To preface, I've always had insomnia and was diagnosed with sleep phase disorder around 2010. I rely on specific medications to help me wander to sleep. I also suffer from chronic nightmares which at this age, is like a live action movie which peculiarly doesn't bother me.
Now let’s talk sleep issues after my stroke in the hospital:
My sleep issue tiptoed when I was in the hospital and transformed to something different than before. I was on hospital time waking up every 15 minutes or hour prepped for a neuro test. I envision my family sitting in the chair waking up, watching me kick my legs up and making a box with my arms and reciting my name, why I’m there, which hospital I’m at and what day it is.
The lack of sleep wore me down and the Valium, Fioricet, Xanax, Oxycodone were not cutting it anymore. I know the recipe for this problem was a cup of overthinking and another cup of scared. The moments I did sleep, I had the same dream repeatedly.
The scene plays out with me getting up from the sofa having the stroke but this time I don't make it. Startled, I wake up drenched in sweat and tears, looking around to make sure I saw something familiar. My recovery in the hospital struggled because of my sleep. I remember after day (who knows), the nurses became accustomed to me sitting up in my hospital bed writing on my phone at all hours. I refused to sleep.
Sleep back at home:
After my abundant mixture of medication was weaned off, I was dealt with figuring out how to sleep back on my normal regime. I will repeat the same issue as I did in the hospital- The moments I did sleep, I repeated the same dream again, getting up from the sofa and dying. Again, startled, I wake up drenched in sweat and tears, touching my nightstand, my face, just to make sure I'm not in the movie, Inception. As I lay my head back down, the dream comes back to me. I was now intensely afraid to sleep. I had another factor to contend with. The valve on the back of my head throbbed which made it difficult to lay down. I’m accustomed to sleeping on the right side or on my back. Aggravation does not even begin to describe my feelings.
I didn’t want this to consume my life, so I told myself:
1) I can’t control my dreams, but I can create a healthy environment to promote better dreams
2) The pain from the valve is temporary, and in time, you will be able to sleep on it with no problems
I’m happy to report that my dreams have changed, still nightmares, but not the same one. The pain on the back of my head has gone down and I can comfortably lay on my bump with no issue. So any fears you might have that this won’t get better- it will!
How did I get there?
I received good advice from different forums I belong to, each one speaking about sleep hygiene. So, as the night winds down, I stay off my phone and do word search puzzles or slowly read something boring. These suggestions help tremendously, and I've noticed that I'm slowly falling asleep better and my nightmares have switched back to the action film.
I spoke to one of my doctors about this and he answered my question as I expected- PTSD. He suggested I start meds he previously prescribed for the nightmares before my stroke. I respectfully declined because I know they can cause low blood pressure. I was determined to solve this holistically. Here are some tips I found:
https://www.sleep.org/ (recommend this)
The best tricks that have worked for me:
1. Keep your bedroom cold
2. Use white noise- I have two loud fans and an ocean wave sound machine
3. Listen to soothing music
4. Read a book that is boring. My doctor suggested a medical, law, bird watching book. Anything that will not spark your interest and lure you to sleep.
5. Keep your room cozy
6. Let's face it- must couples don’t stay cuddled long, so I bunch a fuzzy blanket up to my chest.
I'm not a medical professional so what might work for me might not work for you. If you continue to experience issues, contact a sleep doctor. I recommend a physician that specializes on this because they are equipped to listen to your struggle and come up with a plan. I continue to test the waters and will update you on anything I come across that works.
Here are some helpful books to understand sleep.