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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sleep: A Cabin in the Woods

Sleep is, simply said, the bane of my existence, as so many of you who have read my blog have heard ad nauseum.  It affects me because of my fibromyalgia as well as my CFIDS/ME/CFS.  Every move I make during the day is constantly calibrated by my brain as to how it will affect my ability to fall asleep that day/night, or not.  Furthermore, everything I put into my mouth is calculated for its impact on my sleep.

There's a technique I use that I came up with over the years which gives me at least a fighting chance of falling asleep.  Many would call it "visualization" but I don't think of it as such (been there, done that, doesn't work FOR ME, others differ, as I always point out!).  It goes a few steps beyond visualization.  And before anyone beats me to the punch, for some strange reason, I do NOT get obsessive thoughts at night when trying to fall asleep.   For some reason my brain CAN and DOES shut everything down when I go into "hopeful sleep mode."  Rather, it's the darn limbic part of my brain that has a faulty on/off switch that's responsible for the severe insomnia I live with.

Yes, I do take sleep meds at night, and cycle them in order to keep them as effective as possible.  However, if I know that there's no way that I'll fall sleep, I don't even bother to take the meds.  My feeling is why poison my body with chemicals that won't work on a particular day, no matter what?

I've gone the allopathic route and along the holistic route with just about every treatment that's out there: 38 years is a heck of a long time!  I've undergone extensive work with applied kinesiology to acupressure, from Rolfing to nutritional IV's, from chelation to all sorts of diets, from aromatherapy to various types of massages, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Most of what's happened is that I've only proven to those who have worked on me extensively is that my sleep is in a class of its own and that I'm a tough nut to crack - if it's even possible to do so.  

However, there's a technique that I came up with on my own which does help if I'm on the verge of falling asleep, but it depends upon whether that on/off switch in the limbic part of my brain is just faulty on a particular night, not completely broken.  In other words, this technique helps if the on/off switch can be jiggled a bit.

After turning off all of the lights, in as comfy and relaxed a state as possible, I picture a cabin way up ahead of me in a snow setting (with eyes closed, mind you!) and then I begin to walk towards it in my mind.  I allow no thoughts to enter my brain while slowly approaching the cabin.  I begin to count slowly in my mind, "one, two, three..."  No outward thoughts are allowed.  I can't stop and think, "perhaps I can make this pillow more comfy," nor think about my ice-cold feet suddenly wanting to warm up because then all bets are off.  My SELF wakes up if I move at all.  And there is a penalty for any stray thought that might enter my mind: I must start over again, from one.  I keep walking toward that cabin and counting my steps as I go.  Rarely do I get past three before I fall asleep.  However, I need to start over numerous times!   Many times.  Frequently!  It's truly hard to concentrate on nothing at all, to make your mind as blank as possible and your body and brain as relaxed as possible.

Once I stumbled onto this technique, I soon recognized the circumstances under which this "hypnotic" move would actually have a chance of winning.  Now, often, if the moon aligns just so with earth and a few other planets, the magic happens:

...talk about blissful sleep!  

And so, I hope this technique may end up in your arsenal of insomnia-fighting techniques.  I do have a few more tricks up my sleeve for future postings.  However, if this one works, I know you'll be feeling your best, only so much better.  Ciao and paka!  

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  1. Thanks, Irene! I'll give it a try some nights when I wake up at 2 am and can't get back to sleep! Take care,

    1. Hi Martha! I hope it works for you! How's the new year treating you? Well, I hope! xx