Monday, November 3, 2014

Insomnia and POTS

I have struggled with insomnia for over 6 years.  It wasn't until after my diagnosis with POTS in 2012 that I would have a sleep study test.  I can say with great happiness that the insomnia has lessened a great deal!

I thought I would share my experiences so that if there is someone out there looking for answers about POTS, I might help point them in the right direction.

I never had sleep apnea.  I would just wake up between 2am and 4am and couldn't go back to sleep for hours. I would feel like a zombie for the rest of the day.  It is so hard to get anything done when you are that tired.  I would often have more POTS symptoms on the days I hadn't slept well.  Napping was detrimental, though.  Have you ever heard you can't really "catch up" on sleep?  I believe it's true.  You don't "catch up" by taking a nap.  It's really more like stealing from the next night.

If I take a nap, it usually prevents me from sleeping through the night.  Then, I feel like a zombie again the next day.  Which makes me want to take a nap to "catch up".  Which leads to another terrible night.  It's a vicious cycle.  Throw in the exacerbated symptoms of POTS and it will leave you feeling pretty pathetic.

Sleep was one of my biggest complaints to my cardiologist when I began to see him.  I just thought if I could get more sleep I'd feel so much better.  He agreed I might feel better, but he knew there was so much more to my illness than that.  He prescribed Ambien for a couple of months.  I was already on the salt tablets, a mild beta blocker, and my slow-n-steady exercise routine.

Ambien helped sometimes.  I did wake up fewer times each week, but it wasn't a cure-all.  Upon following up with the doctor, he would not renew my prescription.  He felt it wasn't curing my insomnia and it was a highly addictive medication.  I trusted him and just kept doing what I was doing in hopes of my sleep eventually improving.

Improve, it has!  I rarely have a terrible night anymore.  Maybe once every few weeks now instead of 3-5 times a week.  I have been enjoying better sleep now for several months. I call that progress!

I wish I could pinpoint one thing that was most helpful, but I can't.  I believe it is the strategic combination of salt, beta-blocker, exercise, good nutrition, and specific vitamins/anti-oxidants that have helped.

My doctor believed the insomnia was due to higher than normal adrenaline.  This is all my sleep study showed.  Between 2am and 3am that night I had several adrenal surges.  He believed this would self-regulate as my body healed.  I believe it has.  I hope it continues to improve.

I hope that if you are reading this and you have POTS or know someone who does, that it encourages you to know that it can get better.  If you suspect you may have POTS, I urge you to find a physician who can help you!


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