Posted 31 July, 08on:
Today was my final consultation for the sleep study. The good news is they did not find anything big and scary that is causing my insomnia. The bad news is there is no magic pill to fix it either.
The gist of the study was to test diagnostic methods for insomnia. Doctors from four different disciplines looked at my data and met with me individually. The study assessed how closely the diagnoses matched from the four different disciplines. Would the cardiologist lean towards heart issues while the pulmonologist thought it was apnea?
The general consensus was that I am well adjusted, relatively healthy person who needs much less sleep than average. So why am I tired all of the time? I am trying to hard to sleep. I am trying to stay in bed too long which is leading to a very poor quality sleep. They suggested that I go to bed later and get up earlier. By spending less time “trying to fall asleep,” I should get better quality sleep.
Insomnia can snowball. You don’t sleep well. The next night, you worry about not sleeping well. It is no big surprise when you don’t sleep well. It can very hard to break the cycle.
As you age and life situations change, your sleep needs change. As my needs changed, I thought I still needed to get in the mandated eight hours. When I woke up tired, I went to bed earlier the next night. On the weekends, I tried to sleep in to catch up.
The doctors recommended that I stay up later and get up earlier. The hope is my body will learn to make better use of the time I spend in bed with a deeper, more restful sleep. They stressed the importance of consistent bedtimes and wake up times. Shifting your bedtime as little as two hours can be like flying across two time zones. Even minor jet lag takes a toll on the body’s natural rhythms.
“Sleep hygiene” was also reviewed. It was the usual stuff like limit caffeine after lunch, nothing stressful two hours before bed, don’t do work in bed, etc. The doctor reluctantly agreed that a bit of light reading in bed can be calming for some people. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something quiet in another room. If you are in bed, you should be asleep. Just laying there only makes it harder to get back to sleep.
The psychologist happened to be a quilter. She had a couple of gorgeous quilts in her office. She said a little sewing late in the evening could be a great way for me wind down. A doctor actually prescribed sewing!!
The neurologist was not pleased with my propensity for multitasking. He noted that as I waited for my appointment, I brought several things to work on. He asked how often do I just sit still. Umm, never? How often do I totally focus on one thing? Again, that would be never. He said I need to learn that sleep should not be viewed as a waste of time. I need to let go of the idea that I must be doing something every minute of the day, always checking something off the to do list. Creative people who are also high achievers often have poor sleep.
Overall, it was an interesting experience. I am glad to know there is not some major medical issue lurking behind this. It is reassuring to know that it is not the chatter of little voices in my head keeping me awake. In a way, I am relieved that medication was not recommended. I am not a pill popper.
I am glad to get this information during summer break. I can play around with my bedtime and see how it affects my sleep. The hard part will be forcing myself to get up at the same time every morning, even if I did not sleep well the night before.