Monthly Dose


Sleep better with these recommendations from across Inspire

March is Sleep Awareness Month, and with good reason. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, particularly for people living with an autoimmune condition or other illness. Sleep is vital for the regulation of hormones, mood, and immune response. There is also evidence that suggests sleep loss can cause both inflammation and increased infection.

Unfortunately, the stress or symptoms of many health conditions can often interrupt sleep. One member explains their struggle in detail: 

“I need help! The most important thing to me when it comes to symptom control, functioning level, etc. is getting enough quality sleep. That’s been a really big issue for the last couple weeks though. At this point I’m out of things I know to try and I’m barely functioning due to sleep deprivation. I’m waking up in cold sweats, with a headache, hot, nauseous or actually feeling that I’m going to vomit as soon as I wake up, etc. I’ve tried sleeping on the couch, in my bed, in the recliner; with the AC on high and on low, sleeping in lots and little clothes, etc. I mentioned this to my doctor last week when I saw her for something else but she really doesn’t want to do much else since I’m already on Remeron and Flexeril nightly along with using Benadryl, Demerol, and Ativan for symptom control. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.” 

So how do our members improve their sleep? Across Inspire, people share their resources, frustrations, and tips.

Learn about the side effects of your medications

Many medications can impact sleep. If possible, talk to your doctor about the side effects of any medications you are taking. See if there may be a link between your sleepless nights and the type or timing of your medication. 

“Maybe try going off the benadryl? I tried benadryl about a week ago and had the same symptoms you are describing. I was taking it to try and sleep. It made me feel really depressed, awake but exhausted, and when I did sleep I had the worst night sweats. I would wake up with the sheets drenched, burning up but freezing in the extremities. I would have to get up and change clothes and the sheets.” Go to post

“Avoid taking the medications that increase your kidney’s excretion in the evening. Anything that acts as a diuretic should be taken earlier during the day. If you are over 50, probably earlier in the day than a younger person. Your doctor may tell you that your meds work better earlier. You need to ask more questions, since there are rarely meds that truly need to be taken at bedtime. Ask them how tanking your sleep or getting up and running in the dark to the potty affects your health. They aren’t seeing the forest. They see the trees of their speciality. As a provider, I know we all do that at times. It is wrong. We should do better for our patients.” Go to post

“The prednisone makes it hard for me to sleep solid every night. It’s hard going to sleep or staying asleep. And I like to get about 9 hrs which rarely happens.” Go to post

Consider homeopathic solutions

Some Inspire members are able to find success through homeopathic solutions like tea, acupuncture, melatonin, and more. 

“Melatonin worked for me. Acupuncture also helped me. Chamomile tea or Sleepy Time Tea can be helpful.” Go to post

“…Recently I have been having a drink of cherry juice which is supposed to help – I think it probably does because if I forget I have more trouble getting back to sleep when I wake at 4 am (which I often do, unfortunately).” Go to post

Optimize your schedule for sleep

Eating and exercise routines can often impact sleep for better or worse. Even viewing blue light can cause unwanted wakefulness later in the day. If you find you are more awake after exercise, or you sleep better after a light meal, you can experiment with different schedules that work best for you.

“Exercise earlier in the day if you are well enough to do it as this makes you more tired and likely to drop off more easily – I like to swim or to walk, and definitely sleep better if I do.” Go to post

“One ‘non-medical’ approach which I believe is very effective, and I do use it, is keeping guard over the hour before going to bed. We would do well to listen to relaxing music, or read a quiet, non-violent book. The aim being to quiet the body and mind.” Go to post

“Think about what you are eating. Any food or drink that is a known bladder irritant should be avoided in the later part of the day. This includes carbonated drinks, citrus, tomato products, spices, and artificial sweeteners. Caffeine and alcohol are always bladder irritants as well as urine producers. This can include some health teas as well. Be careful. You may have to stop coffee at 9 am to see a result if you are exceptionally sensitive.” Go to post

“I had to come to a place where I accepted that I wouldn’t get that 8 hours straight. Then I talked to one of the Psychology PhD students I work with (I’m a Christian campus minister now) who mentioned different ways of looking at sleep. I fit more of a biphasic sleep pattern like cultures that have a siesta or afternoon nap. I sleep 5-6 hours at night, then take a nap in the afternoon. It works pretty well for me.” Go to post

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As one Inspire member put it: “As far as sleep, [I take] 1.5 mg of a sleep med. It’s ok to need help with cancer and symptoms. It’s a personal choice.” If you are dealing with debilitating pain or other symptoms that disrupt your sleep, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what solutions might be available for you. 

To share sleep practices that work for you—or to get specific suggestions from folks who share your health condition—join the conversation on Inspire.

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Member comments have been lightly edited for length and clarity. This content is for general informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of any organization or individual. The content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

“You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.”

– Mandy Hale