Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Fall Asleep

This is the best thing I have found for falling asleep.  Further down I will talk about what doesn't work, and some general observations on sleep.

Count down from 100.  Seriously.  If you are physically tired, but it is your thoughts that are keeping you awake, this will put you to sleep.  First, bring your attention close to you by feeling how nice your pillow is, how comfy your bed is, how soft the sheets are, etc.  Then, make the decision to put your thoughts aside, decide to sleep well and awaken refreshed, and start counting.  Count at a relaxed pace.  Sometimes I find my counting synchronizes with my breathing, but not always.  To really focus on counting it helps to visualize each number as you think it.  I do find that I tend to think and count at the same time, but I just let the thoughts go and concentrate back on the counting.

When you get down to 1 take a deep breath and let it out on the 0.  Usually there is a sense of relief when you get to 0, and I try to rest there and not think of anything for a couple of breaths.  Start over at 100.  If you lose your place you also just start over.  I usually fall asleep in the middle of the second or third time.

What Doesn't Work

ALL chemical sleep aids eventually stop working.  This includes pharmaceuticals and natural remedies.  It doesn't take very long, maybe a couple of weeks, before you can't sleep without them, and some time after that they stop working all together.  Then you are really stuck.  This happened to me with Ambien, Ativan and Klonopin, and more recently with melatonin, l-tryptophan, and l-theanine.

Furthermore, I have found that anything that is strong enough to put me to sleep generally leaves me feeling wretched the next morning.  I think part of the reason is that the substance does not clear your system overnight, and is still making you sleepy the next day.  I recall that OTC sleeping pills were the worst for that, but it was also true with l-tryptophan and l-theanine.  But I also think that chemically-aided sleep is not natural, you are so knocked out that you're not moving around normally, and I always wake up stiff and usually with a headache.

I stopped taking all sleep aids 4 to 6 weeks ago.  They weren't working anyway, and when I stopped I noticed that I felt better in the morning.  I was waking up about an hour earlier, and I didn't feel so wrecked.

Observations on Sleep

What is the big deal about sleep anyway?  People get all freaked out about it.  Just relax.  If you are not sleeping it is either because your thoughts are keeping you awake, in which case the counting will work for you, or you are not physically tired.  If you are not tired I would suggest that you do not actually need to sleep.  Get up and do something constructive with your time.  After a few late nights you will be tired eventually and your sleep will normalize itself.

The individual need for sleep varies tremendously.  I have read that Mike Myers sleeps about 3 hours per night.

I have read a few people's observations that not sleeping will make them manic.  I would suggest that if they are not sleeping they are already manic/hypomanic, and the solution is to raise their dose of their mood stabilizer or Empowerplus.

Changes to your sleep habits seem to be pretty common on Empowerplus.  Partly I think this is because we were drugged out of our minds on psychiatric medications, which passed for sleep, and it is hard to adapt to regular sleep again.  Also, it seems that many people start feeling emotions and having clarity of thought that they may not have had for years, and this takes some processing and keeps people up at night.  And the Empowerplus itself seems to keep people awake a lot of the time. 

For me it seems to be predominantly the first one.  My late nights started a week or two after I finished with the Risperdal.  I went from sleeping 10 to 12 hours a night to 7 or 8 hours.  I get up at the same time, but I fall asleep quite a bit later.  It is working for me.  I enjoy my late night time.  The house is quiet, the street is quiet, it is a great time to read and write and think and meditate.  One of my goals has been to be ready to go when I wake up in the morning.  I used to drag around and take several hours to get going each day, but since I stopped all the sleeping aids I have been feeling much better.  Protracted withdrawal is still a problem many days, but at least my sleep is starting to make sense.