First discussion!

Welcome to all my new readers!  I’d like to open the floor to you here.  Tell me about your sleep, what you’ve tried for it, whether you’ve used light or darkness therapies for sleep or indeed for other purposes such as SAD, and of course you can just introduce yourself.  I’d love you to comment on my articles, reviews and blog posts as well, of course, but these discussion posts are especially for you.  If there’s anything you want me to post about, let me know.

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5 Comments on “First discussion!”

  1. Nine Says:

    Hello! Well, a month or so ago I learned about Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which seems to explain my entire life. I’ve taken medication a few times to attempt sleep, but that’s long ago and I generally avoid medication whenever possible – I rarely even take painkillers.

    I’ve never tried light or darkness therapies or any other gadgets, but in all honesty I don’t see it happening, either – despite the potential benefits, I just don’t see myself making time for it (or having the money: but the time thing is more pertinent, I guess, since it shows my actual lack of commitment!). Still, if my life was different maybe I would. I’m self-employed, I work whatever hours I feel like, and I haven’t had a 9-5 job since 2001. So I’m lucky that it’s pretty manageable and I’m happy enough where I’m at.

    I think the biggest thing that has helped me was just trying to change my perspective when I was in my teens: instead of lying there all night thinking “Augh! I still can’t bloody sleep and I have to get up in two and a half hours!” I started to go “um, well, isn’t this nice, all this peace and quiet for me to just lie down and think about stuff without interruption …” It would be nice, when I’m travelling, to be one of those people who can sleep anywhere no matter how busy or loud the place is, but even when I’ve been sleep-deprived for a few days I don’t actually feel miserable. So I guess it’s not so bad.


    • I think you’re an excellent example of someone who’s managed to find a lifestyle that fits the DSPS. I think the really important thing with DSPS is that you can stop the miserable struggle to live in a pattern that doesn’t fit you, and as long as you’re getting enough good-quality sleep and not missing too many vital appointments, it doesn’t really matter when it is. I was surfing so many sites yesterday that I can’t remember where I read this, but someone pointed out that society has always needed people to be awake at different hours. When we lived in caves, it was someone to stand guard; now it’s doctors, firefighters, and in your case, DJs! I’ve even seen a post from someone with DSPS who has managed to move their sleep pattern but doesn’t feel like themself anymore, and was worried that their creativity (which usually was greatest at night) was impaired. For me, shifting to sleeping 12-8 has been very valuable indeed, because I do need to fit in with the daytime world a fair bit, and I need to fit in with my partner, who may be a bit of a night owl himself but still works a daytime job. I don’t think there’d be any point in it for you, you have a real night owl lifestyle and it suits you. I don’t really mind missing the time for lying awake peacefully daydreaming as it’s a small price to pay for getting better sleep and not having to lie awake feeling restless and irritated about it, but it was nice. I woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning for some reason, early enough that it still feels like night, and I’m enjoying pootling around on the internet in my dressing gown with the “I have the night world to myself” feeling.

      I’d be curious to see what areas of your sleep might be improvable, and as you say with minimal cost and hassle. Have you tried various eye masks and earplugs when you’re travelling? How about some sort of white noise generator? You can buy fancy ones, but really all you need is an MP3 player or similar to which you have saved an appropriate track, whether it’s real white noise (which comes in pink and brown flavours too!), a recording of rain, the ocean, or whatever works for you. It’s really good at masking other noises and making them less obtrusive as well as being generally soothing, and I’ve successfully used a proper white noise generator on the rain setting (it was the only one with that particular model where the loop didn’t annoy me) when I was sleeping in the day while my then-landlord had very loud music on.

      What about a mild, short-acting herbal sleep aid or similar for night journeys? I’ve taken a sleeping tablet on an unexpected night flight when I was desperate not to mess up my sleep, but I wouldn’t recommend that, partly because I know you don’t like taking such things, and partly because I think it’s just too risky. In this case, it was Zolpidem (Ambien), a drug that gave me hallucinations and a week of being unpleasantly stoned the next time I tried it, and that could have been disastrous on a flight. But a modest dose of valerian might be worth a try. It’s relatively short-acting, you can take it if you wake up in the middle of the night without worrying that you’ll be groggy in the morning, and it’s a herb which has been fairly extensively researched and has a good safety profile. It wouldn’t be enough to put you out like a light, I don’t think that’s safe on journeys, but it might make enough difference that you’d get some sleep, or at least feel more rested. Nice portable solution, harmless, and at the cost of a few capsules every now and again, very cheap.

      Come to that, it might also be worth checking out some of the less well-known sleep hygiene rules, such as that alcohol will disturb your sleep if consumed any later than early afternoon (apparently it does something similar to the effects of light in the body). I’m not suggesting you never drink again, but that sort of thing is handy to know if you have a night journey or important morning appointment coming up.

      Also I still reckon it’s worth trying an orange filter on the computer at night, just because computers are dreadful things for keeping you unnecessarily awake, and I have spent enough of my life idly browsing and chatting online only to realise in horror that it’s somehow got to 5 am and I’m still not sleepy. I’ve got leftovers you’re welcome to try, so this would be low-hassle and entirely free!

      • Nine Says:

        I have a thing about avoiding eyemasks – I don’t know, they just feel wrong to me, I guess I want to be able to instantly see anything that’s going on if I wake up. And I feel similarly about earplugs, but I do have some. Luckily I haven’t needed to use them for a few years, as my neighbours are mercifully quiet. Back when I actually needed an alarm to get up in the morning (because I had some place to be!) I was wary of using earplugs, but I think I coped.

        I used to put on ambient music at a low volume if I was being kept awake by noisy neighbours or flatmates, and it seemed to work okay, but nowadays I don’t have an issue. Which is just as well, because the only music-playing device in my bedroom is my computer and it would bug me to leave it on all night.

        I think part of my thing about travel is wanting to be awake during it. I might nod off for half an hour on a long flight, but that’s about the extent of it. When I travelled to Manchester by bus a few weeks ago (9:30pm to 4am) I was awake for pretty much all of it, but was quite happy to just look out the window and read occasionally (and pretend to be asleep when new people boarded so that nobody would sit next to me, but anyway). I did take valerian for a flight or two a few years ago, though, but that was actually because I was nervous about flying at the time and I was led to believe it might take the edge off it. I have no idea whether it really had any effect other than placebo, and I certainly don’t remember getting tired or sleepy.

        I have a thing against drinking in the afternoon! It feels weird and it messes up the rest of my day. Unfortunately Crappy Drunken Sleep™ is a predictable fact of life, but yes, I get more sensible about drinking when there’s something important scheduled for the following morning. Apart from the night I stayed up drinking white port with my neighbours and nearly missed my flight to Dublin, obvi.

        I might take a look at the orange filter next time I’m round at yours – thank you!


  2. I agree, eye masks and ear plugs are really weird things, and in fact ear plugs are a bad idea for anyone who’s hypersensitive to sound (which is common with ME/CFIDS) as they increase the hypersensitivity and make tinnitus more likely. Lying awake listening to the thud of your own heart is not my idea of a peaceful night. That’s how I got started on white noise generation, the hearing therapist gave me a stern lecture on this, and interestingly it did work. I had a course of treatment with little in-ear white noise generators (that sat in the same place as earplugs) to lessen my sensitivity to sound as well as help the tinnitus, and they did a very good job. I still hate having things in my ears, I can’t stand earbud headphones and only rarely use the ones which put big pads over my ears instead.

    Eye masks I did eventually get used to, and found that some were tolerable while others just felt wrong. Oddly, I went from being able to sleep passably with light streaming through my nice beige curtains, to being able to sleep with an eye mask on, and then when I stopped using the eye mask I had become so accustomed to it that it took about a week before I could sleep properly again. It was the pressure I was used to, I’d lightproofed the bedroom by that point. But if you don’t like them, fair enough. How about sunglasses for reducing the impact of the light, if you’re going to be more or less awake? I’ve just ordered a little blue LED keyring torch which I’m going to use for testing my orange specs, the monitor filter, and if any optician’s will let me, all the sunglasses I can get my hands on, to see how much blue light they filter out.

    As for valerian – I hate having to allow for the placebo effect! I tend to try something many times before I decide what it’s doing for me, in an attempt to let it work on its own merits. Herbal sleep aids are often sold with absolutely minimal levels of the active herbs, so it could even be that whta you tried had too low a dose to be effective. If it’s something that’s designed to help you sleep, I’d recommend trying it out at home first anyway, just in case it really knocks you out. I know what you mean about not wanting to be asleep on journeys. I still look back at that night flight where I’d taken an Ambien with terror, because if it had effected me then the way it affected me a few months later, hallucinating on an El Al flight, where security is incredibly tight and they have two plainclothes cops with guns on every flight, could have been an utter disaster. (And I don’t recommend Ambien to anyone either, I’ve read far too many horror stories.) Relaxation rather than profound sleep sounds like a more sensible state to aim for in your case.

    Bright light therapy is handy if you’re travelling far enough to experience jet lag, or just want to keep yourself awake after a night journey, but it’s not the cheapest option out there, unless you manage to pick up a lightbox for a tenner on eBay as I did. Even then, you’d need to be sure that it really is worth using for you to justify the baggage space, although LED lightboxes are pretty tiny. If you ever end up with your sleep pattern utterly out of synch and refusing to budge after a trip, you’re welcome to borrow one of my lightboxes for a week to see if it helps at all. Presumably you have a reasonably flexible sleep pattern, though, otherwise you’d have no end of problems already.

  3. Mike Says:

    Hi there!
    Thanks so much for all the information you have written!

    MY HISTORY
    All school life i was tired, took long to sleep in, had superhard time to get up, was tired all day and kinda awake in the night. When i could sleep as long as i could i would get up about 1h later every day.

    Now in the last year i worked hard to get up at 10 o clock in the morning every day. It worked kinda well.
    In the last months i had a breakthrough.

    The stuff i do (i don’t know exactly what works well, i incorporated more and more stuff in the last year):

    – i have a strict morning routine of getting up when the clock goes off and specific automatic routine i fall into: turn on computer + playlist of music that get’s me going, open the windows, drink water + whey protein, brushing teeth, do 2min of fitness exercises, sit in front of computer and turn on the 10 000 lux light

    – then at around midday i now in the summer drive outside with the bike, without shirt, i get about 25min of sun on my skin

    – i have an exercise regime of exercising every 3rd day (heavy weights) – (right now i changed a bit, but i do exercise regularly)

    – i don’t watch tv and don’t do computer games, no entertainment by ‘film’ (also nearly no movies and series on the computer) but instead bike outside to a lake (i think this reduces my stress)

    – i follow some ‘extreme’ diet where i only eat (mostly low cooked) vegetables, meat and fish (and a few nuts, fruits and eggs) and drink only water and green tea. (primalblueprint.com)

    – put some snake plants in my bedroom (these give oxygen in the night, while other plants give it in the day)

    – have software f.lux (www.stereopsis.com/flux) installed for my computer-screen

    – make meditation-rests when i feel tired of working (general anti-stress, which i think is connected to my sleep quality at night)

    – listen to relaxing music (special classical stuff) when in the night hours
    – sometimes: superhot shower (the book ‚rest‘ talks about very hot baths for 5min right before sleeping has a big effect)

    – putting one drop of lavendel on my sheet

    – meditate in sitting position in darkness on my bed till i feel like wanting to lie down, which then happens soon when i did all the other stuff

    The breakthrough in the last months: I now the last 2 weeks get up without an alarm clock and i awake, well.. awake. (before i never got up without alarm at 10am)
    What i did recently that made the breakthrough: follow the morning structure more exact, go into bed when i am asleep (only with restricting myself from tv and computer games i can do this), resting when my body says so (not by sleeping but sitting meditation, often driving to nearby lake with the bike), going to sleep 1h earlier

    MY PLAN
    I now want to incorporate darkness therapy.

    I just have 2 rooms, living room and bathroom. It’s summer right now, so there is enough light on the day and i go outside.

    Living room: i have a lamp with 3 GU10 halogen bulbs installed as a main light. For this i will now buy 3 red LED lights with 1,3 watt each, 19 leds and 240volts and 15% angle of radiation – i can put in 1-3 led bulbs

    (http://cgi.ebay.de/Farbige-LED-Strahler-GU10-Spot-grun-gelb-rot-blau-/370404103003?cmd=ViewItem&pt=DE_Haus_Garten_Inneneinrichtung_Leuchtmittel&hash=item563dce135b#shId)

    Bathroom: i will buy 1 red-coated light-bulb

    http://cgi.ebay.de/Osram-DECOR-COLOR-Gluhlampe-Gluhbirne-E27-25W-ROT-/290443561450?cmd=ViewItem&pt=DE_Haus_Garten_Inneneinrichtung_Leuchtmittel&hash=item439fc909ea

    or even better another 1watt red light LED (i read that red LED’s make zero blue light)

    http://cgi.ebay.de/E115-LED-Strahler-E27-230V-15-LEDs-rot-90-sparen-/160444851443?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_77&hash=item255b4224f3

    http://cgi.ebay.de/PHILIPS-LED-Tropfenlampe-1-Watt-E27-ROT-aussen-/370399961134?cmd=ViewItem&pt=DE_Haus_Garten_Inneneinrichtung_Leuchtmittel&hash=item563d8ee02e

    they seem pretty different (?) – i guess the second seems much more ‚wide‘ light, while the first seems just a spot which would be bad.

    What do you think about the bulbs? Red LED seems great, although – i haven’t seen it yet how it really looks.

    Is there anything special about lowbluelights.com lights? Or are they just yellow-coloured light bulbs?

    Also in the future:
    – making my room really dark (now i have street lamps shining in)

    I have a hard time thinking how i can do that. I have basically a 3 * 2metre zone with 3 windows that are pretty much that big. Is there some resource to darken a room?

    I found http://photoperiodeffect.com/sleep_photoperiod_melatonin_darkness_obesity_and_chronobiology_documents/easy_ways_to_get_more_natural_darkness.html

    – then i need a dawn simulator instead of the sun

    – putting red foil over my computer screen (like in use for overhead projector – or is the stuff they use on the theater-lights different?). What do you think about f.lux software?

    Again, thanks so much!
    Greets, mike


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