In Eastern philosophies, illness is “dis-ease” meaning the mind, body, and spirit are not at ease. This gives rise to inflammation in all of these areas, not just in the body. Recognizing that this is the foundation to health and healing is important.
Sleep and Relaxation are often overlooked even though they are a crucial part of overall health and happiness, a healthy functioning immune system, and your body’s ability to heal. Many Lyme patients endure extreme stress and have difficulty sleeping. Even when they are able to sleep, it is not a deep restful sleep. It is incredibly important to address this and find a way that works for you to ensure you are getting adequate quality sleep.
Studies show that lack of sleep, and unrestful or disturbed sleep weakens the immune system, negatively affects metabolic and cellular functions, and causes diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In some extreme cases death can occur.
Continual sleep deprivation can cause the brain to lose normal function and can cause behavioral problems, psychological problems, and hallucinations. If you go without sleep for extended periods of time, you can even reach a state of temporary insanity.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body which plays a role in maintaining your biological clock. It tells you when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Your body needs darkness to produce Melatonin. If you have bright lights while you sleep or work night shift, it is strenuous on your body and difficult to produce adequate levels of Melatonin which can cause problems over time. Be sure to give yourself darkness to sleep.
On the other side of the coin, if you live in a dark environment, you may produce too much Melatonin which is also not good for you. Everyone’s body is different, and requires a different amount of sleep. The older you get, the less Melatonin you produce. Adequate and consistent Melatonin levels are crucial for overall health. For more information on Melatonin and Sleep go to the Sleep Foundation.
Lyme patients tend to have difficulties due to several symptoms including twitching, tremors, restless leg syndrome, pain, headaches, and extreme fatigue, among others. Another reason sleep becomes difficult is the amount of stress that patients are under from dealing with the disease; often times from financial hardship and lack of support.
It is difficult to treat sleep problems without some sort of intervention. Many end up taking sleeping pills prescribed by their doctors. For me, this was never an option. I just did not want to deal with the possibility of addiction, needing another pill to wake up in the morning, or any of the numerous side effects from these pills. So, I had to come up with some different ideas.
I found that sleep and stress go hand in hand. Stress can cause sleep difficulties, which then causes more stress, and then sleep becomes more difficult. Once this vicious cycle of no sleep/more stress begins it is perpetuating and difficult to get under control. It takes some patience and creativity, but it is possible to accomplish without prescription medication.
Please be sure to read the Note on Medications for Pain and Sleep Management, Anxiety, and Depression at the end of the Therapeutic Support page for dangers and precautions.
There are several tools you can use to help with relaxation, which in turn will help with sleep:
Taking in slow even breaths relaxes the body, quiets the mind, and relieves stress. There are many techniques for this, so find one that suits you best. A simple easy way is to inhale on a 10 count filling the lungs as much as possible, hold for 3, and exhale on a 10 count until no breath is left. Repeat this at least 3 times.
Quiet the Gibberish in Your Mind
Use Yoga, Meditation, or whatever tool suits you. You can sit by a stream, look out a window at a view, close your eyes and imagine the ocean, draw, play an instrument, whatever works for you. The idea is whenever you hear your internal dialogue begin, quiet it.
Sit in silence and be in the present moment. It is good to remind yourself of this throughout the day. If you are in the past or in the future with your thoughts, you are not in the present. I used to do this every time I walked through a doorway just to get myself used to coming back to the present. Find a way to quiet your mind.
If you are having serious pain you can take over the counter pain medication like Advil, Tylenol, or Aleve. I would avoid prescription pain meds unless there is no other option because they are addictive, have many negative side effects, and deplete the immune system. Essentially, they treat the symptom, not the problem.
Depending on what type and how bad your pain is you can try Massage, Acupuncture, Yoga (or stretching) or hot Epsom salt baths. Sometimes a combination of these works well. If your pain is mainly muscle tension, it is possible it is derived from stress and lack of sleep. Deal with those issues, and it should subside. If it is mainly due to the Herxheimer reaction, detox and plenty of water is the key.
Stress and Anger Management
There are 101 tools available for this. You will have to find one that suits your own individual needs. Learn to recognize when you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, or angry, and stop it in its tracks. Do not dwell on it, hold onto it, judge it, or perpetuate it. Learn to let it go. See it for what it is, allow it to be there, and let it go.
Also, if you are anything like me and tend to have obsessive thinking patterns….put a rubber band around your wrist. When you start to notice the thinking patterns (anger, sadness, being overwhelmed, anxiety, panic, whatever is your pattern) snap the rubber band. This trains your brain to associate pain with obsessive thinking. After years of meditation, and a million and one tools I’ve tried….this one works!
I have studied aromatherapy for years and have had great success with this. 100% pure, genuine, unaltered Lavender Essential Oil is gentle and effective for sleep and relaxation. It also has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is even safe for infants and children (do not use on pets!). You can put a couple of drops on a cotton ball and put it in your pillow case. You can put a few drops in your bath. If you have an aromatherapy diffusor, you can use this method to fill the air.
Essential Oils effectively enter through the skin and the olfactory nerves directly into the blood stream and are very potent. You do not need much. Please note that most Essential Oils must be diluted before use as they are highly concentrated. DO NOT use them unless you are aware of how to handle them properly. Please see more details and precautions on the Essential Oils page.
This is probably the single most effective tool I have found to help fall asleep, get into a deep sleep, and stay asleep. A friend recommended this and I am forever grateful. I noticed the difference immediately, and I have used it every night since. I also use it just to relax or for quiet time. I’m sure there are several versions of this, but I would only recommend the Brookstone Sound Therapy System, solely because it was scientifically designed with specific sleep and relaxation sound waves in mind.
It has several settings using sounds to activate three brainwaves: DELTA waves (.5-3.5 Hz) for deep dreamless sleep which corresponds with physical rejuvenation and healing; THETA waves (3.5-7.0 Hz) for natural revitalizing, creativity in a non-sleep state, and REM sleep which corresponds with emotional healing; and ALPHA waves (7.0-13.0 Hz) for deep relaxation in an alert state (as in meditation). I cannot say enough good things about this. The only downside is the light on it is a little bright. Save the cardboard from the package and place it in front of it when you sleep or face it against a wall, problem solved.
If all else fails, there is the option of taking Melatonin Supplements. I have mixed feelings about this one, but feel it is a good short term choice in liea uf prescription sleep meds. There is a time release version that works really well.
If you do choose to take supplements, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first, and take the synthetic kind. There are some natural ones made from animals, but these often contain viruses, parasites, and bacteria, and the last thing you need is more critters that you have to kill.
Many of the side effects create symptoms that could be Lyme symptoms, so it would be hard to judge whether it was from the pill, or from Lyme. This can effect proper monitoring of treatment progress. You could also miss negative or dangerous side effects from the pill. Some people say Melatonin supplements help boost the immune system and have anti-oxidant properties, but testing has not confirmed this yet.
It is not recommended to use for more than a short period of time. It is still fairly new, and was recently introduced in the 1990s. I also wonder if it could cause the body to stop producing its own Melatonin effectively, creating an addiction and necessity for it.
I would only use it in desperation, and on rare occasion, if I was unable to sleep for a couple of days. And I only use it sparingly. It is a last resort for me, although I would choose that over prescription sleep medication. Please be sure to discuss this option with your doctor before considering it.
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.