Post by Robbi Hess
Quick question. How did you sleep last night? If you slept well, I applaud you. If you tossed and turned, I understand. It’s a rare night that I sleep all the way through. I decided to really put some thought into why I tossed and turned. What I just not sleepy? Did I have something on my mind? Did I have aches and pains that could be alleviated with a pain med? Was there any real reason that I could even put my finger on? I found that the reasons for not sleeping varied, but bottom line, I sometimes woke up more tired than I’d been when I fell asleep. Not a great feeling to be dragging yourself through the day, especially when that day involves having to write coherently for clients!
It’s a rare occurrence for me to sleep through the night and you add cancer medications to the mix and I’ve amped up restless, sleepless nights to an art form.
What’s a woman (or man) to do? I have a couple of tricks in my quest for a good night’s sleep & they might work for you:
- Are you anxious? Why? If you have worries dancing around your brain, you won’t be able to nod off. Keep a “worry journal” by your bed and when you’ve popped awake, ponder what’s on your mind then write it down. Worried about paying the bills? Write it down. Worried about an upcoming doctor’s appointment or job interview? Write down your worst case scenario. Too much on your to-do list? Write down those items, get them out of your head and down on paper and you just might be able to forget them until the alarm clock goes off. The National Sleep Foundation found that half of all people who experience insomnia say the cause is stress and worry. While writing it down won’t eliminate it, it will get it in a tangible form and you can address it in the light of day.
- I’m awake, now what? For some people once they wake up they check out the clock and notice they’ve only got seven hours to sleep, then six, then five… and so on. Worrying about when you have to get up and the fact that you’re not sleeping and will now have a bad day ahead will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For this, my advice is to get up if you find yourself wide awake. Don’t let your bed become the “enemy.” Your bed should be a place of comfort and welcome. If I find myself this wide awake, I grab a book that isn’t all that exciting and curl up into a chair and read for a while. When I start feeling tired I crawl back into bed and hope for the best — most times it works and I only have to read for about a half an hour before tiredness takes over.
- Medical conditions, medications and alcohol can contribute to a restless night sleep. I know that one of my cancer meds leads to restlessness — therefore I take it in the early afternoon. I used to take all my meds at bedtime but found it wasn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. I talked with my oncologist and she confirmed that the one med can disrupt sleep so we changed my routine of when I take it and it solved many issues. Some medical conditions such as arthritis, hot flashes (been there, doing that!) and even sleep apnea will cause you to sleep poorly. I am on meds for the hot flashes, they don’t completely eliminate them, but they have diminshed them somewhat. If you’ve been told you snore or stop breathing during sleep, perhaps you have sleep apnea and should have a sleep test? Remember, alcohol is not your friend when it comes to bedtime rituals. It may cause you to be drowsy at first, but eventually it will metabolize and lead to fragmented sleep patterns.
What’s a person to do? Here are a few bedtime rituals that may help:
- Be consistent with your bedtime. If you go to bed at 9 pm during the week and get up at 5 am — keep that schedule on the weekend, if possible. Train your body to be ready for sleeping and waking at the same times.
- Television watching in the bedroom is said to be bad for sleep patterns. I do fall asleep to the television and then turn the radio on once the timer has turned the TV off. Personally, I cannot sleep in a quiet room and white noise machines do not keep the thoughts that are whirling around in my head at bay. A radio, turned to low volume is just enough to engage my mind but not enough to keep it fully engaged so that I can fall back to sleep.
- If you have a hard time sleeping at night, resist the urge to nap during the day. Napping will cut down on the sleep you need at night and you will be in a cycle of interrupted nighttime sleep.
- If you can’t get back to sleep, get up and leave the bedroom. Don’t watch television though as that could just add to your restlessness. Do a boring task like balancing your checkbook until you feel sleepy. Again, your bedroom should be a place of restful relaxation and if it’s not, then go to another room.
- Write it down. A worry, in tangible form, is now taken from your thoughts and put on paper and this could truly help you stop worrying about it until the bright light of day.
Do you have trouble falling asleep? Has it gotten worse as you’ve gotten older? Have you ever tried to write down your thoughts, fears or whatever else is keeping you awake? Try it, you just might find you’ll get a better night’s sleep and be better able to face the workday ahead! I’d love to know what’s worked for you!