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When Sleep Goes Out The Door

Published: August 19, 2016


When Sleep Goes Out the Door

Sleep has always been my weakness, that’s how I got on to benzodiazepines in the first place – a lack of sleep has dogged me before, during and post taper. Many people disbelieve me when I tell them how little sleep I get and still function quite well. Believe me – I had to learn how.


A lack of sleep:

Here’s the thing about my lack of sleep. It…..
• Hasn’t stopped my from attaining two additional tertiary qualifications
• Hasn’t stopped me from working – sometimes full time
• Hasn’t stopped me from creating new relationships
• Hasn’t stopped me from doing what I love
• Hasn’t stopped me from gradually improving my health

I guess it wasn’t always like that. Whilst in tolerance withdrawal from Halcion, I went for months without sleep – I didn’t even know what was wrong with me.  I went from doctor to doctor and they didn’t know, even though I told them I was on Halcion. I had to work it out for myself. I wasn’t working at that time or studying – I was too sick to do that. But as I began to work things out and stabilize on my taper things began to change.

What did I do? And what do I do now, when it happens again from time to time?

I created an inner and outer environment that taught my body how to sleep again.


I had a deep seated belief that the situation was temporary, that I would work though it and I would heal.
• I kept a dairy to help empty my busy mind
• I made sure that my bedroom was conducive to sleep – airy, cool and dark. My bed comfortable. My room clean and uncluttered. I made sure I was warm but not hot.
• I created a daily sleep routine, going to bed at the same time every day and getting up at the same time. Our bodies like routine – creating a sleep routine gives us a certain amount of stability.
• I listened to talking books, Pod casts and meditations, keeping the sound low so that I could drift off to sleep. You can get these from your local library but please be very discerning about what you choose to listen to.
• I learned relaxation techniques and rested as much as I could – again, your library is full of useful resources to help you with this. Experiment.
• I ate foods like turkey that are high in tryptophan
• I avoided getting frustrated – frustration is sleeps enemy! Don’t feed the fear!

Winding down for bed time



Try these ideas – they work for me but please remember, it takes time to relearn how to sleep.

• I like to go to bed early – around 9 pm but I prepare for sleep much earlier than that. 9 pm is closer to our natural body rhythms and I find that I can get by on less sleep if I go to bed at that time. If you go to bed late, try going to bed a little bit earlier every night – big changes all at once probably won’t help
• Avoid TV, bright lights, computer screens several hours before sleep. I have ambient light on or light candles
• Avoid stimulating conversations, foods and drinks

Make sure you never argue at night. You just loose a good night’s sleep, and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway. Rose Kennedy

• Eat a snack like activated nuts before bed in case your blood sugar gets low during the night. Low blood sugar can wake you up and keep you awake tossing and turning in the early morning
• Use the early evening to luxuriate in a warm bath with some Epsom salts to help you relax
• Pamper yourself – yes, guys you can do this also. Give yourself a manicure, pedicure or a facial. I haven’t met a guy yet who doesn’t enjoy the occasional facial!
• Do some gentle stretching and breathing exercises – this one is really important. Teach your body  how to relax! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day – your body is going to have to learn how to do this. Try breathing exercises several times during the day at first so that you don’t put more pressure on yourself at night just before sleep.

Fear, frustration and worry


What do you think is going to happen if you go to bed with the attitude of ‘I hope I’m gonna sleep tonight’ ‘What if I can’t sleep again tonight, I have to go to work’ (that one was me) or something of that nature. You are putting pressure on yourself and creating an expectation based on fear. Is that going to help? No! You are under enough pressure, take the pressure off yourself.
Relax! If you can’t sleep that night, life will go on. As I said before, I went through this for months on end …
Get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep after about ½ an hour and do something boring or non-stimulating like gentle stretches or breathing exercises. There was I time that I organized my underwear drawer and socks drawers in the middle of the night. Go back to bed when you get sleepy. Repeat the process if necessary.

If you can get to sleep, get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. Its the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. Dale Carnegie

I must confess though, the times when my symptoms were out of control, I turned on my computer, got onto the forum I belonged to and chatted with friends or I cleaned out my inbox. There activities are not sleep conducive but they do help you get through the night when sleep isn’t going to happen anyway. Distraction can be a marvelous thing but it should be a last resort rather than a first option.


Your body will learn to sleep again. Mine did. Its going to take time so please hang in there.