Post # 1
Maybe this is the wrong section of the Bee for this, if so, my bad. The story is this: I can’t sleep. Hardly at all.
It started back in March when I started having symptoms of anxiety and hypochondira. Every physical symptom was a sign of life-threatening illness. I was getting kind of hysterical with worry, so I went to my primary care doctor and mentioned how anxious I was feeling. He prescribed Celexa and told me that it might cause insomnia… and I almost literallly felt my brain clamp down on that word, “insomnia.” That night, for almost the first time in my life, I couldn’t sleep. I freaked out and threw away the pills, but the next night I still could not sleep. And the next, and the next. It was horrible and I went for several days on two, three hours of sleep total. Eventually my anxiety eased and I was able to sleep better… for a little while.
I used to be the best sleeper ever. Sleep was my coping mechanism and my favorite thing to do (well third favorite thing besides kissing Fiance and EATING ;). Over the summer I started to have sleeping trouble again. I noticed I was getting about six, six and a half hours a night and then I read an article that said humans need seven to eight hours, and I started getting worried – am I not getting enough sleep?
Then I started trying too hard to increase the length of my sleep and worrying too much, I think. Of course I know intellectually that everybody’s sleep needs differ and I shouldn’t have worried about the number of hours as long as I woke up refrshed. It’s been about two weeks that my sleep has been disintegrating entirely. Last couple nights I seem to think I lay awake the entire time, however I’m not groggy enough during the day for that to be the case. Is it possible to sleep and not remember it? If anyone is familiar with chronic insomnia you know the hell that this is… please, does anybody know what to do? Do Ambien and Lunesta work long term? Should I get on an anxiety medicine? They all seem to have “insomnia” as a side effect.
I have an appointment in 9 days with a psychologist who speciaiizes in mood disorders and sleep disorders… I am praying she can help me… I am terrified that nothing will work and I will never sleep normally again.
Post # 3
I used to have major problems with anxiety too (and was medicated for it so I’m not anti-meds) but in this case I would recommend trying a few more natural ways of falling asleep before jumping into ambien–heard horror stories about that drug.
I went through a brief bout of insomnia and what worked for me was taking a really hot (slightly hotter than normal) shower before bed. Then I’d get in bed and do a relaxtion technique (where you silently tell every part of your body to relax and go to sleep starting at the toes) and as my body cooled from the shower, I also felt a bit of a numbing sensation on the limbs I’d told to go to sleep. So I tricked my brain into feeling itself fall asleep or something? I kind of sound like a newage-nutjob at the moment..but I almost never reached above the neck before I was asleep. That’s my trick.
Post # 4
As someone who has suffered for years with anxiety disorder, I would have to recommend you get the anti-anxiety meds. Yeah, they CAN cause insomnia, but they don’t for everyone. They do for me sometimes, but now that I am not freaking out over every little thing, the quality of my sleep is better (fewer nervy chemicals in my bloodstream I guess). Even when I don’t sleep particularly well, I still feel better than on my old bad anxiety days, when I’d be exhausted from worry before breakfast.
Just my $0.02, what works for me may not work for you! I will say that I put off taking anti-anxiety meds for EVER because of my fear of side effects, and I really wish that I could go back in time and reclaim those years lost to my anxiety, when there were viable treatment options available.
Good luck! I know how absolutely terrible anxiety can be, and what an impact it can have on your life.
ETA: I didn’t really address your current insomnia at all: yes, it is possible to sleep without being aware of it. Also, I had bouts of insomnia because of my anxiety before being anxiety-medicated, but nothing so extreme as what you are describing. It is awesome that you are seeing a sleep-specialist, because they will be able to see if your insomnia is related to your anxiety or not.
Post # 5
I have never been able to sleep well. I remember being in like 1st grade and cleaning my whole room at like 1 in the morning simply because I could not sleep. I still have an extremely hard time sleeping falling asleep, staying asleep, i’m an extremely light sleeper (my cats wake me up becasue I can hear them purring), I probably slept a good sleep from 1am-6am last night. Ambien does work and doesn’t really give you a hangover the next day and it does make you sleep. However I have a hard time with medications and ambien makes me sick to my stomach for some strange reason. I’m use to functioning on not a lot of sleep, but when I really need a good sleep I just take one of the benadryl pills and works like a charm everytime! My doctor told me it’s safe and it’s probably the best thing for mem because of how sensitive I am to medications. That being said I really try not to use medication to sleep a lot, and there are several things you can do to help you sleep. Try googling psychology and sleep disorders. I have taken tons of psyc classes and there are so many things that you can do on your own without medication to helo you sleep.
Post # 6
Can you call the psychologist and see if you can get in sooner? Nine days seems like a long time to wait for an issue this pressing.
Sleep is also my coping mechanism. I had a depressive episode a few years back where I couldn’t sleep at all either. My mom was out of her mind with worry and the nurses she called kept saying that the body will sleep when it needs to.
Sounds like you are getting some rest but definitely not enough. I like the relaxation techniques that @Edina mentioned. From your post, it sounds like you are really really wound up about sleeping and being so anxious about it is only going to make it worse.
Please hang in there. I hope the doctor is able to help you.
Post # 7
@lilybay: Yes. I used to get so hyped up about “needing” to fall asleep it never happened. If you approach it more as “I’m going to go relax” you might have an easier time.
Also, I should have added that the anxiety meds I was on (low doses of zoloft and wellbutrin) both had insomnia as side affects and I slept more than I do now on them (because I was depressed, most likely). Don’t let the side affects scare you off if you have exhausted all other options with your doctor.
Post # 8
just wanted to tell you that I am going through the same thing as you right now, sleeping a lot less than i used to. Like you, I used to be able to sleep like it was my job.
My insomnia started several months ago and some nights I am ok, other nights I lie awake miserable for hours. I started taking small doses of melatonin tablets that have helped some, but several friends have suggested setting up an appointment with a sleep clinic to determine how my sleeping pattern is disrupted or how much REM cycle i am getting per night. perhaps this would be a good idea for you too.
Post # 9
Thanks ladies. I did get a book on Generalized Anxiety and I recognize myself in the description a bit. The book had instructions on Progressive Muscle Relaxation and meditation, and i tried those a little bit last night. I’ve been trying a hot bath the last few nights too, and working out about an hour a day. No dice but maybe those things have to happen over and over before my body gets a clue.
I am calling every day to see if I can see the doctor sooner… it’s awful!!! I am on a waiting list. The problem is this doctor only sees new patients on Fridays, and this next Friday is all booked up. Friday the 20th is my appointment. She is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic so I am assuming she is good. According to their site she knows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia, as well as CBT for anxiety. I am hoping since she is a specialist that she is not dismissive and unhelpful the way my primary care doctors can be, where you get a six minute appointment and they barely listen.
Post # 10
Darling Husband needs benadryl to fall asleep. He takes 2 every night and falls asleep within 30 mins. I have no clue if this will work for you, but it’s just something to keep in mind when speaking to doctors and discussing prescriptions + interactions.
Post # 11
Update: On the advice of my pharmacist I took some Unisom last night. I don’t know if it worked because *it* worked, of if I was just so tired that I drifted off, but I managed to get about 6 1/2 hours of sleep last night. What a relief. I don’t want to take it again tonight, though, to avoid building a tolerance. 🙂
Post # 12
Glad to hear you got some sleep last night! I can identify with you a little bit in that I feel like I’m a hypochondriac sometimes. I start worrying about some illness and then its like all I can think about. And a headache means a brain tumor and a fallen asleep limb means MS and so on and so forth. My coping mechanism is to usually try to just ignore it and I seem to get over these things. So I guess I wouldn’t say I have it badly but I can identify with the feeling you describe of worrying. Anyways– I think it is great that you’re going to see a psychologist. I’d recommend being really forceful with her in describing your symptoms. You don’t want to come off as unreasonable of course, but make sure she really HEARS what you are saying.
Post # 13
This sounds basic, but make sure you aren’t using electronics (computer, TV, etc) before bed. Try a sleep mask – it blocks out all light and visual distractions and helps you sleep. Putting my cell phone in the other room also helps me a lot (that way the blinky light that says I have email isn’t tempting me to read my email). Also, no caffine after 5pm and avoid alcohol as it interupts sleep too. Good luck!
Post # 14
So I saw my new psychologist, Dr. A. I was surprised when she told me she would need to refer me to another one of the Cleveland Clinic psych doctors for an anxiety disorder… she feels I have GAD. I thought she would be able to treat me for that, too, but apparently Dr. A just does sleep things.
For the insomnia, she wants to try cognitive therapy. She says it has a very high success rate, but when I pushed for specifics about how well it works she just said again, “It’s very, very successful.” Ugh. She’s very nice and all but please just answer my questions! She encouraged me to read up on it and I read online it is something like 70-80 percent effective.
Apparently it’s all about changing my thoughts and behaviors about sleep. The negative thoughts like “oh I am not going to be able to fall asleep, if I don’t sleep I will feel awful the next day.” She also gave me a CD with a whole bunch of relaxation exercises on it. She also started me on a rule where if I am not asleep within 20 minutes of getting in bed, I have to get up and go do something else relaxing until I feel sleepy again. This is really hard because I always feel like if I stay in bed just a little while longer I will fall back asleep.
I am feeling a lot better… I am able to fall asleep more easily, but now my problem has switched to waking up in the middle of the night. I am actually getting less sleep right now than before (about 5 hours) but I am not as upset about it and I find I actually function pretty well/feel pretty good if I am just not WORRYING about it and analyzing how tired I am.
I see her again in two weeks and I’m pretty sure my manager is going to want to rip my face off for missing so much work… oh well manager man, I’m not much use to you anyway when I’m having a nervous breakdown over no sleep.
Post # 15
Well I’m not sure if this will work since your insomnia might be chemical rather than psychological- but I went through a bout in middle school where I couldn’t sleep. It started with a few nights where my mind was racing/songs running through my head/freaking out at how I only had so many hours left until school etc etc. I started psyching myself up way too much. Everytime I went to bed I’d keep asking myself “am I sleeping yet?!” it made it so much worse. I finally fixed it by turning the clock around and refusing to look at it during the night. Then I stopped freaking out, counting down the hours. If I was still awake, I’d just tell myself that it’s still early and I have plenty of time- it really helped break the cycle.
Post # 16
@daisy326: I get the songs racing through my head too… and it seems like all the lyrics have to do with insomnia!!!
Like Buckcherry, “Sorry” where it goes “The sleepless nights and the tears we cried, it’s never too late to make it right.”
Or that pop song about fireflies where the guy says “leave my door open just a crack, cuz I feel like such an insomniac.”
I hate these songs when I am awake and then they torture me when I am trying to fall asleep… definitely need to stop psyching myself out!