LYME DISEASE KEEPING YOU UP? YOU CAN TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO SLEEP
How I use meditative rest to sleep ten hours a night
Hi there! Thank you so much for visiting my blog. The support of the Lyme community means the world to me. You are awesome!
My recent relapse
A few weeks ago I decided to try intermittent fasting. I had been reading about autophagy, and how intermittent fasting can help. Autophagy is the process by which our bodies get rid of dead cells and organelles. It is a natural process of detoxification and renewal - and it increases our stamina and longevity. Sounds good, right? I had been feeling really well, and I thought I could handle an experiment - maybe it would help eliminate my afternoon fatigue.
I tried drinking matcha blended with ghee for breakfast (sounds awful, but it was delicious), and waiting till 11am for lunch. Well, my experiment backfired on me big time. Blood sugar is a big issue for me, and my body couldn't handle it. My Lyme symptoms came back in a most unwelcome flood.
I felt terrible for two weeks, and the worst part of it was the insomnia. This little relapse reminded me how debilitating and horrible Lyme insomnia is! We all suffer from it, and it is such a curse. Not only does it suck beans not to be able to sleep, lack of sleep ruins the next day as well. I know you all know what I mean. The lying awake while exhausted, the anxiety, the gruesome nightmares...what a mess. I honestly do think insomnia is one of the most crippling symptom of Lyme disease. Once we start sleeping, we start to recover. Sleep's restorative power beats intermittent fasting any day. Lesson learned.
Meditative brain training
Here are some tools for eliminating insomnia, mostly meditative. They put me back in order over the course of the last two weeks, and now I am sleeping my usual ten hours a night. When I sleep this much, I heal. Day by day I feel better. I have made sleeping my priority, and I truly hope these tools help you as well.
Restorative, restful meditation
You can use meditation at night to avoid the trap of worrying about not sleeping, therefore lying awake, exhausted and stressed. Think of this as training your body and your brain to sleep. Here is the basic meditation practice I use.
First, set the stage
Create parameters for your sleep, and honor them whether you are actually sleeping or not! Go to bed at the same (early) time every night, and get up at the same time in the morning. Create ritual around going to bed, such as giving yourself an oil massage or a bath beforehand. Make your bed beautiful, welcoming, cozy - a respite from the world. Use essential oils in a spray or diffuser to make your bedroom smell amazing. When you settle in each night, it should feel like exactly where you want to be, even if you are just there to rest and meditate. Set aside a solid ten hours to rest in bed, and let resting for ten hours be your only goal. You control this - you don't control sleep - so let go of expectations or goals around actually sleeping.
Then, train your brain
Remind yourself that meditation has been proven to be just as restorative as sleep, when we get into a deeply relaxed state. As you lie in the dark, as comfortable as you can be, bring your attention to your breath. Feel your inhale, feel your exhale. When you start thinking, be kind! Such is the nature of the human mind. Just return your attention the feeling of your inhale and your exhale. Let your awareness drift through your body, bathing in your breath rhythm.
Feel your heart center. Feel your breath moving through your heart center. Bring the people or animals you love most into your mind, and let your love flow through your heart. Let your body release into the physical sensation of love, and of breath.
This practice will restore you on many levels. You may drift off to sleep, and you may not. Either way, it is OK. Just resting, feeling your breath, feeling your love - this is balm for the body and soul. You are bathing your brain in soothing chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, and this stimulates the immune system to heal as well. (See the book "Molecules of Emotion", by Candace B. Pert.)
We may not be able to force sleep, but we can achieve meditative rest. This is something we control. Eventually, the practice of deep rest will lead to actually sleeping. It always has with me.
Guided meditation can help!
If you need help, try my Anxiety Relief Meditation, for calming your limbic system. During my recent relapse I listened to this meditation many times. You don't have to take in all the words, just let them roll over you. You may fall asleep in the middle of listening, and that is terrific! The meditation is intentionally long enough to encourage this, and like all my meditations, it does not lead you back to waking consciousness at the end, but invites you to rest as long as you like. Let it remind your nervous system how to find restorative, peaceful rest. (Here is more information about anxiety and the limbic system., if you are interested.)
Two other, non-meditative tools to heal insomnia:
Try ashwagandha. I love this herb, and keep capsules on my nightstand. More than anything else, it relieves my anxiety and nightmares. You can get it in powder, pill or tincture form, whatever works best for your body. I supplement ashwagandha with melatonin, one capsule in the middle of the night. As with any supplements, take it easy and follow your intuition, because you know how it is with us Lymies - we are all so different, each one of our bodies needs a different approach.
Get those ugly orange glasses that eliminate blue light (google blue light blocking glasses), and wear them if you watch TV or use electronics before bed. They really do help, even if your family makes fun of you. (Now my nine year old wears them too.)
Thank you so much for being here. When I get strong enough, perhaps I will revisit ghee and green tea. Meanwhile, I'll be focusing on dreamland, and wishing you hours of meditative rest as well.
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Sending you bliss and deep comfort,