Goodbye Insomnia, Hello Sleeping Pills.

It’s been a long time since my last post, but 2 years after I now believe I have managed to overcome my insomnia.

During the past 2 years there is not a single treatment I have not tried – behavioural therapy, over-the-counter bullshit, yoga, sleeping pills,  herbal sleep aids and anything I could get my hands on. It’s been a roller coaster of success and failure which sometimes made me feel as if I was participating in a clinical trial, only that during most of the experiment I was given placebo.

Going back and forth with all kinds of sleeping pills, each with its own benefits and drawbacks has made me sort of an expert in the field. Did you know most of these pills are addictive? That if you take them for long enough then you would need a withdrawal plan?? I didn’t, and it made things a whole lot more complicated once they stopped working.

Say hello to my little friend

Melatonin – I did not have much faith in that hormone. First because I tend to be scared of anything that is a hormone, mainly because I’ve seen my wife when her hormones go nuts. That’s really scary. Realistically, it seems harmless and with very few risks. I’ve heard of people who use it for jetlags, and having used it for a while it did help me fall asleep, which was great, but I also had the same effect from some of the other pills I had taken before.

Funny thing is that this so-called sleep hormone causes our brains to start preparing the body systems for sleep, which apparently is a process that occurs naturally if everything is working perfectly. When you have melatonin shortage, then everything gets messed up.

Not everything is perfect

Sounds wonderful, right? No.
You see the drawback of using melatonin is that it helps you fall asleep quite impressively, but then you’re still stuck with waking up in the middle of the night. So what do you do? take some more. And it does work, but do you really want to wake up in the middle of the night, take another pills and wait for it to start working?

My mornings were still a struggle, as I was still tired and felt like I didn’t get a full night sleep (which was true). Someone suggested I would start taking a pill called Circadin which is a form of melatonin that is released slowly throughout the entire night. Makes sense, right?

I got my prescription from the doc, paid a high price for this box of Circadin and hoped for the best.
So yes, I kept falling asleep, but I was still waking up in the middle of the night.

The thing they forget to tell you

I felt cheated.
Having to pay a premium price for a drug that gave the same results as “regular” melatonin and also required me to go to the doctor’s office was not what I expected.

Luckily, I looked up this pill online and came across some guy who twitted that patience is the key factor for Circadin. Apparently it takes a few days, or even weeks to feel its effect because it readjusts your biological clock.

It took me 2.5 weeks to start sleeping almost like before!
It’s been 5 months already, I’m still using it and it works. Even when I forget to take it once in a while I still get a decent sleep, something that NEVER happened with the other sleeping pills.

Recently I learned that some doctors use Circadin as a way to help insomniacs withdraw from their addictions to other sleeping pills. I didn’t full understand how this works, but I wish I had known that when I was on the hook!

Bottom line: I got my life back. I can sleep, I feel alert during the day and most importantly – I don’t think I’ll ever have to write another post on this blog!

Kudos to you Circadin!

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Still CBTing

Fighting my urge to go online for the past 2 weeks as part of my insomnia therapy proved to be harder than expected. It’s amazing how addicted we are to all these electronics and cannot help ourselves to keep staring at them all day long. Since EVERY electronic device is connected to the internet nowadays (luckily, the microwave oven managed to escape this evil takeover) I found myself reading books and talking to people – definitely not my favorite things to do, but as you can see I’ve been successful so far!

I haven’t had a minute to spare at work and therefore there weren’t any posts in the past 2+ weeks. But here I am, making some time just to rant some more about life in general and my somewhat-improved sleep problems in particular. I never would’ve thought I’d become a blogger, but I think it’s growing on me.

Back to basics

For those of you who don’t know what CBT is and are too lazy to use Google to figure out what it stands for, I’ll say it’s a way to train yourself to behave just as nature intended. No, it doesn’t mean we should all start walking naked, turn into farmers and only eat organic food. Going back to basics means getting a routine going where you educate and train your body to behave in a positive way – in my case, fall to sleep and stay asleep.

In my case, I try to keep exercising whenever I can (once a week – I’m a very busy guy) and avoid any entertainment devices approximately 2 hours before my intended bed time. Then, when I go to bed, I try to get the room as dark as possible and just lay silently, trying to replace my worries with happy and positive thoughts. It took some time before any sign of success appeared, but I can finally say that I do manage to fall asleep quite regulary!

Problem is that I’m still stuck with waking up in the middle of the night, 2-3 hours after I fall asleep. I still haven’t been able to solve this issue, but I finally feel I’m on the right track. Some friends offered that I should start using herbal remedies. Generally I don’t believe these things ever work, but as long as there’s no doctor involved then I am willing to try. I’ve heard about Valerian quite a few times in the past, and it was repeated a couple more times now, so maybe that’s what I should start with.

(This has been the most optimistic post so far, don’t expect this to happen again.)

-T

I wish I had insomnia during the day
Stolen from some other site

Fraser Island (Part 2)

Last week I was writing about my trip to Fraser Island, which is surely one the nicest place we have here. I ended my post telling you that I had encountered something horrific on Lake McKenzie and then kept you all waiting for over a week. So now that you’re dying to know what I was talking about, let me just say that the last week was very hard insomnia-wise and that I’m trying some new things with CBT (yeah, that thing I was making fun of). I’ve certainly improved my jogging skills and even managed to hate it a little less, but I’m still not seeing any improvement whatsoever when it comes to my sleep, and that’s why I started following a bedtime routine in the past week or so, and that meant not going online or watching TV in the past week, but we’ll discuss that later on.

So back to the island – as I was swimming in the lake a pack of catfish came nearby. I’m guessing they liked my new fit body and had to take a closer look. Problem was that I also got a closer look. I can’t point my finger at the exact reason but how come I’ve never realized how disgusting these things are? Their whiskers are just plain horrific!
As I came out of the water, much to everyone’s laugh, I realized that this was the end for me when it comes for catfish. Lake swimming will never be the same.

That night everyone was very tired and ended up falling asleep just as we finished eating and having a few beer. When I say ‘everyone’ that also includes me! I slept very well throughout the entire the night and as I woke up in the morning I was so stoked about it, that it took me half an hour to realize most of our food had miraculously disappeared.
That’s the price you pay for leaving your food out of your tents, and sleeping like a normal person. Damn dingoes, but we took comfort that it was just food and not a baby…

We didn’t do anything exceptional or different the following day but once again I slept very well. I spent numerous hours trying to figure out how was that possible, as I was struggling with insomnia for several months now. I can only assume it has something to do with the fact that I was spending my time in a very laid back atmosphere, had no electronics around, and when the night came it was certainly dark and there were no distractions. Who would’ve thought that nature was all I needed?

The next morning we headed towards the barge. I am proud to say that the dingoes and us have finished all the food and drinks before leaving, which worked in our favor as we couldn’t drink on the barge.

As we arrived back to our homes that night I was feeling excited that I could finally get a decent sleep after all these months, only to realize that what happens on the island stays on the island. My insomnia was just waiting the whole time for my home arrival. What a bitch.

So now you realize why I started CBT, seriously this time (someone on Reddit didn’t find my first CBT experiment funny). So this means I won’t be posting during the nights anymore, but no worries – I can make some time during work hours!

-T

Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life
Dr. Rafael Pelayo (So that means I have no life?)

Fraser Island (Part 1)

If you remember, I spent the last weekend with a few mates on Fraser Island and I can’t say a lot has changed since my last visit which is a good thing – lots of tourists, women, dingos and most importantly beer.

Before arriving the island, we had to spend the night at one of the hostels in Hervey Bay. We just picked one of the hostels on the way which also offered a 4WD rental for the island. We had to negotiate heavily over the price as we’re a bunch of 50 year olds who think they deserve a whole lot more than the others. We got nothing.

We spent the night hanging with a few tourists from Europe whose English was horrible, but luckily ‘beer’ sounds the same in every language. I was impressed by the capacity of a young Czech group who gulped half the kegs they had there, while my friends and I were struggling after our 6th pint. I may have to visit the Czech Republic someday and embarrass myself. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep that night, and it wasn’t because of my insomnia.

The following morning we headed to one of the supermarkets in the area in order to stack up on food and drinks. Titled ‘worst of all cooks in NSW’ by the others, I was assigned to get drinks; One thing I love about QLD is the fact that you can get your Fourex cans no stress. Leaving the store equipped with food that’d feed a whale for 3 months and drinks that’d keep Charlie Sheen hungover indefinitely, we found ourselves on the barge to the island.

Sea sickness

I know what you have in mind reading this subtitle. You think we drank too much and then went aboard the barge. But you’re wrong, completely wrong. In fact, we didn’t even have one beer before going aboard.
We just had a couple aboard. It’s never happened to me before so I’m guessing it’s an inner ear thing that accompanies all the other wonderful things you get when growing old, including insomnia.

Cheers, Fraser

Upon our arrival to the island, it was clear that I cannot be the designated driver. Unfortunately, the rest weren’t in great shape either so we decided to act like responsible adults – we flipped a coin. It was a bumpy and long ride to our first camp, but we all arrived safely!

Have I mentioned my ‘worst cook’ title already? it was quite handy this time as they all spent their time cooking food while I was busy laying on the beach having a few beers. As it got dark and we set up a fire, I was worried I’d have to spend the rest of the night staring at the stars sleep by myself, but luckily we all pulled an all nighter and crashed at dawn.

I did get some sleep that night/morning, but not for too long, as I woke up 4 hours later still tired and unable to get back to sleep. Once again, I was delighted to see they couldn’t sleep either and we headed towards Lake McKenzie. I’ve been there before, but for some reason I felt excited; maybe it’s because I remembered the Amazing Race finale on that same location…

The lake is still a beautiful place, but there’s just one thing that horrified me this time that hadn’t before.
I’ll elaborate some more on that in my next post. Deal with it!

-T

I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake
Unknown Author (Or every insomniac’s opening line)

CBT: The Exercise

It’s been over a week and a half since my last post, where I mentioned it was time to start doing some exercise. It only seemed logical to exercise as a means to get myself exhausted and fall asleep quickly.

About a week ago I started jogging in the evenings with my out-of-shape dog Boxy. She’s a 3 year old English Bulldog who enjoys chewing on everything that comes across her, while still brilliantly and gracefully managing to avoid any unnecessary movement. I figured it would be helpful for an overweight dog and an insomniac to go jogging together. I know that bulldogs aren’t the best jogging companions as they are not built for this type of exercise (or any other exercise), but we’re talking about short-distance running. Very short. 1 kilometre.

It took me over 7 minutes to complete, and I had to stop to catch my breath a few times. Boxy? for a lazy bulldog she did alright and was panting heavily in the end as she did when I woke her up to go.

She slept well, I didn’t.

The shower dilemma

After my first run, there was one thing my mind struggled to solve on its own – the shower issue. While exercise is set to exhaust you, a good shower makes you feel alert and vigorous. How can you solve this problem? No, showering before running is not the right answer, although I thought it over for a while. My solution – hot baths; the ones I bitched about the other post? They get you clean AND relaxed! But, as I said before, it didn’t help me sleep.

Keep on running

I was reading in many online sites that regular exercise can improve your sleep quality and duration, but (and here’s something new) you shouldn’t do it right before bedtime as it has a stimulant effect on the body. It was also suggested that exercise should be done at least 3 hours prior to your bedtime. Sounds crazy and illogical, but I’m a man on a mission and I do try the follow what every insomnia forum and article in the world has to say!

In the following days I kept on running my very-long-distance 1 kilometre route. I believe that eventually I managed to handle a 1.5km run, but I’m not sure about it. Boxy quickly learned that an Under Armour shirt combined with a pair of Asics runners means jogging. Needless to say she was reluctant to join me; one has to admire Pavlov’s classical conditioning when it occurs right in front of you.

Hope

Last Tuesday it finally happened. I fell asleep at a normal hour (I think it was around 10:30 pm) and slept for hours over hours. 2.5 hours to be exact. Then I was back to my normal insomniac self, but it’s given me some hope that things can change for the better and that I wasn’t doomed to live like a computer-addicted Japanese teenager.

The next day I was heading towards Hervey Bay, as part of my plan to spend the weekend with a 3 other mates on Fraser Island, which I haven’t been to for over 10 years! It was great, but I’ll write more about it in my next post, reducing the risk of boring you to death right now.

-T

You are not an insomniac! (you’re just a nighttime philosopher)
Leslie Dean Brown (Too much credit for my nighttime nonsense.)

CBT… WTF?

So here’s a new acronym I’ve learned in the past week – CBT. It stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but if you ask me it means Current Bullsh*t Theory. Had a few colleagues at work tell me about it as a possible doctor-free treatment for my insomnia, read more about it online and I gotta tell you, some of the things I had to do according to the online tips I came across were as easy as, a few other things are better left unsaid, but this CBT – it’s worthless!

Things I’m willing to mention

Hot baths? Seriously? I literally spent over 10 hours this past week laying in my bathtub before going to bed. Wanna know how that worked? My skin is so pruney I think I’ll have to get infinite botox injections just to get rid of that 80s look (and I don’t mean the decade). On the bright side, I haven’t been this clean since I was a baby. Really, ask my wife; she can’t get her hands off me and now I have to fight both her and the insomnia off.

No TV before bedtime. You never realize how dependent you are of that idiot box once it’s restricted, and that also means no internet access. I missed The Amazing Race on Monday and for what? reading a book till 5am. I haven’t read a book in 15 years. Although it was quite a funny one (Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Oslander) I would much rather see the Kiwis get their asses kicked. Still got the finale, though.

I hate warm milk, even more than I hate cold milk (let’s just assume I generally hate milk), so when I read about it as a means to fight insomnia (my logic: drink milk->get stronger->literally beat the crap out of insomnia) I said to myself ‘HELL NO!’.
1.5 hours of staring at the walls changed my mind, though my taste buds were reluctant to follow and refused to let it pass, needless to say that floor got a little messy. I didn’t cry for it, that’s for sure.

What about reducing coffee consumption you ask? I used to drink 4-5 cups a day since this whole thing started, but this week I tried to keep a limit of 3, while having the last one around noon. Here’s what I discovered:

  1. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of coffee I drink and my performance at work
  2. There’s no correlation whatsoever between the amount of coffee I drink and my insomnia – I just get tired earlier
  3. To my surprise, there’s an indirect correlation between the amount of coffee and tea I drink(!!)
  4. Coffee is the insomniac’s water (you can quote me on that)
  5. Coffee causes skin wrinkling, so if you take long baths make sure you don’t drink any!

What’s next?

I saved the worst for last – exercise. I think I’ll have to try that one as it seems like a logical move on my part (someone said beer belly?), but I find it impossible to even start. Any other suggestions??

-T

His insomnia was so bad, he couldn’t sleep during office hours
Arthur Baer (I fear that day.)

What the hell am I doing here?

I hate insomnia.
That’s how I decided to open my first-ever post on my first-ever blog; I’m sure some of you will be disappointed to read that I stepped back from my initial opening line ‘God damn you stupid worthless piece of sh*t insomnia. I hope you die!‘ to a somewhat shorter cleaner version; I now realize that not all people were raised like bogans.

I’ve been pondering quite a while whether I should start writing a blog. It always seemed like such a waste of time – why would anyone bother to read all the nonsense I had in mind? and then I thought it over and remembered that I do read other people’s not-so-interesting blogs myself whether as part of my job, or in my spare time – so yeah, I’m now certain someone will find interest in this!

Actually, what really got me going is the fact that I’ve been struggling to sleep normally for the past 2 months or so. After discussing this with my wife and a few friends, they all suggested I would go see a doctor. I decided to listen to my teenage kid and start complaining about it. Online.

So here I am, complaining. I’m a 56 year old father who’s unable to sleep – that sounds a bit childish, doesn’t it?
I must admit though that it’s not all bad; having these quiet nights just for myself can be fun at times: I get to drink a lot of Fourex while watching TV without anyone bothering me!

The downside of it takes place the next morning, when I’m at work holding my eyelids open, staring at the monitor like in the famous Clockwork Orange scene. I’m sure my boss is not too happy about it either, especially when I drink a 6-pack just to pass out and fall asleep and show up to work the next morning. Lucky for him, I don’t work directly with our customers, and I can do this job half-unconscious.

Can Facebook help me deal with insomnia?

I find myself writing a few words and then staring at random memes and pictures on Facebook. Gotta love Facebook, this decade’s biggest time-waster; I must admit it’s useful to a certain point when you find yourself unable to sleep, but once you reach the point of being unable to absorb all the shallowness that people express there, you’re done and you have to find something else to do, so you blog.

(Whenever I mention Facebook, it always reminds me of Louis CK. He’s one funny guy.)

What I’m trying to figure out is what caused this insomnia? I don’t remember having any sleeping problems in the past, but I think my sleep started to worsen 5-6 months ago when I used to wake up in the middle of night, unable to get back to sleep. I’m not worried about anything that I’m aware of; my mind is completely blank when I go to bed (my wife claims it’s blank during the day too) and yet I lay there completely awake. I want my sleep back – I, as most normal human beings, cherish my sleep very much!

-T

Insomnia is my greatest inspiration.
Jon Stewart (Not mine, that’s for sure.)