How Other Aspects of My Health Impact My Insomnia (Part 2)
In the first part of this article, I wrote about how insomnia affects other aspects of my life. Unfortunately, the ripple effects are visible to me every day.
Insomnia causes my Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine symptoms to increase almost in direct correlation. The more I struggle with my sleep disorder, the crummier I feel overall.
I've also learned that in an annoying conundrum, the opposite is true too.
Crohn's Disease + insomnia
When my Crohn's disease flares, I spend a lot more time in and out of the bathroom. I experience abdominal cramping and a frequent and urgent need to poop – requiring that I run to the bathroom at the most inconvenient times – including when I'm trying to sleep. Crohn's also causes significant abdominal pain that keeps me awake, no matter how bad I want to sleep.
During an increase in Crohn's disease activity, my insomnia rebels. I find myself trying to vigilantly track my symptoms and watch for red flags that would need a call to the doctor or a trip to the ER, meaning that even when I'm exhausted, it's impossible to actually rest. In turn, that prevents my symptoms from quieting down, creating this vicious circle that often requires medication to stop.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) + insomnia
When my body hurts, I know that my sleep is going to be in trouble. Sometimes, an increase in my joint pain causes me to flop into bed overly exhausted just after dinner, and I may even fall right asleep. But then, the pain will wake me... over and over and over again throughout the night.
Even if my sleep disorder were well managed, an RA flare would knock that right off course.
Migraines + insomnia
Migraines are a beast in themselves. Migraines interrupt my sleep patterns in a few different ways. First, they almost always require more sleep than usual. Functioning is just too hard, meaning I stop trying. No screens, nothing to listen to, nothing to pay attention to except the noise in my brain.
Migraines often require ice packs and darkening eye masks – meaning I have no choice but to lie still and wait to feel better. Sometimes, I get really disrupted sleep during this time. Other times, I just feel really resentful that I have to manage both migraines and insomnia.
When migraines start during the night
Another way migraines disrupt my "routine" sleep is when they start during the night. I can't tell you how many times I wake up around 2 or 3 AM to use the restroom and realize my head is pounding and that I'm nauseous and dizzy. Without turning on the lights, I try to blindly navigate my medication drawer, taking out the abortive medications I've been prescribed, and I lie back down in the dark, only to find that it's impossible to fall back asleep.
When migraines refuse to be ignored
Then, there are the migraines I try to ignore at the beginning. The ones that I feel during the night and try to turn over without treating. I'll doze off just to wake back up to my brain indicating that I must be a responsible patient and get my medication immediately, without waiting one second longer. In these times, the part of me that is desperate for rest fights with the part that knows the minute I sit up, I'll be awake, probably for much longer than I'd like to be.
Living with multiple chronic illnesses
In fact, that feels true with any of the chronic illnesses I live with.
This is one of my biggest frustrations with insomnia – it steamrolls the entire rest of my life in one way or another! This reciprocal relationship often makes me feel like I'll never sleep well until all of my health is better controlled AND that my health can't be better controlled until my insomnia is cured.
If any of what I shared in the first or second part of this article resonated with you, I'd love to hear your experiences below. You're not alone!
Does anyone else in your family have insomnia?