Sweet dreams only happen when I listen to my body. Prior to my chronic life, I had a sleep schedule that worked around my work schedule. I was in bed every night between 9 and 10PM and up by 4AM. I never had a problem falling asleep. I attribute that to the fact that I wasn’t living with constant physical pain. Without that distraction, my mind was the only thing I needed to shut down before slipping into a deep slumber.
When chronic pain entered my life, it disrupted more than my daily schedule, it also wreaked havoc to my nighttime routine. While I was no longer working at this point in my life, I still had the mind set that I needed to follow a sleep schedule. Every night I would attempt to force my body into going to sleep at what I considered to be a reasonable time. Unfortunately, with the combination of physical pain and my mind overflowing with thoughts of all that I hadn’t been able to get done or wouldn’t get done if I didn’t get some sleep, I was lucky to get four hours of sleep per night. I was a zombie. To top it off, my lack of sleep increased my daily pain level. In hopes to combat this issue my physicians began prescribing sleep medication in addition to my pain meds and muscle relaxers. Sleeping pills failed as my doctors and I learned that I am part of a small percentage of people who has a body that reacts in the opposite manner. Instead of sleeping, I was finding myself awake for days only sleeping for 20 minute intervals. At this point the only solution my doctors had was to give me valium. While this worked a little, but it was not enough. My body and mind fought to stay awake every evening. Another problem was with all the medication that I was taking in hopes of being able to sleep, I always felt hungover and sluggish the following day and I still wasn’t able to keep a sleep schedule.
Fast forward 12 years. At this point I was done with taking pharmaceutical medications that weren’t helping me. I went completely medication free for about a year. It was during this time that I discovered that my body had its own sleep pattern. By listening to my body and ceasing to force it into my desired sleep schedule, I was finally getting 6-8 hours of sleep most nights. My only issue with this was the hours that my body liked to sleep. During that year my body preferred going to bed anywhere between 2AM and 4AM. This usually equated to waking up between 10AM to noon. While not ideal hours, I was thrilled that I was sleeping for more than 4-6 hours most nights.
A year later I began medicating with marijuana. Once again I attempted to force my body into a sleep schedule that I preferred. And guess what? I failed! Marijuana will and does help me fall into a deep and restorative sleep, but only when my body is ready. The good news is that while I am still not sleeping during the hours that I prefer, my body’s pattern has shifted. Most nights I am able to go to bed between 10PM and 2AM and wake up between 6AM and 10AM. Of course all it takes is a late night, early morning, or a fierce flare to disrupt this pattern.
Here is what I have learned about my body and sleeping in the past 17 years.
- I cannot force my body to sleep if it isn’t ready.
- When I attempt to force my body into a sleep pattern of my liking, it will rebel and punish me with less sleep and more pain.
- My body knows what it needs more than I do.
The most important thing I have come to accept is that my life is different from my average friends and family. I no longer work outside the home and don’t have to be up at a certain hour every day. Once I stopped trying to keep the same hours as everybody else, I was able to embrace my body’s schedule. By following my body’s schedule I sleep most nights, do not experience an increase in pain due to lack of sleep, and most importantly my brain feels clearer upon waking.
Are you forcing your body to sleep according to a schedule you desire? Or do you follow your body’s schedule?
Wishing you sweet dreams and many reasons to smile,