Insomnia- I can’t get no sleep

Deep in the bosom of the gentle night
Is when I search for the light
Pick up my pen and start to write
I struggle, fight dark forces in the clear moon light
Without fear, insomnia, I can’t get no sleep

Me quoting  Faithless lyrics of course shows my age and that I am a true child of the nineties. Oh well. Having insomnia however, is a (fairly) new one for me. You see, I can’t remember not having anemia, and being tired was my prevailing mood. And then, in the last ten years came phases of insomnia.

With IBD, insomnia can be caused by different things. One can be pain and painkillers. Even when you’re tired af, your stomach decides that you should be up, running back and forth from the toilet until 4 am. The alternative are painkillers, but they are also connected to insomnia. Depending on what I take, the pain is gone, I am finally relaxed and everything seems easy. I guess that’s why they are so attractive and addictive. Once they leave my bloodstream however, I often feel worse than when I did before I took them.

Another reason for insomnia can be steroids. The first two days of me taking prednisone, I feel like a superhero. Getting all my chores done, check. Not having to sit down after every tiny activity, awesome. After these initial two days, your body will feel tired and your brain wired. I get aggressive, cry a lot, wallow in self-pity, and yes, technically I’d need a good night’s sleep, but that good night is just so far away.

Then there is stress insomnia. Right now I have this one. And before someone starts preaching about eating regularly, and being mindful and reducing stress- please save it for someone who hasn’t heard this before. These are all good things to do and I recommend them, but they really don’t help a) when it is the middle of the night, or b) when you can’t change your circumstances right away.

Here are things I do and don’t do- in no particular order:

  • Lie awake and brood. The idea is obviously to just think yourself to sleep. It rarely ever works. Usually there is a part of a song playing in my head over and over again, so even if I wanted to brood and solve the world’s biggest problems, I can’t, because the part of the song drives you crazy. Alternatively, your demons pay a little visit. The “I-am-not good enough” demon, sibling of “why didn’t I do xxx” and cousin of “what will my life be if I do yyy”. I prefer the songs.
  • Talk to the fam. Germany is 9 hours ahead, so yay, they will be awake when I call at 3am. Downside to this-they know they are nine hours ahead, and they will ask “why the hell are you still awake?”
  • no email, Netflix or anything. Whatever you need to tell someone at 3am can wait till the next day. It’s the insomnia version of drunk texting- even though you think you are really awake and in possession of all of your mental faculties- don’t do it. Just don’t.  If I watch netflix or read articles on my phone, they somehow weirdly move into my subconscious and make for weird, weird early morning dreams.
  • Do something brainless, and mechanical, like folding laundry, ordering your shoes, doing the dishes. Yes, in an ideal world these things would be done before I go to bed, but oh well. It’s nice to have your clothes nicely folded and laid out the next day, and it does get me tired most of the time. That being said, there have been times when physically moving has made me more awake.
  •  get an ambien prescription and be careful with it. Ambien works well for me, and I am grateful for it, but it is not for everyone. I have heard of people doing weird things on Ambien. It sounds commonsensical, but the right dosage is important. My beloved Midwestern GI once prescribed me a strength that may have worked for him and his Viking genes, but not for five feet me. I ended up taking a quarter of what he prescribed me. I need to take it on time, too. If you’re awake at 2pm, and think about popping an ambien, don’t do it. Just don’t. Ambien hangover sucks. Give yourself the gift of seven hours of sleep and take it early.

This blog post was not written in the middle of the night. I promise.

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