One Size Treatments Do Not Suit All
Insomnia is a distressing and potentially debilitating condition. Those of you who experience chronic sleep issues know exactly what I mean.
I have struggled with varying degrees of insomnia my entire adult life and things came to a head for me at the start of 2020 when I had a complete nervous breakdown, largely in part to a complete lack of sleep. The body can only be pushed for so long.
But still – there are people out there who disapprove of me using pharmaceutical support to sleep.
You name it, I have tried it
These people almost always have a magic elixir that has worked for them, and they believe that if only I did what they do, I would be magically cured. Oh, I wish that were so.
- Eliminating caffeine and alcohol
- Reducing sugar consumption
- Avoiding preservatives
- Checking my gluten and dairy intake
- No late night snacking
- Chamomile tea
- Naturopathic and homeopathic concoctions
- Removing screens and devices at night-time
- Exercising – not too much, not too little, at just the right time
- Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day
- Never staying in bed awake longer than 20 minutes
- Saving the bed for sex and sleep only
- Changing all my linen
- Finding the perfect pillow
- Monitoring room temperature
- Never napping
- Creating nighttime routines
- Sitting in the sun during the day and avoiding bright lights at night
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Deep breathing
- Apps to support sleep
- White noise
Is there something else? Quite possibly. I have had many years to access the internet, listen to doctors, consult specialists and discuss insomnia with my friends. I have tried all the ideas that everyone has come up with. I still need pharmaceutical support.
Not every treatment works for every person
As soon as I mention the dreaded words – sleeping pills – I am told that nobody needs sleeping pills; I should just try one of the magical tricks I’ve just explained. It worked for them, and therefore it should work for me.
But the thing is, not every treatment works for every person. If it did, insomnia would not exist. It is so important for each of us to trial all the non-pharmaceutical options and to set up good sleep hygiene habits, and maybe try some natural supplements. A bit of mindfulness or even hypnosis. If you have chronic insomnia, you’re probably willing to give almost anything a go.
Resist the urge to suggest another 'thing'
And I know – as I sit here and write this out – someone will read my list of things I tried and realise they’ve done something different, and if I just did that thing well, I would sleep.
No, I won’t.
I’ve tried enough things to know that my body fights sleep at every step along the way. I have many superpowers, but sleep is not one of them. It is a combination of physical issues (restless legs syndrome being a big contributor) and psychological issues (hyperarousal is my official diagnosis). I am being treated medically for both those conditions and now I sleep.
How I treat my insomnia is my choice
A couple of pills each night is a small price for me to pay to sleep. I am very fortunate to be able to take the medication as I know some people respond badly, or the side effects are too significant for them. But for me, they work well so far. If things change in the future, I will deal with that then.
I confess I get tired of having to defend my need to be medicated for insomnia. I am not stupid or lazy – I have tried all the other options. Chronic, severe insomnia almost cost me my life and I have weighed up the pros and cons and decided to take the drugs. I don’t like taking them, but they’re necessary.
I use an inhaler when my asthma gets bad and nobody tells me to try a meditation app instead. Insomnia is a medical condition, and while drugs are the weapon of last choice, they are a good option when all else has failed.
Freely share but do not assume
When it comes to getting a solid night’s sleep, one size definitely does not fit all. The tips and tricks that have worked for you might not work for me. They might work for someone else, so feel free to share your experience.
But we should never make the assumption that an insomniac is just not trying hard enough to sleep. We are the most exhausted people you know.
Do you have any other health conditions besides insomnia?