Last week was the first time in months that I got more than one night of good sleep in a row, and I actually got several. It started around Tuesday so my first thought was that it was because of the increase in my dosage of Cymbalta. Unfortunately, along with getting good sleep at night I was tired all day long, mentally and physically fatigued, as if someone had stuck a vacuum up to me and sucked every bit of energy out of my body. I’m still not really sure what the cause for the better sleep was, and as of Sunday night this week I’ve been back to my normal sleep patterns – I fall asleep fairly easily after taking my nightly meds (which include 4mg of Zanaflex & Ambien) but then wake up 3 or 4 hours later and toss and turn for the rest of the night. Sunday night, I made the mistake of thinking that perhaps it was the Cymbalta making me sleep better, so I skipped my Ambien – much to my regret, as I tossed and turned from about midnight on.
Here are a few tips I’ve found to improve your quality of sleep.
1. Epsom Salt Baths. A friend with Fibro told me that taking a hot bath with Epsom salts had helped her immensely, so I figured I’d give it a try and I’ve been doing it pretty regularly since. I can say that if nothing else, it definitely helps me to relax and prepare my body for sleep. For the most part I just use the cheap Epsom salts with no sent and add some scented bubble bath to get both a relaxing scent and the bubbles. But, last week I found some Eucalyptus & Spearmint scented Epsom Salts at CVS and decided to try these. I find that particular scent combination is one of the most relaxing for me, and I absolutely love the Eucalyptus Spearmint scented Aromatherapy products at Bath & Body Works (but they don’t have Epsom salts). This stuff smells wonderful and the scent definitely adds the relaxing qualities of the bath.
I’m not sure if other bath salts would work the same. I do know the main thing you are looking for out of the Epsom salts is Magnesium. It helps relax the muscles and allows you to replenish lost magnesium by soaking it in through your skin. Magnesium is something that many Fibro sufferers have a shortage of, and it’s often recommended for us. Magnesium also helps relieve muscle tensions and rebuild the muscles. I’ve looked at many other bath salts and some do say they have magnesium, but if they don’t either say they are Epsom salt or that they have magnesium I skip them.
2. A Regular Bed Time. I’ve been a night owl for most of my life and insomnia does really make one want to rush to the bed. But, I’ve found that going to bed at a regular time and setting a schedule for myself for the bedtime routine (including the bath) helps a lot in the quality and duration of the sleep I get. While I don’t have to be up really early in the morning (and I’m not), I still try to go to bed pretty early (and most times lately I’m perfectly ready to). Usually, by about 8:30 I’m heading for the tub to start my bath. I stay in there for at least 20 minutes (more if I can handle the heat). I will stay in the bath as long as I can. I’m usually out of the bath and getting into bed by about 9:30, at the latest. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sleep at that point, but I’m in bed.
3. Relaxing the Mind. Before I head to the bed I take my night time meds (which include Ambien and a muscle relaxer). I usually have about 30 minutes or so before they really kick in. I use this time to relax and read for a bit. It helps me clear out the thoughts of the day. The last thing you want to do as you try to head off to sleep is have a mind full of the things you should have or wish you had done that day or the things you need to get done the next day. If you aren’t a reader you may want to try listening to music, but if you do this make sure you set a timer on your music source so that it cuts itself off and doesn’t cut into your sleep later.
4. Avoid Noise & Distraction. When dealing with insomnia, we know how easy it is to get woken up, so you need to do what you can to make sure that once you do get to sleep you can stay asleep. This is why I said make sure your music cuts itself off. The same goes if you must watch tv in bed, make sure the sleep timer is set on your tv so that it cuts itself off after 30 minutes or so. Otherwise, you will likely find that some change in the pattern of music or noise will wake you up, making it difficult (at best) to get back to sleep. If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom. Having them jumping on and off your bed is only likely to wake you up as well. My bedmate (husband) snores, this is a huge distraction and can be the thing that keeps me from getting back to sleep sometimes. Unfortunately, the only way I’ve found to remove this distraction is to sleep in a separate bedroom; something I’m just not really willing to do just yet.
What have you done to help yourself fall asleep? To improve your quality of sleep? What do you do to help yourself stay asleep? Have you found a trick that works for you? Have you tried the things I’ve listed and found that they worked (or didn’t) for you? Let me know.