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Jan 202015

One of the strangest things for me to get my head around was the terrible insomnia that I suffered during the early days of my diagnosis. It’s incredible that an illness that makes you so tired can also cause you to stay awake. This had a lot to do with your body clock being out-of sync with your body’s natural rhythms and hormone levels, often due to our natural need at this time for more sleep than necessary, but more on that in another post!


Photo taken from here

I’m so pleased to say that for the last few years I’ve had some of the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I was a baby and I’m so grateful for them. I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, whereas during my illness I felt worse than when I went to bed. Waking up already feeling like you’re heading backwards made me feel incredibly cranky and discouraged. When my insomnia was really bad, just after I’d stopped spending 22 hours a day in bed, I used to sleep until 11pm, wake up, fall asleep again until 1am, then spend until 5am trying to get my body back into a normal sleep rhythm. I used to switch my computer on and play the built-in card games until I felt I was tired. Switching on the computer is obviously once of the worst things you can do for insomnia, but at the time, it was all I felt I could do.

Here are some things to try if you’re suffering from insomnia in CFS:

  • Have a relaxing bath just before you want to go to bed
  • Change your bed linen, so you fall into fresh sheets (especially effective after a bath!)
  • Meditation, meditation, meditation!
  • If you don’t fall asleep instantly, don’t fight it (this makes it much worse!), just accept it and relax
  • Walk around a little bit if you’re feeling restless- I used to grab a blanket, go downstairs and curl up with a book. I usually found I was ready for sleep in about 20 minutes if I really relaxed.
  • Establish a regular ‘going to bed’ routine: mine includes no computer or screens after 8pm (excluding the occasional cinema trip!), using gorgeous herbal products to wash my face with, meditation, reading, breath work and writing a gratitude list.
  • Read something inspiring and uplifting every night- my favourites include Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ and choosing an oracle card from any of Doreen Virtue’s selection and meditating on it for about 15 minutes.
  • Rubbing lavender oil on my wrists and neck before bed. If I’m feeling particularly restless, I’ll put a few dots on my pillow too.
  • Try not to eat too close to going to bed- you’ll feel that you have to stay up later just to let your food digest.
  • Try not to have any big or potentially stressful conversations before going to bed- I’m still learning this one!
  • Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is just right, not too hot or too cold.
  • Make sure any red lights from TVs or phones are covered up- better still, switch them off altogether! (I can’t stand having my phone on during the night, it really amazes me that people can sleep with them switched on. It’s almost like your mind is on constant alert waiting for someone to get in touch with you!)
  • Cut caffeine down, or cut it out completely (have it before 12 noon if you can’t resist!)- camomile tea is a great alternative

Most importantly, do not think about the possibility of having insomnia- don’t let your brain stay awake because you’ve subconsciously told it you’re expecting it to!

I hope these tips help you in some way- I used to dread going to up to bed incase I couldn’t sleep, but now I have to say I absolutely love it! Please let me know if you have any tips and I’ll add them to this list with your name.

Love and sweet dreams,

Katie     xx

Click here for another article I wrote for MindBodyGreen on insomnia and not being able to sleep.

  4 Responses to “Coping with Insomnia in CFS”

  1. Oh my goodness!!! This is so what happens to me! And I still don’t know how to deal with it during the day! I wake up exhausted!!

  2. I’m going through a phase of insomnia at the moment and it is flaring up all my CFS symptoms and generally making me feel like I’m losing my mind. Any tips, big or small, are always gratefully received so thank you for this blog post.

    • Hi Victoria- I’m sorry you’re going through a difficult time at the moment with insomnia, I know how frustrating it can be. As well as trying the tips below, please know that this is just temporary and your body will level itself out. Also, try not to fixate so much on sleep! I know that sounds crazy, but I found that the more I tried to get to sleep, the harder it was to get there. Please be gentle on yourself during this time.

      (Also lavender and clary sage essential oils are incredible!)

      Take good care of yourself, my love- xx

  3. I often have insomnia too, but of another variety! I usually have no trouble falling asleep – I’ll fall asleep on the couch, or as soon as I hit the pillow, at a reasonable hour (usually 10-10:30 pm), and sleep like a baby… until about 4 am. That’s usually when I get up, usually cos of some stressful thought rolling around my head, or cos some set of muscles hurts badly and I need to walk around, or cos I have a headache or sore throat and some part of my brain insists the only way to deal is to have a cup of tea. So far I’ve dealt with it by getting up, or by reading in bed in low light. Often it helps, but sometimes I just can’t get properly back to sleep and spend the whole day tired :/

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