August 22nd, 2013


Running and the sleep problem

I've had a hard time sleeping for years. (See picture. It's me with a pillow on my head. That's about the right level of noise/light blocking for me.) I started taking Xanax in part because of my problems sleeping: I'd go to bed and little squirrels would start running around, entertaining me for hours. Unfortunately, they were in my head, and they were making me unhappy. What I really wanted to do was go to bed and fall asleep, and get eight or nine hours. But it wasn't working. Maybe my life just had too many things going on and making me anxious (oddly I almost never had sleeping problems on weekends or nights spent with Richard); maybe it was just middle age creeping up on me. Whatever. I spent two years doing alternating nights of melatonin/sominex/xanax with time off on weekends, when I slept better. In March or so the doctor put me on amitryptaline to help, and I laid off of the other stuff.

A few days ago, I wondered if maybe, given that my stress levels are down (due to the sertraline), that I might be able to ditch the sleeping meds, in part because I feel like the new stuff has been keeping me groggy for too much of the day (and also it makes me react really poorly to alcohol, which is good for my waistline but kind of a drag). And LO, it was a miracle; the first two nights I went THUNK and stayed there. (The next night I was up until 2 AM but I wasn't trying to sleep, I was dinking around on my computer.)

And then I saw this article on the New York times, saying there was a relation between exercise and sleep. Oddly, a good day's exercise may do nothing to help with sleep, but for chronic insonmniacs, who are "neural-atypical" and usually have "a hyper-arousal of the stress system," a long-term exercise program apparently "mut(es) a person’s stress response." The result, after four months or so, "'as good as or better' than most current treatment options for sleep disturbances, including drugs." Wow! (And attention gothic_mermaid.)

So: running IS helping reduce my stress. And, maybe, the sertraline is helping me sleep. With luck, I can ditch the amitryptaline altogether and maybe everything will come together and I'll be able to have a glass of wine at night again AND sleep like a baby. I would like that a lot.