The Terrible Two: Fatigue & Insomnia
In the parenting world, the “terrible twos” refers to the period of time that toddlers start seeking their independence and get into mischief. In this article, I refer to a very different kind of terrible two; the fatigue and insomnia that so many individuals face as a part of their chronic migraine experience.
A vicious cycle
My rheumatologist seemed to be the first doctor that actually cared about my insomnia and was willing to try her hand at treating it. All of the neurologist and headache specialists gave me the same line, insomnia was not something they treated. On the other hand, my rheumatologist was willing to acknowledge that there was a cycle between no sleep and high pain levels. The general lack of sleep or quality of sleep can affect us both mentally and physically. Not only does it drain us, leaving us very fatigued, it increases our pain and our irritability. In order to get the best handle on pain levels, it is important to get enough sleep.
Insomnia during the night
There are few things more frustrating than feeling completely exhausted all day long, and yet be unable to fall asleep. When you are so tired your eyes actually hurt, yet your brain still cannot turn itself off so that you are able to rest. Besides being frustrating, irregular sleep and extreme lack of sleep can both be a migraine trigger. When we experience high pain levels, the pain can also interfere with our ability to fall or stay asleep. This adds to our issues requiring a high quality of sleep in order to feel well rested and restored. Some individuals with chronic pain find it harder to both fall asleep and to stay asleep at night. Due to being in pain, they do not get to deep sleep cycles and can easily be awoken from their sleep. I personally have both of these issues. Without the assistance of medication, I have a hard time falling asleep and the slightest thing causes me to wake up.
Fatigue during the day
Our bodies can be faced with an increased level of fatigue from multiple angles. These angles mainly include the lack of sleep we get due to insomnia along with exhaustion from high pain levels. When your body is fighting a chronic condition, you need more rest than if you were perfectly healthy. So when we find ourselves unable to even acquire the normal amount of sleep, we become exhausted even faster than the average individual. I have learned to not attempt to keep up with the healthy individuals in my life. By this I simply mean, I have learned my own limitations and know when I need to let them continue on without me. It is by no means always easy to do, but it is most definitely necessary to properly care for my body. We can be faced with both physical and mental fatigue. The physical fatigue is presented in ways such as muscle weakness. For example, when you are trying to open a jar and cannot succeed or when you struggle to carry something you should be able to carry with ease. On the other hand, mental fatigue is more a matter of not being able to concentrate and feeling sleepy. Our pain levels also add to the general feeling of fatigue because it both drains our bodies and can interfere with our ability to concentrate.
Burning both ends of the candle
I have definitely learned that I have to listen to my body more. Those of us who have a war going on inside our bodies, cannot burn the candle at both ends. It always catches up with us and we will regret it when it does happen. As hard as it can be to do sometimes, we have to learn to tell others and even ourselves no occasionally, and allow our bodies the time needed to properly rest. Personally, this is one of the hardest things for me to this day. My husband has to remind me sometimes that the chores will still be there later and I need to stop and rest or let him do it instead.
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