Welcome to the first instalment of the sleep chronicles!
Sleep and Fibromyalgia. They all too often don’t mix (see my post about insomnia for the gruesome details!). Either you can’t sleep, or when you do sleep its of such poor quality you almost wish you didn’t fall to sleep in the first place.
This is how I felt just a couple of months ago, and some nights I do still feel like this. BUT, with some gentle tweaking to my bedtime routine (okay, massive tweaking I didn’t actually have a routine before) and recognising my triggers for poor sleep, I have actually been able to make some progress in getting some shut eye and I am hoping that by sharing what I have learnt and found helpful, I may well help somebody else with sleep disturbances. If these instalments help just one person I’ll be super happy. As a way of a little disclaimer, I am not proposing to solve all of your problems, and for some my techniques won’t help at all, but I am simply sharing what I have found in getting, what I loosely call, a ‘better’ nights sleep.
For this first post, lets start with the basics, setting the scene for a (hopefully) good nights sleep.
I’d like you to take yourself into your bedroom and take a look around. What do you see? Do you have piles of laundry waiting to be folded? Do you have a television? Do you keep your work diary on your bedside table? If so, move it all…. Move anything that may pose as a distraction, even from the corner of your eye. If you are going to look at it and think ‘oh, I really must sort that out before I go to sleep’ or ‘just one more episode’ then you aren’t really switching off. By moving these items out of the room, you are not able to physically see them, and therefore you are less likely to be tempted to sort them out, or just do one more task once you actually get yourself anywhere near ready to sleep (we’ll talk about being able to do these tasks before going to bed in a later post). I used to have piles and piles of laundry at the end of my bed, a list on my bedside table of things I needed to do, and honestly, they were not helpful when I was trying to visit the land of nod.
Okay, all of the distractions out of the room? Lets move on!
Open the window! It doesn’t have to be opened much, just the tiniest of gaps. Letting fresher cooler air into the bedroom enables you body to cool down when you are getting ready to sleep. Cooling down helps the body to release melatonin, an essential hormone needed in order to be able to sleep. And on that note…..
Turn down the thermostat. We have our thermostat on at 20 degrees during the day, but in the evening I turn this down to 18 degrees. This again enables the body to cool down and stay cool throughout the night and release the magical hormone melatonin. If you keep your thermostat on toasty warm, you are more likely to wake up because you have gotten too warm and your body is struggling to stick to its circadian rhythms.
Are you curtains/blinds keeping daylight out enough? Before the invention of the lightbulb and before humans could harness electricity, apart from the light of a campfire or a candle, we would have pretty much been in darkness when we slept, only rising when the sun peeked over the horizon. Now, keeping daylight out isn’t so much of a problem in the winter months when the days are short It is dark by the time we settle and still dark when most of us rise, but in the summer, it can be deal breaker on whether or not you will sleep well. Historically I have worked many night shifts, and because of this when we got curtains for the bedroom we decided on a really dark pair (they are mostly dark brown) and no light gets through them. Even more importantly, they cover the window space well, so light can’t really peek around the edges either.
I like a nicely made bed to get into, free of crumbs, and other little bits that can work their way into the bed with children, cats and dare I say it, husbands (sorry Matt). However, I am not willing to change my bed every day to achieve this. Simply making the bed up after everyone has rolled out of it is enough to keep it fresh between changes.
I also like my bedside table to have everything I need in reach so I don’t have to keep getting up and down once I’m ensconced under my duvet. Because of this I keep a range of reading books on my bedside table so that whatever mood I am in I can generally find a good book to read. This is my current selection (I have peculiar tastes) –
In my bedside table drawer I also have my inhalers, antihistamines (its rare, but occasionally I have strange allergic reactions in the middle of the night), lip balm, hand cream, foot cream and face cream. This stops me from getting out of bed if I have forgotten to do any of these things in my bedtime routine.
Next, think about the lighting. You really should be aiming for a soft warm/amber light when you are settling down for bed. Candlelight is best for this. I usually have a tea light burning and my warm light bedside lamp on its lowest setting, just enough for me to see the words on the pages of my books. It amazing the difference soft lighting makes to the heaviness of the eyelids come sleepy time.
Lastly, and this is the bit I struggled with the most. If you have pets, strongly consider shutting them out of the bedroom while you are sleeping. I had a feeling our cats may have been waking me up, what with all the being pinned down with between two of them, not being able to move, the running in and out of the bedroom at lightning speed because they needed a poo, the fighting, and more often than not, waking up with a cat on my head. This is the look Maude gives me at bedtime now, and when she knows its time to be shut in the kitchen –
“I promise to be good mum”, and this you see is why I felt bad initially. The poor cats had gone 14, 12, and 10 years sleeping on our beds and now they have to sleep in the kitchen. However, not being woken by them is a real treat indeed.
And on that note. Nighty night, sleep tight, don’t let the insomnia bite.