeded to change their entire life. They were in the traditional western medical field before their heart attack, and after, they changed over to homeopathic remedies, and they’ve been urging me to use it for my own issues.
I must say I was really on the fence about it, for a while. I tried some things, and they didn’t seem to have an effect on me. Then I tried Magnesium Phosphate for some pain that I just couldn’t shake, and it seemed to take the edge off it. So, I would use that remedy and it gave me relief. (Please note, I am an extreme skeptic, when it comes to alternative remedies. I resist novelty when it comes to my health with almost every fiber of my being.) But that was it.
Then I started using Rhus Toxicohendron for joint pain, and it too seemed to take the edge off. I’ve been using that, on and off, with a variety of results, for several years, now.
But the real breakthrough remedy for me showed up a couple of weeks ago, when I was out shopping for some help for my spouse (who is into alternative remedies — needless to say, I tend to temper my opinions about these alternatives in their presence). I picked up some Kali Iodatum that I’d read is good for certain types of nerve pain. But on the label, it said “colds with frontal sinus pain”. Apparently, homeopathic remedies treat a variety of different conditions – not sure how, they just do.
Anyway, my spouse decided to go with more bodywork than homeopathy, so we had these remedies lying around. And then I started to get sick with a cold, with lots of frontal sinus pain and post-nasal drip and coughing that was keeping me from sleeping. Just for the heck of it, I took the Kali Iodatum, and my symptoms cleared up within the hour. Pretty amazing. I woke up this morning with that same cold and sinus stuff, and I took some a little while after I ate my breakfast, and once again, it appears to have cleared things up. Part of me wants to believe that it’s just getting moving and getting in to the day that helps, but it really felt like my body was stronger and able to fight off what was ailing it. So, I’m going to add the Kali Iodatum to my health regimen, as needed.
So, while I know that homeopathy is widely discredited (by allopathic medicine competitors, in particular) as a placebo and a bogus mode of treatment, I do know that when I take some of these remedies, I do feel better. And when I feel better, I am less stressed. And when I am less stressed, I am less fatigued, less likely to indulge in carbs and coffee to keep myself going for long hours. That means I sleep better and can sleep through the night.
I’ll probably continue to take Advil before going to sleep, now that colder weather is here. I’ll keep up with my exercise routines and focus more on my morning workouts, now that I’m not going to be able to swim at the lake several times a week. I’ll also make a continuous effort to eat well and watch out for drinking coffee after 2 p.m. and loading up on carbs just to get myself feeling better. I’ll definitely make a point of stretching plenty before going to bed. And I know what to do, if/when I wake up early with cold sweats and pounding heart and panic. The main thing for me is to do all these things regularly and consistently, and not let myself get behind.
When I let myself get behind, my head has more ammunition to attack me at 3:30 a.m. for screwing up — yet again. And the last thing I need is to give it even more ammo than it already has.