I do all the usual things people do before they go to sleep. I brush my teeth, wash my face, let the dog out one last time, turn out all the lights in the house, and make sure the doors are locked. It’s what I do every night in addition to these normal things that puts me into the ridiculous range. I can’t just lay down. I can’t just take my healthy dose of muscle relaxers and Klonopin that would make a normal person unconscious in minutes. I have to jump through hoops to sleep.
I put Arnica gel on all my various bruises from running into things or tripping over things when I’m dizzy or light-headed. I put cocoa butter on all the little scars on my arms and legs in the hope that they’ll fade. I’m always cutting or scratching myself doing normal household stuff either through natural clumsiness or because I’m shaking so badly. My bruises often scar these days too, which sucks. I have to arrange my special pillow that supports my neck and head just so and lay my heating pad on it to ease the pain in my neck. I have to get a fresh ice pack to put on my forehead to ease my headache some to help me sleep. I rub a special massage oil onto my neck that is supposed to help relax my muscles. I don’t know if it works but I try anything that’s supposed to help. I put more Arnica on my jaw because it aches. I use Bath & Body Works aromatherapy products (their great) and put the Sleep lotion (lavender and chamomile scents) on my hands, neck and face so the scent will hopefully help relax me.
I’ve always loved pajamas, but of late even clothes can cause me pain. At night, I need to sleep in something big and loose. Anything tight hurts me. I’ve tried to move to looser, more flowy clothes at work, but I can’t always get away with it. And it’s not like I can go without a bra at work, even though the bra often causes my ribs to hurt. So if I’m not already in loose, baggy clothes, I dig out a giant T-shirt or something like that to change into and sleep in. My favorite pair of shorts to sleep in are a pair I bought in high school. They are falling apart but so comfortable and soft from years of wear. The elastic waistband has no elasticity anymore so they’re really loose and don’t hurt me.
Once I’m all lotioned up and armed with comfy clothes, heating pad, and ice pack, then the real ridiculousness kicks in. I have to stretch before I can go to bed. Think about that. I have to stretch before I can lay down and go to sleep. My before bed ritual also includes stretching out my hips either through lunges or the Pigeon pose in yoga. I modify it to do it with my knee on the bed so I don’t have to get down on the floor.
Pigeon Pose in Yoga
Advanced Pigeon Pose for a deeper stretch
I stretch out my back with 2-3 back bends. Then I get in bed and stretch out my hips more by rotating each leg around in a circle three times. My hips usual pop when I do this, releasing some of the tension there. Then I put my knees together and rotate my legs from one side of the bed to the other. My arms are stretched out and my head rotates to the opposite side from my knees. This pops my back all down my spine. Sometimes it feels good. Sometimes it hurts. I repeat this move for the other side too. Then I bring me knees back up and hug them to stretch my back and neck out more.
On the really bad nights, I use my back massager on my back, arms, neck, legs, and hips before I do any of these stretches. Sometimes my nightly routine can take me 40 minutes. I think the fastest I do everything is 20 minutes.
20 minutes of lotioning and stretching and sometimes massage, just so I can lay down in bed and attempt to go to sleep. Talk about jumping through hoops!
And after all of this, I attempt to go to sleep. Some nights the drugs work and I go right to sleep. Other nights it takes awhile. My brain doesn’t want to turn off and I almost always wake up several times a night. Sometimes I wake up every time my heating pad turns off (every 2 hours) because the pain in my neck is so bad. I usually get 3-4 hours of quality, restful sleep a night. The rest of my 8 or 9 hours is spent with my brain turned on, unable to relax. My body may be relaxed, but my mind can’t stop running. So I get flashes of dreams where my subconscious moves from one scene to another. It’s like flipping channels on TV. I wake up confused by the jumble of thoughts my brain has left me with overnight. I crave real, good sleep. I never get enough of it. But I take what I can get. So I’ll keep jumping through hoops to get whatever kind of sleep I can, for however many hours a night I can.