Solutions for My Extreme Sleep Deprivation

Rebecca Dutton

I have had insomnia all my life, but my stroke brought this problem to a new level.  I had a stroke in the brainstem which puts us to sleep and wakes us up. Since my stroke I have repeatedly had nights where I get only two hours of sleep per night.  When I did not sleep and did not feel sleepy for two days I FREAKED OUT so I got aggressive about addressing this problem.

Daytime routine.  I avoid caffeine after lunch time.  This meant changing to decaffinated iced tea for dinner and drinking water when I eat out at night.

Bedroom environment.  I sleep in a dark bedroom with no TV.  The alarm clock is placed where I cannot see it.  Sometimes I wake up and find I am sweating.  So I lowered the room temperature because a lower body temperature tells the brain to sleep.

Preparing for bed.  If I am sleepy at 9 p.m. I go to bed.  If I wake up in the middle of the night at least I have slept for 4 or 5 hours because I went to bed early.  If I am still wide awake at 10 p.m.
I go to war.  I turn off the TV, wash my face and brush my teeth, and come back to the living room to listen to a calming CD.  If my body aches I take Tylenol.  The constant burning in my hemiplegic foot keeps me awake so I provide a competing sensation by taking a warm gel pack to bed.

Back up plans.  (1) If I lay in bed and cannot fall asleep, I get up and eat a tiny bowl of cereal with milk.  (2) If I wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and cannot fall asleep, I get up and turn on a calming CD or a fan at a low volume for background noise.  These strategies work only IF I realize I have been lying awake for an hour or more.