Endometriosis, Anxiety, and Insomnia
With endometriosis, not a day goes by that I feel exhausted. Every day, I am battling a strong desire to return to the comforting space under my duvet, with my warm water bottle, and some soft jammies. Yet, that safe spot, is also the battleground for my fight battle with insomnia. And, interestingly, I am not alone. Many endometriosis patients suffer from sleep disruptions.
Sometimes, it is full-blown insomnia, meaning I lie awake for hours or the entire night. Others, I struggle immensely to fall asleep. Hormonal changes are linked to sleep disruptions.1 Some night, they result in fluctuations in my body temperature which tend to make me restless. Yet, on most nights, what keeps me from getting some shut-eye is anxiety, a hormonal and emotional issue.
I have tried almost everything: meditating apps, podcasts, lavender oil, even getting up and doing the laundry. Yet, the cyclical thoughts persist, feeding my anxiety. Turns out, when you have endometriosis, all of this is actually pretty normal.
What is this pain?
The thoughts in my brain can sometimes travel at warp speed, especially when I feel any physical change, however small. Am I getting my period? Am I ovulating? Is it my bladder, acting up again? Easily, I become the human version of Google search, and panic. It is hard to find a quiet place, when you have an illness that manifests in different symptoms, all the time. It doesn’t matter that I tell myself that it is probably nothing, or that there is little to be done unless a see a doctor. Any feeling in my body, has the ability to kick in my anxiety and, almost literally, hold my eyes open.
Why am I bloated?
My bloated stomach can be another cause of restlessness. Not just because it is uncomfortable, but because my mind will naturally go through every meal, analyzing each ingredient, trying to find the culprit. Sometimes there are no clear triggers that could have started the discomfort. My mind will keep me awake, while I consider what to eat the following day so my belly stops hurting.
Managing sleep disruptions
Because my sleep disruption is a daily thing, I have developed a few ways to manage it overtime
Avoiding social media at all costs an hour before going to bed
The light from any screen can overstimulate our senses without us even noticing.2 Which is why, even though I keep my phone near my bed (it’s my alarm clock, a bad habit I must shift), I leave it on “Don't Disturb” and far out of easy reach.
Eating light evening meals
I’ve started eating my biggest meal in the middle of the day, rather than late at night. While this can’t always be done - for example, when I socialize and dine out - it has changed my life. I now go to bed most nights without feeling bloated. If my stomach is quiet, chances are I fall asleep pretty fast.
Writing down my to do list
Whether it’s medical appointments, reminders to renew my medication prescription, or just boring chores I need to do, if it is written down, it's out of my brain. And I truly mean writing it down on paper, which is a great excuse if like me you’re a stationary fiend. Any electronic version of a calendar or a diary, is another reason to look at my phone, and another point for insomnia.
These tips won’t work on everyone. Sometimes they don’t even work on me, especially if I am suffering from a tough endometriosis flare-up. But It helps me minimize the nights I spend wide awake, and at this point, I need all the sleep I can get.
Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?