I've pretty much always been a good sleeper. Even after becoming a mother, I was able to get some shut-eye. Of course, life hasn't been the same since hearing "Mama" a million times a day, but fatigue, lack of sleep, or insomnia was not one of those "Holy Crap, I'm a Mother!" changes I experienced. I was blessed to have children who liked to sleep - it was their waking hours I found so challenging!
For me, it was the life change of cancer that threw me into the world of insomnia. During my treatment, the steroids that accompanied chemotherapy would keep me up at all odd hours, craving carbs and fatty foods. Then, after completing my year of treatment, my body hasn't been able to shake the pattern it developed while on all those meds. Just about every night, I feel tired, I think I'll be able to go to sleep, but when midnight strikes, I know it's time to give up. I start reading or watching NetFlix which then led to an awful addiction to Parks and Recreation! Because of my late night escapades, I can fill you in on both late night Jimmy shows and Colbert as well as assure you that indeed, nothing good happens after 2am.
Two months ago, I started a new part-time job at Mary Washington Hospital's Regional Cancer Center. I coordinate programs and services that help our patients seek integrative therapies to help them manage their symptoms. It's quite fulfilling for me to share my own experiences as a means of helping patients not feel alone in their journey. My goal is to try and help individuals see themselves holistically. For example, fatigue and insomnia can occur because of physical symptoms, however, psychological triggers such as anxiety and depression are also factors.
The National Sleep Foundation recently launched a new program, Beyond Tired, to support people dealing with insomnia. Because of my own insomnia issues as well as my role at work, I was definitely interested in investigating more about why I might be experiencing insomnia. I don't think I realized how much my subconscience was fearing the future, the return of cancer or even a new illness. These are hard obstacles to overcome, but at least I'm more aware now and can start to reduce some of my anxiety. A few techniques I've used so far, with some moderate success are:
- Lavender essential oil - in a warm bath right before bedtime and sprayed on bed linens.
- Spa Station on Pandora - I downloaded the app on my phone and play the music for relaxation, naptime with kids, etc.
- No caffeine after 2pm - Before my insomnia started, I had 0-1 cups a coffee a day, but now I need more, making the problem worse.
- Change where you sleep - use the sofa, a different bedroom, etc. No, it's not ideal, but what matters is that you get rest.
Check out National Sleep Foundation's special website dedicated for the Beyond Tired program; there are a variety of personal stories and suggested relaxation activities. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @sleepfoundation.