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Tiny Mission Sleep Update 1

After declaring war on my sleeplessness, I have formulated a new series of Tiny Missions to attempt to get some sleep. To get 8-9 unbroken hours per night with as few restless/awake periods as possible.

This would be the first time in well over a decade.

It would appear that I have stepped into an experiment on how I cope with less sleep! For the last week I have really struggled to get eight hours of sleep, broken or blocked.

It’s been a mixture of internal and external factors. The baby has decided he gets up at 6am, despite being exhausted and fussy all morning. It’s been taking me a while to get to sleep and I’ve begun to struggle to get back to sleep if I am woken after 4am (bathroom, husband, neck etc.)

After I tried the chamomile and then the Sleep Drops (I’m waiting for the opportunity to use this for a nap to decide how useful it may be to me going forward), I started taking my amytriptoline half an hour later, at 8pm. I also started taking my magnesium supplement in the evening.

The combination of these things seemed to reset my body a little bit. I started to experience blocks of sleep. For about a week I had up to five hour blocks of sleep – no restless or awake lines on the Fitbit sleep chart! Previously my chart looked like I never had blocks of  sleep, there were so many restless and awake lines it looked like they crowded out the sleep almost completely.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. My neck is in a flare up due to my new job, dealing with a busy toddler and my husband on long, alternating shifts.

For the last three days I’ve had less than eight hours of sleep. A lot more restless and awake times because of my neck and then woken at 6 by the baby. Usually when I’ve had a bad night from 6-7am has been where I catch up.

So I have a few learnings to report so far:

  • Magnesium taken in the evening seems to help with relaxation.
  • Taking the amytriptoline slightly later may help.
  • The 6-7am slot is usually where I catch up on much needed sleep.
  • I need to get my neck under control.
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Tiny Mission Sleep, Chamomile

After declaring war on my sleeplessness, I have formulated a new series of Tiny Missions to attempt to get some sleep. To get 8-9 unbroken hours per night with as few restless/awake periods as possible.cup of tea

This would be the first time in well over a decade.

My first step was to take chamomile tea about an hour before bed. (This is in addition to my amitriptyline , I can’t give this up until I can achieve blocks of sleep regularly).

The first night I enjoyed my cup of tea, it was a nice ritual. After an hour or so of restless sleep and going to the bathroom a couple of times, I managed to sleep rather deeply. My Fitbit sleep tracker showed less light blue and pink lines (representing restless and awake times) and a couple of stretches of two hours sleep in a row!

On the second night my tea replaced dessert, which will have benefits in other areas of my health! It was an even better night. My body was so heavy and relaxed that I’m sure I was awake more than the Fitbit thinks, but the chart looked promising. Apart from having to let the dog out for a bathroom call at midnight (thanks Coop) my night was pretty calm. There was a three hour lot of sleep in a row! My baby woke at 6am again, but played for half an hour and went back to sleep, and being so heavy and relaxed, I was able to grab a little but more sleep.

Having enough sleep was enough to make me feel a little bit more nice in the morning, but the fatigue still caught me!

On the third night the baby woke up coughing at 4am so I got up to give him some medicine. Once I’d broken through the sleepiness to be awake, I really struggled to get back to sleep. I was still awake at 6 when my husband got home from work.

My conclusion around chamomile tea is that it assists with relaxation (which lowers the restless times) and initially getting to sleep, but for someone who gets woken regularly by baby, dog, husband or bathroom stops, it’s not ideal.

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Sleep, The Quest For

Does anyone else find it ridiculous that many millions of people are exhausted; struggle to get to sleep, to stay asleep, to wake feeling refreshed, to have sufficient energy to live; yet their doctors are not (generally) working their butts off to help find a solution?

I had one GP, several years ago, give me the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, with no other help. Another GP who I saw once, about the same time, put me on amytriptoline. My first GP in my new city had no further suggestions.

My most recent GP seems open to helping and has referred me to a rheumatologist (who’s done nothing so far).

Yet I am still struggling with sleep, a most basic survival need. I am expected to live like everyone else with a third of the energy.

Sleep is an elusive beast. I long for bedtime, my body will tell me I’m too tired to be awake, yet I wake multiple times in the night. I NEVER feel refreshed or well rested.

I have spent much time awake at 5am wishing and hoping I could get back to sleep, only to still be awake when the baby peeps somewhere between 6-7am.

My Fitbit sleep tracking has shown that it takes at least nine hours in bed to attain eight hours of sleep. Usually more like 9-10 hours. There are many awake/restless periods every night. It is uncommon for long periods of sleep.

And this is while I’m on 50mg of amytriptoline!

So my Tiny Mission (or giant mission!) is to tackle sleep.

Thank God for the internet. Seriously. I have found more useful information there than in real life.

Some things I’ve found to look into further in a preliminary search:

  • L-theanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Hops
  • Valerian
  • Magnesium plus calcium
  • Melatonin

I have found the Treating Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia: An Integrated Approach website and i am looking forward to working my way through it.

A sign that made me comfortable with their approach was that they acknowledge that there is no cure. But there are many treatments to help us.

The site suggests some over the counter, natural and prescription medications that can help sleep. They also suggest that some working together, at lower doses, work well.

I have seen the light, I need to try some other tactics to get some sleep. (Always with my GP’s advice, no mixing medicines unsafely!)

My biggest wish is to be able to spend 8-9 hours in bed and actually get a similar amount of decent sleep. That would be amazing!

And so the experiments begin.

Do you have any suggestions or any experience with the above supplements?


This is an old post, but I have done a lot of research about sleep, find some resources below:

Graphic printable sleep with templatesI created this series for those of us who want to take one subject at a time in this printable there is the chapter from my book about sleep and templates for making your own sleep hygiene plan and tracking your sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tiny Mission Gluten Free – Part One

Alongside my coQ10 Tiny Mission (which is a long one), I’ve been looking into dietary changes.

I slid, rather than dove, into my gluten free experiment.gfree

After some recurring problems with candida, I had mostly given up bread already (which was most of my gluten battle).

I had circled the gluten free idea for ages. A naturopath suggested I give it up. Research and blogs of fibromyalgia/CFS warriors suggested the same.

Here’s a few links about non-Celiac gluten sensitivity:

Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity a Real Thing? 
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance 
Following a Gluten Free Elimination Diet 
Improving Fibromyalgia Symptoms with Food 

I let a negative celiac test give gluten a stay of execution.

After reading It Starts with Food and deciding a gentler approach to elimination would be wisest, I made plans to go gluten free.

I’m a planner. I will not make a decision that could knowingly increase my pain and fatigue levels, I have a responsibility to my baby and my husband as well as to myself.

So I created a plan, worksheets to track progress and lists of food ideas. A month long trial excluding gluten, initially including oats, would begin on June 1.

As luck would have it, I ended up with a super bad virus on May 30 and experienced such severe fatigue and pain that I got a fright! But I managed to fight through it and get back on track just four days late.

I began the gluten free experiment on June 4.

Let me just say that I had no idea that withdrawal would be so bad!

It felt like I was withdrawing from a heavy addiction. From day one I was ravenous and desperately wanted gluten and sugar (not that I was avoiding sugar any more than moderation). By day three I experienced a detoxifying lot of bowel movements, this continued into day four.

The day four symptoms were probably due, in part, to being exhausted post virus plus being up with a teething baby. However I had a massive headache, sightly diminished hunger pangs and a general blah feeling. Unpicking the general fibromyalgia/CFS threads from the flare up from the viral infection from the gluten withdrawal threads would be impossible.

I was gentle with myself, allowing myself to eat what I liked (without gluten). I found a nice half vegetable, half fruit smoothie was useful in getting me through the morning. I just can’t fill up at breakfast time, so thinking of morning tea as second breakfast helped. I allowed the chocolate craving within reason with some dark chocolate. Fruit, vegetables, our usual meals with quinoa or rice, some gluten free bread, smoothies and nuts and seeds where my staples.

Day five and six were good days! I felt like my head was clearer and my energy levels had risen.

After a week, I thought I was feeling better and a little less fogged. Certainly less upset in my stomach. However, I can’t be sure as 15 days in, I realised that some wheat fillers had snuck into some of the foods I was eating! In addition, as soon as my virus cleared up, my son gave me a lovely mucus-y cold! After three weeks sick and just over two weeks gluten free, I think that it is worth it.

It may be what I am including, rather than what I am excluding that is making the difference, but I am pretty happy with the results. My husband has been amazing, twice he has done the supermarket shop and brought back a whole heap of gluten free products (I was too stingy and ended up struggling for what to eat) but he has joined me with gusto. I have been having more quinoa and millet – both have far more vitamins and minerals than rice or glutenous grains. Breakfast smoothies full of fruit and vegetables have amped up my fruit and vegetable intake. Whole foods are taking centre stage.

Here’s a couple of things I have been reading to help me continue:

The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide 
Hidden Sources of Gluten
Grass Fed Girl blog
Gluten Free on a Shoe String blog

I was going to post my part two after my month and reintroduction was completed. However, I added oats back in for one meal and experienced severe stomach cramps followed by a mini version of the withdrawal process afterward. So I am going to do six months (yikes!). I will update then 🙂

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The Case for Meditation

I feel like it always comes back to stress, to my body’s extreme “fight or flight” reactions.
When I’m observing myself, I notice it. The increase in heartrate, that feeling in your stomach, the general all over heat. Sometimes it happens for very mild reasons. Other times, stressful things occur and I’m excellent in the moment and freak out after. I’m freakishly calm in some situations that I would expect anxiety.

When I’m reading/researching about fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue/ME etc. Stress comes up frequently.

Meditation is supposed to help. Breathing. Resting. Things which I am not good at, unless you include reading in your definition of rest (some fibro/CFS experts do, some don’t).

Meditation, in the small form that I did it, after a practice, disappeared with said practice. It’s bliss to do full body relaxation after a good yoga workout. But the post exertion malaise is at it’s worst after yoga, since I had my baby, so I can only do portions of the routine.

the art of stillness

“Testing many others who had meditated for ten thousand hours or more and many who had not, [they] felt obliged to conclude that those who had sat still for years had achieved a level of happiness that was, quite literally, off the charts, unseen before in neurological literature.” (P.25) The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer.

Iyer goes on to mention that some employees at a giant healthcare company experienced a reduction in stress, by a third, after an hour of yoga a week! (P.45)

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” (P.66)

And this resonates with me, deeply. To go slow, to sit still, to pay attention.
So, I can’t keep ignoring it. When something keeps smacking you in the face, you should probably listen.
Some articles for encouragement/guidance:
Why Meditation is a Powerful Medicine 

I began small with a Tiny Mission to do Total Relaxation Pose every day, and fell in love, although I have not been very diligent lately. I plan to bring myself back towards it with another Tiny Mission – to do child’s pose every evening.

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Beat Fatigue with Yoga: Book

In a crazy confluence of signs I keep coming across the idea to meditate. My new doctor Beat fatigue with yougasuggested it, it is in the research, it is recommended by a few new websites I have found and I have recently found Beat Fatigue with Yoga by Fiona Agombar.

This book begins by explaining what causes fatigue, goes into an introduction to yoga and the “eight limbs”, provides many yoga poses for practice and concludes with suggested routines according to the level of fatigue. Agombar’s own story is included at the end, she writes of her struggle with ME/CFS and how she used yoga to be well.

In seeing the recommendations for those with “moderate CFS” I have come to realise that I had been attempting too strenuous a yoga routine for my new state. I have had to admit that during pregnancy, and even now, I have to consider my CFS more moderate than mild. This irks me, but gives me a good place to build on for my yoga work.

I don’t buy into the spiritual aspect of yoga. But I do, wholeheartedly, get the idea of bodily balance, chemical upheaval and the natural rhythm of the body. Having an overactive nervous system, yoga calms me. My body tends to react positively to the physical poses and, pre pregnancy, I was pleased with how far I had advanced in my practice.

Because of this book, I decided that my second Tiny Mission (which I will write about as I see results) would be to do Total Relaxation Pose daily as a gateway to meditation. For about three days, I did this faithfully, on the fourth day I forgot and on the fifth I went a step further and did a guided relaxation for 15 minutes. It was bliss! I felt so nice afterwards! It is my hope that I shall build relaxation/meditation into my daily routine.

This book seems to be a great introduction to doing yoga for those with fatigue issues, I’d recommend it as a nice place to start because yoga can be adapted for most people, but it is great to be written by someone who understands CFS and post exertional malaise.