I used to be an excellent sleeper. I’d joyfully snooze for 8, 9, 10, even 11 hours sometimes, without waking. Sleeping at home in my own bed was always the best choice for a good night’s sleep. But even when traveling, with often 10 or more people to a dorm, I’d sleep pretty well usually. Sure, there were disturbances but ear plugs were an easy fix. I love sleep and always have.
Since my hiking fall 7 years ago, I’ve not been able to sleep beyond 4-6 hours. Apparently this is a common result of brain injury. I know many of you out there want to chalk it up as part of the aging process. I respect that. But you need to understand… I used to sleep 8+ hours without any problems. Literally, the day after I fell, (My 150+ft fall down Half Dome), my sleep became medically induced, sporadic and never continuous. It clearly is due to the brain injury. And my theory is that my body or brain gets to a certain REM sleep and fears a repeat of that traumatic, close-to-death experience, quickly jolting itself back to consciousness.
Regardless of when I go to bed, I can expect to wake, at the latest, by that 6th hour, without fail. Prescription medications are said to help but I’m fearful of potential addiction issues, meaning I could want and need more and more, or the less intense version – the body becoming dependent on the Rx for any sleep – as well as potential gnarly side effects.
I’ve tried Melatonin which helps me get to sleep but not stay asleep. Sometimes, I use the homeopathics Calms Forte and Rescue Remedy when I am feeling anxious, stressed or if I wake in the middle of the night and want a few more hours of shut eye. I regularly take Calcium/Magnesium supplements. I meditate and do yoga and breathing exercises. I’ve tried other supplements that claim to help sleep. Though all of the above are great for getting me to sleep at times when my body and mind are resisting sleep, they don’t keep me asleep beyond that 4th, 5th, or 6th hour.
Getting through the day on 4 hours of sleep is quite an endurance challenge. After just a few hours of being awake, I feel tired. I don’t drink coffee due to my first exposure to coffee during a college exam all nighter. Ever since, even the smell of coffee makes me gag. And, only once in a long while do I have a caffeinated tea. But in the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with starting the day with a cup of green or black tea. Gratefully, that seems to be helping my ability to function through the day but it doesn’t have any effect on staying asleep past that 6th hour. And naps are not a wise idea due to their effect on that night’s sleep, though sometimes essential if I just can’t keep my eyes open a moment longer.
My MD recently suggested I try an over-the-counter sleep aid, Diphenhydramine, which is the medicine in Benadryl, to see if it helps me sleep through the night. Though I was willing to try this experiment, I felt reticent due to the ‘inactive ingredients’ – candelilla wax, colloidal silicone dioxide, crospovidone, hypromellose, microcrystalline cellulose, Blue #1, polyethylene glycol, providone, pregelatinized starch, starch, stearic acid, titanium dioxide, and talc.
I don’t like to ingest ingredients like food coloring FD&C Blue #1 or Green #3 or Red #40 or sugars like sorbitol, high fructose corn syrup, saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K), let alone ingredients I can’t pronounce. (FDA’s Food Ingredients/Additives, Packaging, Labeling) As a compromise, I chose to go with a certain drug store’s generic ‘Die Free’ sleep aid liquid containing Diphenhydramine as its main ingredient.
Once home, I researched the ‘inactive’ ingredients of this generic sleep aid that weren’t familiar to me. One of the ingredients, Sodium Benzoate “is a common preservative in processed foods and soft drinks” according to an article I found online (Healthwyze.org Report on Sodium Benzoate). It reads, “Outside of our foods, benzene is the main ingredient of Liquid Wrench, various paint stripper products, rubber cements, and spot removers, due it its highly destructive and solvent qualities. It was discontinued in rubber manufacture in the U.S. because it caused a large percentage of workers to get leukemia.” The article says Sodium Benzoate can cause damage to your DNA which has “already been linked with Parkinson’s disease, liver problems, and these just scratch the surface of the possibilities.” The article speaks about Sodium Benzoate creating genetic mutations and how it’s “incredibly carcinogenic.” It has been connected to leukemia in children. The article states, “Several European media outlets have called for an absolute ban on this toxic preservative due to concerns about children’s developmental safety. “
No need to look up the other ingredients. My research came to an end there.
I’d rather be tired, thanks.