Posted tagged ‘Siesta’

Sleep improving again

April 16, 2010

At last I seem to be out of the patch of mediocre sleep I was having for a while there.  We’re still not sure, but it looks like it was caused by the high-dose multivitamins my specialist has me on, probably the B vitamins in particular.  I’ve halved the dose and am taking them in the mornings only, plus using coloured light bulbs and herbal sleep aids in the evenings again, and my sleep is back to being bang on time and good quality.  I was up and quilting at 7.30 am yesterday!

I’ll probably continue the herbal sleep aids for a few months, just to get the message through, as advised by a local herbalist.  That said, I haven’t taken any supplements at all for the last few days, and I’m still sleeping well.  The current dose is either one Valerian Formula with one capsule of valerian alone, or three capsules total of any combination of valerian and passiflora (my next bottle of Valerian Formula is late in the post).  This is slightly higher than what I was taking before, but the herbalist said it’s still absolutely fine to use for a few months.  Dr Myhill recommends anything up to four 400mg capsules of valerian where I’m taking two, for context.

Using the coloured light bulbs every night is something that didn’t seem necessary when I was having very good sleep for five months, but does make a difference now, although I don’t know if that was just while I was on those multivitamins.  My coloured-light-hating partner is away on holiday for twelve days, so I’ve taken the opportunity to spend this time under low coloured light in the evenings.  I’m still fiddling with how I set up the coloured lightso that it is as pleasant as possible, gives the right amount of light for pottering about my bedroom, and doesn’t allow (much) blue light to creep in around the edges of my orange glasses.  Previously I had the salt lamp by my bed with a pink bulb in it, which produced a sort of salmon-coloured light.

I still haven’t got around to constructing a DIY spectroscope with a DVD and cereal box, as advised by my kind readers here, but I’ve taken the tip to put a DVD by the light source to see if any blue reflects off it.  As expected, the salt lamp produces a little blue light with an ordinary bulb inside it, but no blue light with a coloured bulb.  The yellow bulbs in the hall which I use to light the bathroom are fine too.

I wasn’t mad on the salt lamp by the bed, it was rather dim and too pinkish for my taste.  So I’ve bought a small opal glass pebble lamp and put a 15W pygmy amber bulb inside for by the bed, and put the salt lamp back in the bookcase opposite the bed with its original 15W uncoloured bulb.  The salt lamp produces a pleasant peachy-golden glow which I actually put on about an hour before the orange glasses go on, and I am careful to make sure that I don’t get so close to it that the stray light will get around the edges of my orange glasses.  It looks much nicer with an uncoloured bulb in there, as you can see the variations in colour produced by the salt which was most of the point of getting that lamp in the first place, whereas the coloured bulbs masked that.  The pebble lamp by the bed is perfectly safe even without the orange glasses, and provides substantially more light than the salt lamp did when it had the pink bulb in.  It’s enough that I can pootle around the bedroom and just about see the laptop keyboard well enough to type, but dim enough to be thoroughly relaxing.  I never really used to like those amber bulbs, I always preferred the yellow ones, but it seems that my tastes have changed as I now find it quite a pleasant colour.  We’ll see what my partner thinks when he gets home.

I’m not bothering to put in alternative bulbs in the living room, I’m not in there much in the late evening and I can just turn the overhead lights down low with a dimmer switch.  I’m hoping to move flat this year and I’ll set up a better arrangement then.  I’ve got my eye on those LED bulbs which offer sixteen colours and have a remote control, but right now they’re not very bright, mostly don’t have a warm white, and very expensive, so I’ll wait until I’m settled in the new flat and hopefully by then LED lighting will have improved.

I’m also not bothering to put the orange filter back on the laptop screen, as the orange specs and amber lighting seem to be enough.  I think that the amount of stray blue light that gets to my eyes round the edges of the glasses from the laptop screen is too minimal for me to need to worry about it, especially since I’m generally watching films on the laptop by that point in the evening and it’s thus a good six feet away from me.

Siestas continue to be odd.  I’m still not sure whether I really need them or not.  I’m taking them perhaps half the time, when I really can’t keep my eyes open in the afternoons.  It’s easier when I know I’ll be using coloured bulbs that evening, otherwise I’ve had a few nights where it was difficult to get to sleep the night after a siesta, which by now is something unusual for me.  Occasionally the siesta ends up rather longer than planned, say four hours, which again seems to be OK if I use coloured lights that evening and could go either way if I don’t.

As I don’t think I’ve got around to discussing yet, I alter the time when I begin the darkness therapy by twenty minutes each month in a rough reflection of seasonal variation.  For April, the darkness therapy starts at 9.40.  It seems to be suiting me.  The latest it will start is 10.20 in June, and I’m curious to see whether that will be too short a length of time for the darkness therapy, or whether I’ll just adjust.  Certainly this method makes me feel more in synch with when it gets dark outside, even if I’m not following the local sunset hours that closely (I live too far north for that to be wise).

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What my sleep’s up to these days

February 26, 2010

The yellow bulbs in the hall are continuing to work well to light the bathroom, and the salt lamp is now confirmed for staying by the bed with a pink 15W pygmy bulb in it.  I should probably mention that there’s no reason why anyone should get a salt lamp, I just find them pretty myself, and they already filter out a certain amount of blue light (though not all) through being orangey.  It’s odd, the light looks deep pink if you put it on when the room is already lit, and more orange if you put it on when the room is dark.  It’s useful for when I want to sneak out of bed and get dressed when my partner’s still asleep, as it’s not bright or blue enough to wake him up, or as soft background lighting in the late evening.  Most useful of all, the cable has ended up positioned so that the switch is down the side of the bedside cabinet, about as easy to get to from the bed as is humanly possible, which saves fumbling around in the drawer to find the red bike light or similar. By the way, if you do decide that salt lamps are nice and go looking for one, ignore all the nonsensical health claims.  They’re just pretty lamps.

For some reason my sleep’s been a little odd over the last couple of weeks.  It may be because when my partner had a week off, our routines changed slightly.  I set the clock on the dawn simulator so that it would come on an hour later, as he said he wanted a bit of a lie-in but not to end up losing the whole morning.  I was often up and lightboxing before the dawn simulation as my wake-up time seems to be well-programmed, but it seemed to work well for him.  Then we went to bed an hour or so later than usual, which for me is strange as by now you generally can’t keep me up much past midnight however you try.  I’ve also been a lot more tired than usual during the afternoons and evenings, which I am now putting down to the ME/CFIDS having a minor flare.

Now that he’s back at work, I have been wrestling with the problem of my body’s sudden ardent desire to have siestas.  I’ve snapped back into my usual wake-up time with no trouble whatsoever, but I keep getting irresistibly sleepy later in the day.  I’ve tried fighting it for a few days, using the lightbox on a double stint in the morning and/or an extra session after lunch or early afternoon, and putting the little blue LED bulb into a clip-on light (which leaves it fully visible; at 1W it’s not so bright that you can’t look at it comfortably) and putting it by the bed or laptop from 9.30 am to 3 pm.  I’ve known that LED bulb to keep me quite wired at night if used up to 4.30 pm, but it didn’t do a thing for keeping me awake in the afternoons this time.  I wondered about adding a bit of 470nm blue light to my dawn simulation in the hope that it would get the message across to my circadian clock more effectively, and tried setting it for 15 min before and after the start of the dawn simulation.  When it actually came on, it turned out to be much brighter in a dark room than I’d expected, so I immediately turned it off.  I’d still be curious to try a blue or white LED dawn simulator one day.  The only blue one I know of was put together by this guy, and the only white one that’s meant to be any good (there are some cheap ‘n’ nasty things around) is the SRS320 by Morning Sunrise (Sunrise System), which not everyone likes as an overall unit.

I have now given in and realised that my body probably just wants more sleep by now, which can happen from time to time with ME.  I slept 16-20 hours a day the first year I was ill, not that I anticipate going back to that.  But someone on an ME forum did recently tell me that she feels best when she makes herself get about 11 hours’ sleep a day, which she guesses is due to her body’s increased need to do repair work during sleep, so I think trying some extra sleep is worthwhile.  I’m still aiming for my usual bedtime but am not too worried if we end up going to bed an hour later, though I’m occasionally lying awake for a little or waking up an hour before my alarm, something that’s less common for me these days.  The siestas are going OK, they range from 1-3 hours, though I suspect today may have been more like 4.  I originally tried sleeping with the curtains open and then went for closing them so that the room is pretty dark, in the spirit of having a proper sleep.  I think I’ll go back to leaving them open, I don’t want to end up messing up my sleeping pattern by getting my body to think that mid-afternoon is bedtime.  I’ve also gone back to herbal sleep aids at bedtime, since they never do me any harm, I just stopped them because at that point they were redundant.  I may as well get all the sleep I can if my body’s clamouring for it.

So far, my sleep at night is a little more broken as described above, but I no longer have the problem of having to torture myself to stay awake earlier in the day.  My overall energy levels are relatively low at the moment, so I think I made the right call on getting more sleep.  The only snag is that when I don’t remember to turn the phones off for my siesta I get woken several times (this is bringing back how awkward it is to sleep during the day), and when I do turn them off, I forget to turn them back on again!

Update

I’m definitely feeling better with more sleep, at least over the last few days.  I’m taking a fair bit of herbal stuff to knock myself out at night, last night it was one valerian formula, one 400mg valerian, and two 300mg passiflora/100mg chamomile capsules, but I’ve taken that sort of dose before and know that I’m absolutely fine with it, though I probably wouldn’t want to be relying on it long-term.  It’s far safer than temazepam in the short-term, though.  Last night it was mainly because I was concerned that my accidentally long siesta would mess up my treasured new sleep pattern and didn’t want to undo months of work. It took a little longer than my new norm to get to sleep (possibly – it’s really hard to tell), though far less than my old norm, and while I woke up at 7 am, I got back to sleep again.  Having a siesta has meant that I skip the stage of spending the afternoon trying to keep my eyes open, and while I’m still tired and ME-relapsy, I haven’t felt like a dead cat for a few days now.  It seems that I do indeed need this much sleep right now, even if my body has to be cajoled into getting it at the right times.

Finding your best sleep pattern and napping

January 26, 2010

It’s useful to know that a sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and it’s best to be sleeping in multiples of 90 minutes, as this means that you will be waking up at the right point in your sleep cycle, rather than feeling horribly groggy because you were woken out of deep sleep and going straight back to sleep. Some people do best on a siesta pattern, which is commonly practised in hotter countries.  I fall into this pattern occasionally myself, but I find it too difficult to keep up.  I’ve spent enough years telling people not to call me in the mornings as I may not be awake, I know how disruptive it is to sleep during the working day.  In addition, I want to be going to bed and getting up at the same time as my partner, and I find it easier to control my sleep if I’m having my night’s sleep all in one go.  Sleeping in the day is more likely to cause my sleep cycle to end up askew, for instance getting stuck at falling asleep at 4 am.  It may work for you, though.  Try 1.5 or 3 hours for a siesta.

The 90 minute cycle also affects when you will feel sleepy in the evening.  The Myhill article above talks about “sleep gates”, which usually occur at intervals of 3 hours, and while she advocates an incredibly early bedtime, it’s still useful information no matter what time you go to bed.  I often get sleepy around 9 pm or 6pm, and it’s useful to know that I should make a special effort to keep awake and it will pass.  It’s also made me aware that missing my usual bedtime is really not a good idea, as I then may end up lying awake for hours.

I do nap occasionally when I really need it.  The sleep specialist advised me not to nap for more than one hour, as after that you get into deep sleep and it will disrupt your night’s sleep.  This advice was excellent.  I don’t fall asleep immediately, so I set a timer for one hour and ten minutes.  I also make sure that I nap with the curtains open and the light coming into the room.  No one suggested this, but I reckon it will help my circadian clock realise that this is not nighttime, and I do find napping easier now that I’m following these two rules.  If for some reason my sleep has been totally messed up and I need to catch up on several hours, I may draw the curtains, but thankfully this is rare.

Over the years, I’d heard a number of suggestions about how I could try to change my sleep patterns.  Some have been from books or doctors, some have been from well-meaning friends who knew nothing about sleep disorders.  None of them worked, and most of them sent my sleep pattern completely haywire.  Here are the techniques I don’t recommend for ME or circadian rhythm disorders.  If you have DSPS or Non-24 Sleep-Wake Cycle, you’ll most likely have tried some of them already.

Don’t bother with:

  • Going to bed earlier (unless it’s for a short period where sleeping tablets are used, probably in conjunction with light therapy).
  • Forcing yourself to get up earlier.
  • Staying up all night in the hope that you’ll fall asleep at a more reasonable hour the next night.
  • Going to bed three hours later every night until a suitable bedtime is reached (called chronotherapy).

No doubt these may work for some people who are experiencing a mild one-off problem with sleep, but for entrenched circadian rhythm disorders they are not only pointless, in my experience, but can exacerbate the original problem while causing very unpleasant sleep deprivation.  You are of course welcome to try going to bed or getting up earlier to see if it works, but I don’t think there’s a single person out there with DSPS who hasn’t tried this over and over again.  If that was all we needed to do to cure DSPS, the sleep disorder wouldn’t exist!