By Ellen Lenox Smith
Too much of growing up was just taken for granted. I happened to be very fortunate having enough food, a roof over my head, both parents in my life, a good education and what I believed to be, good quality sleep. In retrospect, I now wonder if I had ever experienced good quality restorative sleep as I would awake each morning and be able to vividly recall and thus share, the very graphic dreams from the previous night. I thought that dream recollection was an indicator of healthy sleep. But I was wrong and now I understand why I seemed to be more tired than so many in my social circle. I have now discovered a healthy natural method to achieve restorative, generally uninterrupted sleep. As a result, I now wake up with no recollection of any dreams and have gained rest in a way I had never really experienced by achieving REM sleep. What a joy it is to a wake feeling rested!
Up until just eleven years ago, sleeping was a huge challenge, as I am sure so many of you also experience. This issue seems to only get worse as we age and if you are also living with chronic pain, it often can become terribly compounded due to sleep deprivation. There is just nothing worse than getting up in the AM with a day to address and live out but all you really want to do, is return to bed as quickly as you can. What kind of way is this to start the day? Little, interrupted or no sleep can initiate a process which undermines one’s physical and psychological health by dramatically increasing the stress in one’s life. We all are well aware of the relationship between stress and health along with stress and pain. In fact, for many patients, the lack of healthy restorative sleep may prove to be the primary culprit in inhibiting their return to good health.
These are a few ideas that I have learned through the years to help achieve quality sleep. I hope these suggestions might also help you:
- Try to avoid large heavy meals or snacks close to bedtime. I find I do best not eating again after dinner, although there are times it is so tempting. Those nights I break down and cheat, I could kick myself as I lay in bed not being able to fall asleep! Sugar, carbs and excess food does is not conducive to achieving healthy sleep.
- I need to take pain medication at night that helps with achieving restorative sleep. However, I need to stick with a time frame and try to be as consistent as possible. When I take my medication and then wait too long to get to bed and it has already started to activate, I have trouble going to sleep.
- Try to find a match which is compatible for you to help with sleep, if you also have trouble. We are all different and need not judge what works for one and not us. For some it might be an opiate, sleep medication, and even cannabis. It wasn’t until I had DNA drug sensitivity testing which enabled me to determine what I was able to metabolize that I was able to experience quality sleep.
- When you are just having one of those nights when sleep seems elusive, consider getting up from bed, if that is safe for you, and read or do something else quietly as you wait for the groggy sensation to return. From what I have read, reading is a much better option that TV as television for many can prove stimulative.
- One night, I received a text with some pretty upsetting information about a friend. That night, despite my medication and being exhausted, no matter what I tried, I could not fall asleep. I have now learned not to bring the phone into the family room before bed just in case there is news that is best not to confront and can just as easily be dealt with the following day. I also have my husband screen any calls prior to bed before going to bed.
- I use to be able to have a small glass of wine or even a shot of vodka in the evening, but since my neck surgeries, I find drinking does not help me with sleeping but instead, keeps me awake. Just something to pay attention to in case it is working against you, like me.
Keep searching for the magic that will help you get good quality of sleep. No matter what you are facing, we all have in common that experiencing a poor night of sleep makes the next day so difficult to cope with. In fact, the lack of healthy restorative sleep may be critical in maintaining or restoring your long term health issues. We deserve better and I certainly hope that you are able to find your answer to this problem so many cope with.
May life be kind to you,
Ellen lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.
Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/