Sleep Is Fragile…Handle With Care

When it comes to my battles with insomnia, I find that there’s nothing like a plane trip, caffeine and a few days of early meetings to throw off my sleep cycle and encourage yet another benzodiazepene addiction.

Fortunately, at some stage, I always manage to get off the anti-anxiety sleep meds, but the minute I become a caffeine junkie or some stress enters into my life, I find my body clamoring for the stuff again. And forget melatonin, herbs, and the natural stuff. No, under stress, they just don’t cut it for me.

I always get depressed when I cave in to taking sedatives for sleep, because I think that at this stage in my healing journey, I should be past needing drugs to sleep. It’s like I want to tell my adrenal glands, “Sheesh, do you have to be SO sensitive? Can’t you just ignore the fact that I had a cup of coffee today?”

But Noooooooo! The adrenal glands are sensitive souls, and Lyme has made them even more so. Just four years ago, I could sleep like a rock-anytime, anywhere. It hardly seems possible to me that I now cannot sleep without the aid of hormones, herbs and drugs.

While I’ve resigned myself to taking melatonin every night, I’ve always resisted the benzos. Nothing worse than getting hooked on one of the most physiologically addictive medications, one that the body upregulates so that you need ever higher doses, and one that leaves you feeling like you’ve plugged your body into a socket once you start weaning off of it. Not to mention the fact that benzos actually discourage stage four sleep. (Of course, not sleeping is even worse).

So I resist the sedatives. Big time. When I sense the need creeping, the first thing I do is tell myself that I’m not going to cave to the meds; better to lose a few nights of sleep, stop the caffeine, take a hot shower, relax, pop a few herbs, and wait. However, I’ve found that I can only lose so many hours of precious rest before my body starts aching and everything starts breaking down. When this happens, I start caving in to the stuff.

Which really frustrates me.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Does your life feel ruined, or ruled, by the amount and quality of sleep that you get every night? I know that I am not the worst of Lyme insomniacs, but my endocrine system has made a sufficient enough mess of my sleep patterns that I cannot lead what I would call a “normal” life.

But what I have found most amazing is how slightly altering one itty bitty variable in my life is sufficient to throw my sleep off track for months. Yes, as in 180 days on average.

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario. You work hard to find a protocol that will provide you with a few hours of good rest, but once you do, at some stage down the road, something happens which causes you to lose that pattern of good rest. Then you have to get creative again and come up with a new strategy for getting some zzz’s.

If you are a hard-core Lyme disease insomniac and not one of these flowery valerian root fools (forgive me, but I’m jealous of those who can take just one weeny herb and sleep like an elephant), then you know that in order to sleep, you’ve got to do everything “right.”

That means no late-night movies, no computer screen stimulating the pituitary gland at midnight, not a sip of coffee in the morning, no late-night meals, and no going to bed at a different hour every night and waking up at a different hour every morning.

Isn’t it funny, though, how you take your endocrine system for granted once your sleep stabilizes for awhile? You forget how sensitive it is, and you start to take risks with your diet and daily habits. You allow stress to permeate your life and you take problems to bed with you, thinking you can afford to think about them at 11 P.M. But don’t you know, your endocrine system would prefer that you sort out your woes before climbing beneath the covers at night? It can’t afford for you to worry at bedtime, just as it can’t afford your nighttime internet addiction.

The fact that most of us feel better at night because Lyme has ripped the wrist watch from our adrenal glands doesn’t help matters, either. That we get a second wind at 10 P.M. doesn’t make it any easier to go to bed at 11 P.M., even though we know if we don’t, we’re going to pay big time for that late night the next day.

I have written about solutions for insomnia before. I have even described some of its causes in my book, “The Lyme Disease Survival Guide.” What I haven’t mentioned, and what all this blog blab is leading to, is how important it is for us as Lyme disease sufferers to not take our sleep for granted once we have it. If you are like me, then you know that one little hormonal alteration, a change in your daily routine, or a few late nights out are all that it takes for your endocrine system to get out of whack. And once this happens, it can be difficult to stabilize again.

Of course, how many human beings can live in strict compliance with a schedule that
doesn’t allow for an occasional cup of coffee or a late-night show? Perhaps cheating on your routine once in awhile is okay, but if done repeatedly or if several factors conspire to threaten the quality of your sleep, watch out!

Personally, I have found that coffee really throws me off-track. Because, once I sorta, kinda start losing sleep due to some other factor in my life, I then start drinking coffee to make up for the sleep I’ve lost, which, over time, plunges me back into a vicious benzo addiction.

So don’t become a benzo-caffeine junkie! It feels good for awhile but it’s not a long term solution for energy and rest. More importantly, mind your sleep and pay attention to the factors that contribute to your insomnia.

…Oh and, allow yourself to be a little frustrated when all doesn’t go according to plan. We are just human beings, and we can’t do this Lyme thing right all of the time!