Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Wide Awake Club! Insomnia

Our weekly discussion focused on sleep, or lack of it. Insomnia is a faithful partner of anxiety, and so many members reported having that middle of the night active mind that refuses us rest.  Naz told us that insomnia may be harmful to cognitive function, both in the short and long term. A vicious circle is formed as our worry about not sleeping makes the condition worse. 

Our members are women with both primary and secondary breast cancer, and they shared many things which lead them to sleep poorly.  Side effects of treatment and early menopause can hinder sleep:  fatigue is in itself a symptom and a contributor, and hot flushes which wake us up were cited by many as the main issue. Anxiety affects many - fear of recurrence, progression, family and work worries.  Pain is another factor, also cramps, and needing to get up for the toilet frequently.

Some women reported a reduction in the quality of their sleep rather than insomnia, with many sharing the feeling that they sleep very lightly.  The trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis may also affect our subconscious and introduce fear we aren't even aware of, which affects our peace of mind and consequently our ability to sleep well and wake refreshed.

Despite all the complaints about insomnia, our members have many ways of helping themselves to sleep better. Some have asked their GPs for medication, others rely on lavender oil. Some fall asleep to an audiobook or music, others count backwards, meditate, or write down their worries before bed. Breathing and relaxation exercises, and Reiki, may be helpful in calming us. Relief from hot flushes may help better sleep, with women trying acupuncture, medication, and chill pillows. Not drinking caffeine late in the day and cutting out all liquids (yes, even that glass of wine may have to go!) in the evenings may help with the regular trips to the loo. A cool dark quiet well-aired bedroom, a bedtime routine without the phone or tv, a warm bath or a cool shower, all are helpful.

Naz pointed us towards this article, which largely aligns with what our members find useful:

Naz's advice to all of us who struggle with sleep is to accept it, work with it, rhyme with it. It will, if we're lucky, come and go. We may feel at a low ebb after we've slept badly, but generally our bodies cope well and can live with it. A visit to the GP would be sensible to address any prolonged period of insomnia.

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