If you find a bath relaxing, the evening can be a good time to have one, to help you unwind before settling to sleep. Having a small supper (preferably complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread) may avoid a blood sugar low in the night. Keep a snack such as a banana by the bed in case you get hungry during the night. Comfort is important and poor sleep may mean that the bed or mattress needs replacing. Avoid anything stimulating for a couple of hours before settling to sleep (e.g. bright lighting, tea, coffee, coca cola, TV – especially exciting or distressing programmes).
Earplugs may help you to sleep through noise. Using a commode at night may be less likely to keep you awake than walking all the way to the toilet.
Spending time awake in bed can contribute to difficulty sleeping, but this cannot be helped when you have M.E. and need good quality rest. Having two beds – a ‘day bed’ and a ‘night bed’ gets around this problem; or if this is not possible try sleeping with your head at the foot of the bed so that you are in a different position from the daytime. With luck your brain may come to associate the night bed or night position with sleep. Opinion is divided about lie–ins and daytime naps – some doctors advise avoiding them and others feel that people with M.E. should sleep whenever it comes. Experiment to find out which is better for you. Try settling at a similar time every day; with M.E. one late night can be enough to disrupt sleep patterns for weeks.
If you can’t get enough sleep because of light, these tactics might be worth trying. Try wearing a blindfold/ sleep mask, which are available from some chemists (e.g. SUPERDRUG), or if you know anyone who is travelling, airlines give them out on long flights. In the long term, consider getting a blackout blind or blackout curtain lining. Some specialist blackout blinds are sealed at the edges and can be used to make the room pitch black, but new blinds release chemicals for over a week after installation. Blackout material can be fixed to the window frame with adhesive Velcro (not suitable for sunny daytimes as the glass might heat up). During light evenings wear dark glasses and, if necessary, blackout your room and use low level artificial lighting. Try using a very dim light, or a torch at night, perhaps with a red coloured bulb.
If sleep does not seem imminent, a personal stereo can help to pass the time during the night, although listening to anything too stimulating may keep you awake. Choose a light programme or talking book, or relaxing music. If you are kept awake by thoughts or worries, set aside a time earlier in the evening to think, write things down or make lists. Relaxation techniques can be helpful (see Resting). A Dictaphone may be the least stimulating way to jot down thoughts in the middle of the night.
Bed : Celebrations : Chemical Sensitivities : Doctors : Light Sensitivity : Noise Sensitivity : Over-Stimulation : Pain : Resting : Talking books
AfME Sleep Disturbances in M.E. £1; InterAction 25; 1998; pages 26 – 28 Insomnia and sleep disturbances; TYMES magazine Issue 38 has features about sleep disturbance