So, for the last few nights I have either not been sleeping at all or sleeping terribly. The other night I went to bed at about 9pm but just lied there till about 3 or 4am. Then I fell into a light sleep but around 5am I was right back up so I just lied there till about 6 or 7am. All of this despite taking 50mg of Benadryl and 30mg of Temazepam… My thoughts were just racing full speed about everything and nothing. I have not had insomnia that bad in a long time! The next night I switched from Temazepam to Clonazepam. I seemed to fall asleep a little faster but I didn’t feel like it was a “deep” sleep, I had such vivid dreams! So vivid that I woke up feeling like I had been up all night actively doing the things I dreamt about. So all day I just felt like a zombie, extra exhausted, my body wanted to sleep but my brain wanted to go-go-go. This messed with all my MS symptoms as well so I felt utterly terrible. Now, I didn’t even take Nuvigil (a central nervous system stimulant for promoting wakefulness in things like Narcolepsy) so I blame the Oral Prednisone I was on for keeping my brain “wired”. It wasn’t much, the dose was really low, I was just taking it as a taper for the Solu-Medrol infusions I had just done which ironically did not seem to affect my sleep at all but then again, I had cannabis edibles for those nights.
So after that second night of minor insomnia and intense dreaming, I spent the day lying in bed reading and watching videos on YouTube about the science of sleep and dreaming in both humans and animals. I should mention that since I was a child I have had, what I now know to be, bizarre dream experiences that for the longest time I thought were just “normal”, everyone had these things right? I eventually realized that no, they didn’t, but I am not going to talk about that right now, for now just know that sometimes I have extremely vivid dreams involving almost all my senses and I could always remember them with such vivid clarity. I was trying to learn more about the different sleep cycles we go through at night and when dreams occur. Maybe these crazy dreams I have always experienced had something to do with that? Well, it looks like they might but all this dream stuff is for another post (maybe). Something else I really spent some time reading about was how the brain actually goes to sleep. How does it actually switch from “being awake” to “being asleep”? A lot of it seemed kind of complicated but it really fascinates me so again, maybe I will talk about that and how I dream in another post. What matters is that from all of this I came to the obvious conclusion that I need to re-establish a pre-bedtime routine to train my brain that it is time to go to sleep rather than staying on the computer till the last second and jumping straight into bed.
I know I have talked about this in the past but the brain produces melatonin (to tell your body that it is time to sleep) based on how much light enters the eyes. I am sure you have seen that “non-24 commercial” right? Anyway, light from any kind of screen (TV, computer, phone, E-Readers, etc.) prevents your brain from producing melatonin, which can lead to insomnia. I know a lot of people reading this right now need to watch TV to fall asleep or play games on their phones until they fall asleep but if you ask me? Well, if that works for you, awesome. But traditional health science says that doing those things are a bad habit that can disturb your ability to fall asleep which seems to be the case for me. Everyone is different though I suppose. Anyway, I was doing all that stuff; I was on the computer until the minute I decided to go to bed, all my lights were on including the bright, white, LED lights in my bathroom, the TV was usually on, the fish tank’s fluorescent light was on, and while in bed I was often on my tablet or phone. “So no more of that,” I thought. For the last few nights, about an hour before I wanted to go to bed, I turned off all my screens including my computer, all the lights in my room but one (which I tilted down towards the surface of my desk so that it would be really dim), then I took a shower in my almost completely dark bathroom (there was just enough light coming in from my bedroom to not be too big of a tripping hazard), I did some reading, then I would take just 1 sleeping pill, and lie down with my noise canceling headphones on listening to the sound of rain and some weird delta-wave “music” (it’s supposed to help you sleep) on top of the rain. And what do you know? My thoughts did not seem to race as much and I have been sleeping pretty well (compared to usual).
Something else I started doing is keeping a dream journal. I actually did this years ago before I was diagnosed with MS because my dreams were so “interesting” that I wanted to keep a record of them all so I could try to use pieces of them as writing material (I was into creative writing at the time). Right now I figure, all I do is work-work-work, everything I do is about MS, from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. So by doing this I now have to wake up and write everything I can remember down on a pad of paper I keep on a pillow in bed with me. Then, after I have gotten up, I sit down and write my dream notes down in detail on the computer. So for this period of time, the only thing I am thinking about is what I had dreamt that night which sometimes takes a lot of concentration as my brain is so busy recalling every little detail I can remember. It’s a great distraction from the busy day I am about to jump into making the transition from “sleep” to “busy-busy-busy a lot smoother. Doing this almost feels like I am letting off steam as I am getting those thoughts/memories out of my busy head and putting them aside in a journal, plus, it’s giving me something to do that doesn’t have to do with MS or any of my daily stressors. I guess you could say it is helping me manage my stress.
I am also, once again, trying to learn how to meditate, even if just for a few minutes. I am hoping that between this and really observing my dreams, I can greatly reduce my daily stress levels and the anxiety I realize I’m carrying around with me. It is really obvious that mental health (especially stress) can greatly affect physical health when it comes to Multiple Sclerosis, so I really need to work on bettering both equally as they can both affect each other. In fact, another recommendation regarding how to get good sleep (that I seemed to see everywhere I looked) was to exercise daily. Now I already knew that I should be doing that for my physical health but I never really stopped to think that physical exercise would benefit my mental health and sleeping ability. Seems so obvious. Interesting fact that I picked up while doing my reading; when watching the electrical activity of brains during sleep, researchers found that areas of the brain that were used more during the day fell into a deeper state of sleep than others so they would do things like put someone’s arm in a sling all day to immobilize it and when they observed their brain activity at night, the part of the brain that controls that arm? Did not enter as deep a state of sleep as other parts of the brain. This applies to everything we do, including thinking.
One last thing I want to mention is that I had been feeling like my life was just so cluttered. From my brain to my blog to my surroundings (my bedroom). So I was trying to do some “spring cleaning” to declutter my room and make better use of my space the other day. I told my Mom that I just wanted a simple shelf in my bathroom to be able to keep all my folded towels on instead of wasting space in my closet. She looked at my bathroom and took some measurements and when she and my Dad came back from the store they brought me back some cool shelving solutions, new towels, a new bathroom rug, a new shower curtain, and an actual shade for my bathroom window, and everything matched! All my old bathroom stuff were different colors, my rug had a few small bleach stains on it, I hated my shower curtain, and my window had a cheap tension rod with a curtain I made out of an old set of curtains we cut to fit. Now everything matches and there is more of a color scheme to my bathroom. It might sound stupid but I feel so much better. In my room, I moved some stuff around and put a lot of what was cluttering my closet in one of those thin plastic bins that slides under the bed (also courtesy of my parents”. I am still playing with some other stuff in my room but wow, all I wanted was a cheap shelf, this was such a huge leap ahead, I told my parents that it felt like it was my birthday or something. So I am really starting to feel like my health (physical and mental) is coming together. It’s a lot easier to feel calm and relaxed when the environment is right meaning I can go to sleep feeling less stressed as it feels like there is less “chaos” around me. Plus, I feel like I was able to dump some of the mental “baggage” I was carrying around by spending time writing about my dreams.