Sleep Issues, Again ...

Sleep and I have a complicated history. I’ve never been the type of person who hits the pillow, closes her eyes, and starts snoring.

Growing up with JRA, I would take my mind away from the pain at night, making up imaginary worlds, sometimes staring at the tree outside my window for hours before I would nod off.

Not much riled me up, but if one of my brothers came upstairs when I was in bed and left the light on, I would bark at him like a drill instructor, "TURN OFF THE LIGHT!"

In search of quality sleep

I try not to be high-maintenance in life, but when it comes to sleep, I turn into the princess and the pea. I need the right kind of white noise, temperature, pillow, complete darkness if possible - the list goes on and on.

I’ve studied sleep hygiene, I’ve learned how to quiet my mind, I’ve figured out ways to decrease my pain before bed, and yet quality sleep is something I chase in vain on most nights. 

Advice that wasn't really helpful

In the past, when I’ve mentioned my issues to a doctor, I’ve gotten lectures about exercise, (make sure to do it!) and caffeine (avoid it like the plague). Clearly, these doctors didn’t know my lifestyle, but that’s a story for another day.

So, I learned to figure it out for myself and, if you ask me to name 5 herbs that help sleep, I could rattle them off easily.

When sleep tricks stop working

Lately, though, all the tricks I’ve learned have stopped working. This isn’t completely true; I know all the things that help me to sleep still help, but I know my sleep quality has decreased since I wake up already tired most days.

I’ve taken stock about possible culprits - increased pain or swelling are easy things to point to - but my JRA is holding pretty steady these days.

My stress levels have increased over the past few months. I’m working hard to handle the stress, but I know that this may be contributing to my sleep issues.

A plan to fix my sleep issues

With this knowledge and the reality that things are not improving, I decided to go back to my primary care doctor and talk it through. 

I’m not the most organized person and, as a result, I tend to not keep track of every medication I’ve tried for various things as well as I should, so I decided to get a notebook and start writing notes for every doctor visit I have, starting with this one.

A sleep study in the near future

The next time my doctor asks how long I tried such and such medicine and at what dose, I will have a more accurate answer! Yesterday, notebook in hand, I decided to go back to the medication I was on years ago and try to see if a different dose might help.

I’m also taking an over-the-counter sleep aid and I made sure I could still take it. If this doesn’t work, the next step will be to go to the sleep study center in the nearest town.

I’ve learned over the years that the worst thing you can do when you have chronic insomnia is to worry about it, and the hardest thing to do is not worry about it.

But with this step, I at least feel like I have a plan. So, wish me luck and sweet dreams to all!

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