Let’s Talk About Sleep Hygiene…

I know what you’re thinking – what the hell is sleep hygiene??? It sounds kind of disgusting…

Well actually, sleep hygiene is the term given for your nightly habits and the way you fall asleep. There’s good sleep hygiene: reading before bed, closing the blinds, wearing an eye mask etc. And there’s bad sleep hygiene: falling asleep with the telly on, checking your phone or iPad in bed etc etc etc

I will admit here and now that my sleep hygiene is poor. Which may come as a surprise to many of you seeing as I have this crazy tendency to need a bananas amount of sleep. You’d think I’d have my sleep routine sussed, right? But I’ve realised over the past week or two, since getting my POTs diagnosis, that some of my bad habits are connected to my health. Falling asleep with the TV on is my way of distracting myself from the palpitations I get at night. Well, now I know what’s behind those palpitations, and I can stop being scared of them!

Hypersomnia is probably the most debilitating aspect of having POTs for me, and now I know that it’s because of 2 things: 1) just doing ordinary day to day things tires me out more than it should and 2) I have a crazy pulse rate and blood pressure even when I’m asleep, meaning that my sleep quality is often poor. I may be sleeping for hours and hours and hours, but I’m never getting good, quality sleep, which means that I’m just going to be endlessly tired during the day. Add to this that sometimes just walking up a flight of stairs is nearly enough to knock me out, and you can see why hypersomnia is an issue. I’m constantly trying to catch up on myself, and will always, always be sleepy.

So, in an effort to make myself feel better, I’m trying to improve my sleep hygiene. It’s not a miracle cure for my POTs, but I’m hoping that alongside other changes, like diet and starting physiotherapy, it may make it more manageable. Here’s are my new sleep rules:

  • No telly in the bedroom before bed. Likewise, no iPad. If I want to read, it has to be a proper book (the light from iPad/computer screens is very ‘activating’ for the brain).
  • I’m getting black-out blinds installed so that the garden light can’t disturb me in the middle of the night.
  • I’m taking Valerian extract in pill form with a glass of milk before bed (along with my blood pressure pills). It’s a natural, herbal remedy to improve sleep quality.
  • No food before bed (I’m terrible at night time snacking, but I am putting a stop to it)
  • I’m using an aromatherapy mist spray on my pillow and pyjamas before I sleep. It smells of lavender and geranium and should help keep my pulse rate down.
  • If I struggle with palpitations, then instead of turning the telly on to distract me, I will meditate instead (or just read until I get tired and relax).
  • I’m also monitoring my sleep with an app called ‘Sleep Cycle’. I’m not convinced that iPhone sleep apps really get any good, medical quality data, but it’s still an interesting thing to do to see if my sleep does improve over time.
  • Setting my alarm for the same time every morning, no matter if its the weekend or not.

These new measures won’t make a difference overnight. I will be trying this new improved sleep routine for at least a month, and using the Sleep Cycle app to monitor how it goes.

I did my first night under the new rules last night, and was pleasantly surprised at how well I managed to wake up this morning. I actually work up just before my alarm, and felt surprisingly well rested! But then I had breakfast, and came over all tired again, and stayed in bed until midday. It’s ok, I know things aren’t going to improve straight away, and I have lots of other things I need to do to help counter the POTs, but I’m hoping that improving my sleep hygiene may soon be a solid link in the chain of managing my condition.

I’m open to advice if anyone has any, and I’ll keep you posted over how I’m doing!