At first I tried a regular bedtime and waking time. That posed an impossible challenge. If you wake at 4am, you cannot go until 10pm without falling asleep sometime in between. A nap in the early afternoon meant I couldn't go to sleep at 10pm and so on. Another thing that did work from time to time for mild insomnia was magnesium. A naturopath asked me to try that. I took two 300mg of Magnesium before bed. It helps to relax muscles and gave be enough of a relaxed feeling that I fell asleep. It also helps with muscle cramping, which I was dealing with from time to time as well. As time went on, that no longer worked. Sleepytime tea, sleep formula of rescue remedy and many other things did nothing to help. Meditation during the day and just before bedtime became the best method to help with sleep, however even that did not work well the weeks leading up to surgery. I spent hours awake and in pain.
I am told that the key is pain. If the pain is enough to wake you from sleep, or stop you from sleeping then no sleep remedy will be enough to help. You must deal with the pain.
I learned this from the pain management team at Toronto Western Hospital. It was of interest to me because I had resisted right up to the week before my surgery taking sleeping pills. I don't know why the thought of it bothered me so much. I felt as though that was the last straw. I know for the most part they can become addictive, at least i am told people can quickly become dependent on them. I realize many people take them, and I don't judge. You do what you have to do to get by with pain and insomnia. I felt for me, it just didn't make sense and it turns out the pain management team agreed with me. They have studied people with pain and have found it is better to treat the pain than use sleeping pills to induce sleep, or keep you asleep.
I thought about this idea, and felt it certainly was worth a try while I was dealing with surgery pain. I treated my pain liberally, and I slept. We didn't knock me out with pain pills if that's what some of you think. I use the term liberally for me because I tend to be conservative while using medication. It worked.
That was after my bout with steroids I might add. They kept me awake for about ten days straight with some naps throughout the night.
I realized early on in consultation with my doctors that I was waking around 1.30 and 4-5 am every night with pain. They scheduled a pain pill for 1am and 4 am every day. I was woken up briefly to take the pill before the pain started, and right back to sleep. I started to see the theory had some truth to it, at least for me and I might add, this type of pain. As time went on I began to realize I hadn't had a sleep problem. I had a pain problem.
Since I have been home I have started to decrease the pain medication once again. It seems to be going very well. I use ice a lot to help with after surgery pain. It is a good choice because it can be placed directly where I had surgery. It helps. If, after using ice, have meditated, I still have pain I take a pain reliever. I'm noticing that after doing my prescribed Physio, I always have pain. I ice right away and take something for pain. It is necessary to do the Physio to progress with mobility to it is sensible to use pain relievers at that time.
Sleep and pain is a complicated subject. There is a lot written about it, and many people have found many things that work for them. I'm just happy that I don't have the intense nerve pain I had been experiencing before the surgery. Nerve pain is an intense, burning and searing pain and will not let you sleep, move or relax without becoming more intense. I am free of it and I can say that although I am left with deficiencies, I am better off than before my surgery. I can work toward more mobility and I can hope that the numbness leaves my foot, but I don't have any of the nerve pain I had in the past. The pain I have now is not pleasant by any means but it is so much more manageable than pre-surgery. Most of all I am happy to know what a restful night's sleep feels like once again.
My Top Ten Tips for a good night's sleep.
1. If you have pain deal with it before you get into bed. Whether it is a hot pack, ice pack, stretching or medication, do it before you lay down in bed. Getting in and out of bed is habit forming.
2. Empty your bladder before bed.
3. A sleep Meditation
4. A cool bedroom is a must.
5. No electronics in the bedroom ( honestly still working on this, my meditations on on there)
6. When you wake resist the urge to get up, reach for a phone, iPad, book or T.V. Boredom is a good sleep inducer when given a chance.
7. Be sure to get some fresh air during the day and do whatever you can to be active in whatever way you can be.
8. Don't expect more than seven to eight hours sleep. Some people go to bed at 10pm and complain that they wake at 5am. That's enough sleep.
9. Make sure your room is dark enough and quiet enough.
10. Be open to try new things people offer as suggestions. You never know what will work for you.