October 2016 meeting

On Friday 28th October, a few of us met to discuss the things we've tried to help us get a better night's sleep. One member contributed via email.

Keep regular sleep hours
Make sure you wind down before bed-time
Keep regular sleep hours
Try to get organised / disciplined days: get up and go to bed at a regular time, eat meals at regular times, etc.

Keep regular sleep hours

Try to get organised / disciplined days: get up and go to bed at a regular time, eat meals at regular times, etc.

Reduce stress

Some of us thought that our insomnia was caused by stress. We thought that some stress may be OK in terms of sleep (e.g. where you feel in control of the situation) but not where you don't feel in control. We also thought that spending too long on activities we find stressful, whether that's de-junking or decorating, doesn't help either, neither does doing anything too stimulating just before bedtime... late emails or texting isn't a good idea!

We discussed whether M.E. can cause stress. We thought so, particularly if you’ve had to give up work because of your M.E. and then have to move to a cheaper (and perhaps rougher and noisier) part of town. One of us felt that she’d become more short-tempered as a result of her M.E... Perhaps this is something to do with not being able to do everything we want to do and finding life more frustrating? 

Make sure you wind down before bed-time

Having a wind-down time before bed is a good idea. Suggestions include reading and using relaxation tapes - but not if you have a tape deck that clicks off noisily when it finishes! Relaxation tapes can vary so you might need to try a few before you find one that helps you relax. One group member, who got in touch via email, suggested, “If you can't drop off, try to relax and count backwards from 50, or recite the alphabet in call signs, (alpha, bravo, Charlie, delta, echo etc.) or a poem that you remember from school, over and over. Your mind will wander so you will have to get back on track!”

If you are able, walk / amble / do some light gardening in the fresh air each day for up to an hour. If this fails, try going for a walk in your head. “I walk down a country lane then go into a field of poppies, followed into a field of ripening wheat, into a field of buttercups, into a green field, through a gate into a shady wood with blue cedar trees, deeper into shades that are violet and finally sitting by a small pool on a log in the middle of the wood. (Following rainbow colours) By then I'm generally asleep!” Taking rests between daily activities - but try not to go to sleep - may help too.

Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

General advice suggests making sure you have a comfortable bed and try to reduce noise, if possible. Room temperature can be important too. Make sure you have a warm bed to crawl into and if possible make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold, at about 18C. Keeping the room as dark as possible may help too. I use black-out linings behind the curtains… I find this gives me a better night’s sleep.

We discussed using un-scented soap-powders for washing sheets and thought this helped a bit. Surcare make unperfumed washing powder / liquid and can be bought from most supermarkets. Not everything we’d tried was helpful though, e.g. using cotton rather than synthetic blankets didn’t seem to make any difference.

Take care about what you eat and drink before bed-time

What we eat and drink can have an impact on our sleep. Cutting down on caffeine in tea, coffee, cola drinks, especially in the evening may help you sleep better. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep, and also prevents deep sleep. Instead, try a warm, milky drink or herbal tea.

Avoiding large meals, too much protein with your evening meal, avoiding spicy food or eating too late, (after about 7 pm), apart from maybe a milky drink or a cup of Clipper “sleep easy infusion” can be helpful. However, going to bed hungry doesn’t improve sleep so a small snack can be helpful.

Alcohol was mentioned too: it may help you fall asleep initially but it will disrupt your sleep later.

N.H.S. and alternative treatments

NHS treatments were discussed. We’d all tried Amitriptyline but only one of us was still using it (and finding it helpful); the side-effects made one of us “feel like a zombie” the next day!

Alternative treatments were discussed too. We’d all tried the essential oil lavender– but best to avoid drops of essential oil on your pillow as this can sting if it gets in your eyes! Alternatives are available, including lavender pillows, a lavender sachet to go inside your pillow, using a lavender heat-pack before bed-time and using an essential oil burner. As far as we know, there is some research evidence to suggest that lavender does help us to relax so this may be worth trying. Herbal remedies had been tried but we were unsure whether they’d really helped.

The Lightning Process was mentioned too… this had helped a friend of one group member for about 6 months but then her insomnia (and M.E.) came back worse than ever.

Lastly, we discussed M.E. and sleep and how sleep patterns can be linked to M.E. It is worth considering that people vary considerably - and that what works for one person will not necessarily work for everyone… not all of us found giving up caffeine made any difference to our sleep! 

Reduce stress
Some of us thought that our insomnia was caused by stress and how some stress may be OK in terms of sleep (e.g. where you feel in control of the situation) but not where you don’t feel in control. We also thought that spending too long on activities we find stressful, whether that’s de-junking or decorating, doesn’t help either, neither does doing anything too stimulating just before bedtime… late emails or texting isn’t a good idea!