Insomnia Q&A With My Partner

Recently, I sat down with my partner, Joe, to talk with him a little more about some of my repetitive sleep issues.

Understanding my insomnia

Me: How early into our relationship did you notice I had sleep issues and when did you ask me about it or say anything?
Joe: I noticed before we even started dating. Based on when we would text, you’d be up at unusual hours. I don’t really remember specifically asking you about it, but I know we’ve had plenty of conversations about it when we initially started dating.

Joe: When you're unable to sleep are you just tired all the time?
Me: Yeah, I'm exhausted, but I think that's also life in general with chronic illness.

Joe: Is your insomnia ever related to your Crohn’s or to your PTSD or just separate insomnia?
Me: My insomnia is often a result of being awakened by my IBD stomach in the early hours of the morning. It's always been that way and I fear it always will be. My IBD typically comes on around 3 to 4 a.m. and that will wake me up right away so I usually wake up around 3:30 a.m. most mornings. I'll try to get a nap in later in the early morning around 5 to 6 a.m. It's definitely also a result of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which you know I'm actively in therapy for and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) should hopefully help things. The insomnia I had as a child may or may not be relative to any insomnia I have now. Who knows?

Medication and lifestyle changes

Joe: Do you have hope that with lifestyle or medication changes, you’ll be able to cure your insomnia, or do you feel it’s something you’ll be dealing with your whole life?
Me: I think my sleep study I'm having soon could answer some of those questions, but I don't see it being cured. There is a lot that goes into insomnia - like anxiety or my PTSD. I have already been dealing with this since I could walk and talk, so I feel hopeful moving toward better answers. I've maxed out all the sleep meds I've tried and that's an uncomfortable feeling.

Joe: Do you feel like the sedatives have been a big benefit to you?
Me: For many people, they will say yes. It takes a lot of mgs for them to work for me. It’s frustrating because I can be on the same strength or dose as a man twice my size and it may work for him, but not for me. Even though I may fall asleep within 2 hours, I'll wake up after a half-hour of sleep and be up the rest of the night.

Joe: Do you find when it comes to meds, you trust new doctors and are willing to try new things or do you think you always have to be on top of what they prescribe for you?
Me: I'm always and have always been open on how to improve my sleep. I have to be very careful when prescribed new medications since I have a lot of drug interactions. There have been several occasions where I’ve gotten to the pharmacy to learn it’s a drug interaction or I’ve actually gotten home and looked myself and sure enough. You can never be too careful double-checking. That’s one way you can advocate for yourself.

Joe: Do you find being on so many medications is a side effect for insomnia and that's a cause for it?
Me: Opposite. They should all put me to sleep. I'm mostly on psychiatric medications to help with PTSD, insomnia, and nightmares.

Living with insomnia

Me: Have you ever woken up and found me in strange places?
Joe: I've woken up and found you laying the wrong way on the bed and I also frequently wake up to find you not in bed at least 50 percent of the time. I assume cause you can't sleep.

Me: Since you’ve had trouble sleeping lately, what would you say is your biggest contribution to insomnia?
Joe: Changing roles of my job (and career) and also sometimes I'm dumb and have caffeine late at night.

Me: What do you do when you can't sleep?
Joe: When I can't sleep I'll get up and lay on the couch and hope that change is beneficial. I go outside and get some air. Mostly I just toss and turn and hope to get to sleep. I always fall asleep but it just takes me a while sometimes, not like a frustrating situation like you have.

Joe: I know that you dealt with sleep paralysis. Is that a vicious cycle for you so that you worry about it and can’t or don't want to go to bed or go back to sleep?
Me: I'm not sure what else to answer besides "Yes." But I will. I talk about sleep paralysis a lot lately because it's a huge part of my life right now.

Joe: What do you wish you could make me or others understand about insomnia?
Me: I leave the bed most of the time because I don't want to keep you awake but I tend to get frustrated *some* nights when I hear how fast asleep you are. Haha! I wish people understood how insomnia can seriously impact your life, in the smallest ways, which seem to all have a really big impact on my life and yours.

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