My Insomnia Does Not Look Like Yours

After many nights (and days) of living with insomnia, I am more or less in the same position as I was years ago. Tired. But when I read others' stories on these pages, I realize how fortunate I am.

My sleep issues may be mild, but still, they are a drag on my normal activities and often quite exasperating. I have no problem going to sleep, but 3 hours later, the battle begins. However, this is starting to change as I am more patient today and accepting of the probable causes which interfere with proper sleep.

The good and the bad

The good news: I go to sleep a few minutes after I am in bed.

The bad news: it starts here.

My comorbidities

  • Parkinson's disease - Parkinson's is the leading suspect
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Coronary artery diseaase

My medications

7 out of the 9 medications I take mention sleep problems as a side effect.

Aging

Some things you can't change.

Some or all these add up to not enough sleep. In addition, I continue to maintain a vigorous exercise program daily (2 hours), am active in the Parkinson's community, and have a large family. I am, more or less, busy (and tired) all the time. I average about 5 hours of fragmented sleep per night with a nap thrown in, which is not enough for me.

I have tried it all

Like many in the insomnia boat, I have tried "aids and cures" of all types with little or no success. Probably many reading this have the same list. I hope you found something that worked for you. Also, just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for you.

  • Prescription medication – I tried several medications with no long-term positive effect – 2 of those caused unpleasant side effects.
  • Cannabis – Several years ago, when medical marijuana was the answer to almost every health issue, I tried it. At first, it worked, kind of, but soon things were back to normal. Also, I had some hallucinations coupled with a sort of morning hangover.
  • Over-the-counter sleep aidsMelatonin. I used it for several months with no noticeable change.
  • Breathing exercises – I found deep breathing sometimes helpful, but I don't know if it was the breathing exercises or just a good night for me.
  • Sleep log – I have tracked my sleep for years. Why? I started keeping track as my sleep hours were going down. I didn't need a sleep log to tell me I wasn't getting enough sleep, but it did give me more detail. Did I learn anything? Very little. Did the docs learn anything? Only that my lack of sleep looked pretty much like it did last month or last year.
  • Sleep hygieneGood prep habits in the hours leading to bedtime make a lot of sense to me but do they aid sleep? Not for me. I have followed the many dos and don'ts off and on for years with no change in my sleep. I can adhere to most of the suggestions, but it makes little or no difference in my sleep. For example, yesterday, I took a 2-hour nap at 3:30 PM, woke up refreshed, went to bed at 10 PM, and went right to sleep. However, I woke up 3 hours later and couldn't go back to sleep. Typical.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) – I had some success with CBT-I, but it was not sustainable. However, I do feel it gives you the best chance to get more sleep.

Where does that leave me now?

It seems that the popguns I have been using are no match for a howitzer. One advocate recently wrote that "Insomnia is a disorder of dissatisfaction with your sleep, rather than a measurement of how much sleep you get." I agree with this; however, at some point, quantity has to be considered. For me, every minute of sleep counts.

I suppose I meet the scientific and medical definition of being stuck in the insomnia sphere. However, I believe I am at the lucky end of the standard. As hard as it is some days, I know it could be worse.

My insomnia still takes a toll

I have a mild case of insomnia, but it is annoying. I wonder how many are in this same boat? That is, we don't go for days with no sleep. Nevertheless, we don't get enough sleep, and over the years, it takes its toll.

I don't know that I fit the model when I read about many who are in a much worse position than I am. It does seem if you have met one person with insomnia, you have met one person with insomnia. Every case seems to be different. Although optimistic by nature, it is difficult for me to see a suitable future answer. I know many are studying the insomnia mystery, and someday they will have the answers.

Accepting my insomnia as it is

In the meantime, I am going to try to maintain the status quo. I haven't given up, just slowing down to accept insomnia as it is. For now, carrying my daily insomnia challenges without the sometimes desperate effort is the best way to live.

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