i'm immune to sleep :o
July 27, 2008 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm immune to sleep. Any ideas?

How do you fellow insomniac's condition yourselves to fall asleep these days amid the mind-racing and self-doubt about falling asleep?

I think I seriously have an aversion to falling asleep now. Like an actual ****ing aversion to sleep itself, lol. It's fairly crummy. I'm so worried about not getting a good nights sleep that I'm shooting myself in the foot before I even fall asleep. If I do manage to fall asleep, I worry about getting back to sleep when I get up. It's more or less just a worry about sleep. It's not necessarily that much life stress at all.

A hot bath is the only thing that seems to help me these days. Yet, I don't like getting in hot water every night to do so. It seems like I can't shutoff my mind when I go to bed when I go to sleep or wake up to actually relax. Help O_o o_O?

Bonus points if the options to help sleep are low in calories.

posted by isoman2kx to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I find that two Benadryl really really helps me. I get the store brand kind. If I am not all that wigged out, then one will work.
posted by likesuchasand at 3:04 PM on July 27, 2008

my first choice is always a bit of self medication in the form of a spliff or couple of glasses of wine but if that's not on the cards I'll read a book until I drop off.
posted by twistedonion at 3:10 PM on July 27, 2008

Warm milk with a nip of whiskey in it can work wonders. Something to do with tryptophans. Also, booze.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:17 PM on July 27, 2008

At nights when I can't get to sleep, I head out onto my bike and go as hard as I can in a loop, about 5-7 km, come home, and go quickly from the garage up to the house, to my room, change, lie in bed. Takes maybe 100 seconds from home to bed. I usually pass out within another 200.

The important parts there are A) tiring myself out, and B) Not doing anything before bed, and no lights.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2008

When I was an insomniac little kid, I'd listen to my mom's smoking cessation hypnosis tapes, because the whole first ten minutes was a relaxation walk through, starting at the top of the head and focusing on the relaxation of muscles almost one at a time until you reached your toes. I still use this technique today, followed by imagining that I'm walking down a flight of ten steps, each step representing a deeper descent into "relaxation". Mostly, it keeps my head from running a mile a minute, which for me is the largest hurdle to getting to sleep. If this doesn't work, however, twistedonion's suggestion is what my grown-up insomniac self tries next, followed by a bath and a book as a last resort (again, the idea with the book being that I keep my head from dwelling on tasks or issues that will keep me awake). Needless to say, I don't often sleep much more than five hours a night, since it usually takes me at least two hours to relax enough to lay down and stay in bed, and if anything jars me awake after two or three hours of sleep, I'm up.

Oh, and don't drink caffeine. I don't follow this part of the advice, which is why I don't often bitch about my insomnia, because I know that the first real thing I should do to eliminate sleep issues is to give up caffeine. That'll happen.
posted by annathea at 3:23 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I exercised like Lemurrhea just before bed, I would NEVER fall asleep. I have to exercise right after waking up in the morning - if I do any cardio after 5pm, I'm very likely to not sleep at all that night. That said, regular (morning) exercise does seem to help me fall asleep better at night.
posted by annathea at 3:25 PM on July 27, 2008

Melatonin supplements?
posted by sunshinesky at 3:34 PM on July 27, 2008

Melatonin - it's available over-the-counter, although I believe it has not been evaluated by the FDA. I don't know if it's just a placebo or what, but it helped my husband get his sleep cycle on track. He took 1 pill 30 minutes before bed, and after two weeks he didn't really need it any more. Another friend of mine went from waking up 3-4 times in a night (and not falling back asleep) to waking up once at the most.
posted by muddgirl at 3:41 PM on July 27, 2008

I'm just like you and can't sleep due to racing thoughts, anxiety, etc. For longtime insomniacs, the fear of not falling asleep, or falling asleep late and then not being able to get up on time, is worse than the insomnia itself. Worrying about not falling asleep is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The only thing that has ever helped me consistently is the Ambien I take now. I take it about 30 minutes before bed and fall immediately asleep without fail. My only complaint is that I actually feel "drugged" after I take it - sort of euphoric and spacey. I would actually compare my experience on Ambien to being buzzed, but not quite drunk, on alcohol. That might have something to do with the recommendation not to drive for 8 hours after taking it. Also, if you don't have health insurance that covers prescriptions, it's fairly expensive (for name brand at least).

I really didn't want to go on a drug but it got to the point where I couldn't get through the day sometimes due to lack of sleep. About once a week I would crash in the late afternoon to the point it didn't even feel safe to drive home from work. Getting more sleep has had such a dramatic impact on my life that I'm sad when I think about the many years I went without it.
posted by bda1972 at 3:44 PM on July 27, 2008

sometimes when i can't get to sleep i go out for a run. running at night is quite pleasant and calming, and the exercise or th ehot shower after seems to help too. it also means i can sleep in a bit later if i was otherwis eplanning to running in the morning.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:47 PM on July 27, 2008

guided imagery works for me 9 times out of 10. for instant gratification, you can purchase downloadable mp3s from healthjourneys.com. if that works for you, i would encourage you to try to talk yourself through the same process without the recording, so that you can be more self sufficient in falling asleep.

ambien is also a lifesaver.
posted by nevers at 3:48 PM on July 27, 2008

Cognitive therapy for insomnia is said to work. It addresses exactly the kinds of counter-productive beliefs about sleep that you're describing.

I've had bouts with insomnia, and the key thing to keeping one night from turning into 10 is just accepting that I'm not going to sleep that night, or not as many hours as I planned.
Add a benadryl, and a few chapters of War & Peace, and I'm usually good to go.
posted by footnote at 3:49 PM on July 27, 2008

I find that two Benadryl really really helps me.

I came in here to suggest just that. I've tried:
Gabapentin (Neurontin)

...along with all sorts of behavioral techniques (relaxation tapes, not watching TV/using the computer within an hour or two of bed, taking a hot bath, etc. etc.), and benadryl is the only thing that consistently works to make me feel sleepy without unfortunate side effects.

IANAD, YMMV, you probably want to ask a medical professional if it is alright for you to take on a continuous basis, etc. etc.
posted by cosmic osmo at 3:52 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The important parts there are A) tiring myself out, and B) Not doing anything before bed, and no lights.

Point is that everyone is different and that you have to find something that works for you. No amount of exercise works for me when I'm mentally awake.

I don't worry about it, I just go with it. I think it's normal for my body to run on its own clock sometimes so I make use of it. Those weeks when I am averaging 4 hours of sleep in 24, I get stuff done in the wee hours when I'm buzzing with mental energy. It gives me a good conscience and the accomplishment makes me rest easier when my moon changes phase. I don't really need the sleep in those periods so why should I make myself sleep?

And drugs? To sleep? Just say no. For me, drugs are only for fun. I would never take something intended to make me fall alseep so I couldn't enjoy it? WTF? Absolute last choice after you've tried everything else. Even then with extreme caution and hesitation.
posted by three blind mice at 4:01 PM on July 27, 2008

I second the recommendation for Ambien. I went years without a good night's rest. I'd fall asleep ok, but then wake up with all sorts of to do lists and general inability to quiet down my brain. The Ambien has made an incredible difference in my life.

Before I went on the Ambien, I did try some cognitive therapy techniques to curb my insomnia. One thing that helped a bit was to keep a pad of paper next to the bed. When I woke up with worries, tasks and things I couldn't stop turning over in my mind, I'd write them down on the paper without even turning on the light, and then would just say to myself that I'm done. If you don't want to try medication, it might be worth a try.

I'd also recommend staying away from alcohol. It can help you fall asleep, but is often one of the reasons why people don't rest as well. It didn't used to bother me, but once I hit 30 I could really tell the difference.
posted by missmerrymack at 4:01 PM on July 27, 2008

I get that sometimes -- for me it is almost a fear of sleep itself. It seems to happen most often at times when I am very stressed and worried about everything I have to do the next day. Using a sound machine or falling asleep to soothing audiobooks helps immensely because it gives me something to concentrate on besides my own thoughts.

I splurged on this sound machine, and have found it to be well worth the money.

Be careful about relying on drugs. I occasionally use Ambien, but only in emergency type situations (presentation the next day, etc) as it can be very habit forming.
posted by susanvance at 4:14 PM on July 27, 2008

Be careful with the melatonin, it causes some righteous nightmares if you take too many. I found that trying to stick to a sleep schedule even on the weekends and taking benedryl helps me. I take two of them...I took Ambien for a while but it eventually stopped working. Also make your room REALLY dark.
posted by meeshell at 4:17 PM on July 27, 2008

A few things that worked for me:

- Stop drinking so much caffeine!

- I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Not only did the medication help me not be so anxious when falling asleep, but I was hit pretty hard with one of its main side-effects: drowsiness. I complained to my doctor, who told me that, since the timing of the dose didn't matter, I should take it a couple hours before bed, turning the "side effect" into a "side benefit."

- I'd often sit around with all my lights on at night, staring into a bright computer screen. I've been hearing a lot lately about how lights at night basically trick your body into thinking it's still daytime, so to speak. I've been making a concerted effort lately to try to turn lights off as the night progresses, and to do something other than using the computer right before bed.

- Depending on my mood, I'll often climb into bed and read something, listen to some music (something calm, of course), or write down all the stuff running through my head. It works pretty well at helping me to be able to set the notebook aside and fall asleep in short order. Often times I'll have ideas running through my head, but writing them down is enough to allow me to think, "I'll worry about that in the morning."

- Try going to bed a little earlier than usual, knowing that you're not going to fall asleep for a while, but padding the time so it's no big deal if you lay there awake for half an hour or whatever. (With any luck, this will actually help you get to sleep earlier: I get downright furious with my inability to fall asleep sometimes, but adding a, "It's not big deal" buffer helps me to just be bored instead.)

- Don't have a clock facing your bed if you can help it! Looking at all the sleep time I've "lost" by being awake is one of my biggest problems. I keep a clock by my bed, but angled so that I have to move it to see the time. This relates to the above: by not seeing the minutes tick by, I don't get ticked off as much.

Also: if you're not taking medication that causes drowsiness, by totally-not-a-medical-professional take on things is that, while taking sleeping pills long-term is discouraged, lying awake all night because you can't sleep is also discouraged. Pick up some over-the-counter ones (I've heard good things about Melatonin, but not taken it myself) and have one "as needed," trying to not take one every night if you can help it.
posted by fogster at 4:19 PM on July 27, 2008

This is a pretty simple idea you've probably already thought of, but reading before bed does wonders. I have the same problem with insomnia/racing thoughts where once I get started it's hard to fall asleep. Focusing my mind on reading until I'm about to fall asleep in the middle of a page helps.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:20 PM on July 27, 2008

go see a sleep specialist. they are usually neurologists. they can teach you some cognitive tricks to help re-set your thinking about sleep.

also, the book "say goodnight to insomnia" is pretty much the standard sleep therapy book, and it does a great job of addressing the issues that you state.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:24 PM on July 27, 2008

Ambien was wonderful for me, but it got to the point where I needed it every day, which worried my doctor in terms of dependence. Her suggestion was Tylenol PM - which has worked just as well, though it leaves me a bit groggier in the morning (which I suppose balances out that it doesn't make me feel *drugged* the way Ambien did).

My 2c would be to try Tylenol PM and if that doesn't work, talk to your doctor about a prescription sleep aid. Trazodone is cheaper than Ambien, and not as strong, your dr might want to try that one first.

Also, a note about taking Benadryl for its soporific properties: it's not a bad thing once in a while, but on a regular basis, you can build up a tolerance to it. Not only is this less than ideal from a sleep standpoint, but if you got an allergic reaction and needed the Benadryl, it wouldn't have the desired effect. Be careful taking medicines not *specifically* designed for sleep.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2008

Google "sleep hygiene."

It really does help to have a set routine (just like little kids have...the hour before bed runs through a set pattern of snack, bath, pajamas, story time, etc.) you follow every. night. The ritual aspect of it is more important than the individual elements (though none of it should involve TV, the internet, etc.).
posted by availablelight at 5:16 PM on July 27, 2008

Here is my crazy method. It has worked for me for years. Use a small radio and tune it to an "all talk" station. Turn the volume to barely audible and go to bed. I have found that my brain engages trying to hear what is being said on the show and that process, apparently, overrides the whirring thoughts. It is as if my mind is trying so hard to decipher the sounds that it cannot think about anything else.

This does not work if the volume is clearly audible or if music is playing. Either case will have the opposite affect and keep you awake longer. Good luck sleeping.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:22 PM on July 27, 2008

The ingredient you're looking for is diphenhydramine. It's the generic name for Benadryl and it's what's in most of the OTC sleep aids, like Sominex, Nytol, or Tylenol PM. Always left me hung over, and you can get kind of tolerant of it eventually, but generally you will sleep and stay asleep.
posted by dilettante at 8:34 PM on July 27, 2008

If you don't want drugs or expensive therapy (both of which I've used), try keeping your mind busy, but not active.
Try TV shows or movies that you are very, very familiar with, and have commentary on the DVD, or books on tape.
I have just about every episode of Futurama memorized, with the DVD commentary on. I would watch the same couple episodes before bed for several nights in a row. I got to the point where I knew what was going on so I didn't need my eyes open to follow the commentary.
Now, when I'm at the point where I am sleepy but cannot sleep, I can put on a Futurama DVD and I usually don't remember past about five minutes.
I have a few movies and books that I can do this with as well.
Like zerobyproxy said, it doesn't seem to work if there's music but just speech (hence the commentary tracks) seems to keep my brain busy.
posted by gally99 at 1:54 AM on July 28, 2008

What have you tried since your similar question, two months ago?
posted by bcwinters at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2008

Here are thing's i've tried to overcome insomnia. Some worked better than others at different points in my life, but all have worked to some degree:

1) SimplyNoise : a simple white noise generator. Put it on when you go to sleep and let it be just loud enough to distract your mind from itself

2) Warm electric blanket + cold room: I keep my bedroom around 63 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Then I let my electric blanket warm up while I almost begin to shiver. Then jump into the warm bed! if your mind is really worked up and you don't fall alseep within a few minutes, poke your bare feet out from under the electric blanket; they'll freeze their digits off and then stick them back under the blanket. This idea spurred from a time years ago when my dad would make us walk around on the cold bathroom tiles before bed. This temperature idea seems to go along with your "warm bath" thing, so I have high hopes of this one working for you! (Putting a floor-standing fan in your room may cover both this suggestion and the white noise suggestion.)

3) This one's not for the bashful, but try having an orgasm. Either by masturbation or sex, orgasms make men sleepy. In all hoensty, this one's worked the best for me over the years; it's awkward to explain if the question ever arises.

Best of luck!
posted by cmchap at 9:48 AM on July 28, 2008

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