In one particularly revealing study published the in the journal Sleep it was found that all the participants in a study involving individuals diagnosed with Lyme disease had some form of sleep disorder, every single one. Yikes!
Why should this be the case, well firstly because Lyme disease has an impact on so many different areas of the body, and secondly because Lyme disease also affects the area of the brain known as the sleep center.
The impact of this can be anything from full-blown insomnia to restless leg syndrome, nocturnal limb movement to sleep apnea and intense nightmares, amongst many other issues. Whatever the condition the result is chronic broken sleep. With that comes a a host of physical and mental problems, such as a weakened immune system, anxiety, stress and depression.
The best way to overcome these sleep problems is to treat the root cause which is obviously the Lyme disease – but that is usually easier said than done and can take many years. While your doctor, your prescriptions and your immune system are working hard on that there are a number of other proactive things you can do to help your sleep that don’t involve medication. These include, but are not limited to the following…
1. Have a sensible supper
Sufferers of Lyme disease often have issues maintaining stable blood sugar levels, this can cause the body to wake during the night crying out for a much-needed glucose hit. So while for non-Lyme sufferers conventional wisdom is to avoid eating before bed for those with the disease the opposite is true.
That’s not to say you should eat anything, a chocolate cake before bed won’t do you much good. Something with a good dose of protein however will. Nuts are a great pre-bed snack, as is a bit of cheese or a nice protein shake. Do a little experimenting, find a snack that will give you enough sustenance to keep you through the night but won’t take your digestive system too much effort to break down.
2. Try a little meditation
Sleeping problems in sufferers of Lyme disease differ from sleeping problems in a lot of the general population because there is a genuine diagnosable trigger for them. But that isn’t to say that addressing the issues that keep majority awake won’t also help Lyme sufferers too.
For instance, avoiding screens, keeping regular bedtimes and trying to lower pre-bed stress levels can help everyone get more sleep.
Sufferers of Lyme disease have a lot to worry about and genuine reasons to be anxious. But anxiety doesn’t help anything, especially not your sleep. Stress leads to raised cortisol levels which in turn prevents sleep. Getting on top of stress can therefore lead to improved rest. One of the best ways to quieten the monkey mind is to take up meditation.
Don’t worry I am not about to suggest you shave your head and go and live in a monastery in Myanmar! Meditation is no longer just the preserve of monks or hippies. Mediation has gone mainstream and with good reason. Medical science is finally backing up what orange-robed Buddhist monks have known for years, meditation is good for you.
Sitting quietly with your own thoughts for as little as 15 minutes a day can have a profound impact on your stress levels. Don’t believe me give it a go, what's the worst that can happen? You lose some sleep!
3. Keep a Sleep Journal
Keeping track of how well you slept each night is a very useful way to help you identify patterns and triggers.
This strategy will work best if you also keep track of a few other data points from your day, such as your food and drink intake, your exercise routine and of course what medication you have taken and when. The more information you record the better you will be able to spot things that may be helping your sleep and things that may be making it worse.
After just a few weeks hopefully you will start being able to spot little changes in your day you will be able to make that can potentially have a big impact on how well you sleep.
Whatsmore, having a good body of data points will also allow you to provide your healthcare provider with more information on your next visit. It also gives you, the sufferer something proactive to do.
Thankfully gone are the days when you would’ve have to track all this information by hand, or even in a spreadsheet, now there exist countless user-friendly apps that will take care of most of the hard work for you. All you have to remember is to keep them up-to date.
Well, there you go, three strategies to help you begin to tackle your Lyme disease-induced sleeping woes. Give them a whirl, chances are low that you will suddenly sleep the entire night through but little by little hopefully the extra minutes rest a night will turn to hours. Good luck!