My doctor sent me for a sleep study after my husband told him how loudly I snored. I tried to tell them that it wasn’t that bad, but as it turned out, it was. The night of the study, they put a cpap (continuous positive airway pressure) machine on me in the middle of the night. The nurse told me that I stopped breathing over 90 times per minute. No wonder I didn’t feel rested in the morning! But even when I got my own cpap machine and used it every night, it seemed like I could never get enough sleep. It wasn’t but a few months later that I was diagnosed with lupus.
Lupus and Sleep Disorders
According to the National Institutes of Health, between 55% and 85% of lupus patients have sleep disorders. I didn’t know it at the time, but my sleep issues were just beginning. When I was first diagnosed, I was in constant pain so it was impossible to sleep. Not being able to sleep made the pain seem worse, so it was a vicious cycle.
When I finally got an appointment to see a pain management specialist, he gave me Lyrica and Cymbalta for the pain. They seemed like little miracle pills to me. I quickly found out that I can’t take Lyrica during the day – it turns me into a drunken monkey! But I have no problems with it at night. I take them an hour or so before bedtime and I’m usually ready to fall asleep by the time I go to bed.
So far it sounds good, right? It is, except when I wake up in the middle of the night. It doesn’t take much to wake me up. My husband can bump me, or the dog barks and my eyes fly open. Once I’m awake, I rarely go back to sleep. So I’m a zombie the next day. Then I need a nap. If I nap too long, I can’t fall asleep at bedtime. Another vicious cycle.
Tips for Better Sleep
The experts at Lupus.org have lots of tips to help you sleep better. Some of them include:
- Put away all of your devices 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. This includes your cell phone, iPad and computers.
- Keep your bedroom a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house.
- Exercise daily but not right before bedtime.
- Take a warm bath to help you relax.
- Limit naps to less than an hour.
- Limit caffeine in the evening hours. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 6 hours.
Following these suggestions, plus using my cpap machine, helps me sleep through the night most nights. I still have times that I wake up and can’t go back to sleep. On those nights, I’ll read a book or listen to a hypnosis recording. If I’m lucky, one of these will put me back to sleep, usually just a few minutes before the alarm goes off.