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An unwanted challenge this summer.

Living my life without being able to move or feel anything from the chest down could make me frustrated. It used to make me feel angry with my body but I went through a process of grieving for all I had lost, accepting what happened and finally adapting to my new situation.

Strangely enough, now I am more grateful for the third of my body that works more than I ever appreciated the full use of my body before my accident. I was 27 years old when I had my accident; I was fit, healthy and I had an active life. I took so much for granted- as most of us do, until things change that is.

I have always been pretty disciplined when it comes to my health; I am careful how much I eat and what I eat, I exercise most days, I make sure I get a good dose of fresh air daily as well as getting enough sleep. All this contributes to better physical and mental health.

However, this summer I have had a reminder that there has been something I have taken for granted and that is good sleep.

In the past year I have had a few bad nights, usually when I am staying away and I have been able to put it down to noise, stuffy room or a late speaking slot so I have not switched off from the buzz.

Since Mid July, I have had the most awful insomnia. Sometimes only getting one or two hours of sleep or worse..NONE! It was like I couldn't switch that 'sleep' button, lying there hour after hour.

I was unable to find a reason though. I just simply could not fall asleep and it started to make me exhausted, angry, anxious about sleep and emotional.

I read everything to try and find a solution- I cut out caffeine, no screen time before bed, tried relaxing podcasts, took over the counter medication etc. Nothing worked.

Using the advice my physio told me years ago (see my last blog) and that was to reach out for help when ever you needed it. My word I needed it! Six weeks of very little sleep seems to be resolving thankfully and in time for an amazing autumn speaking at lots of events.

I think it could be hormonal and I am now on HRT but that can take a while to work. I have a few other signs of peri menopause too and I only have one ovary so that can make this happen a little earlier. The change is hormone level can bring sleep difficulties.

I was prescribed sleeping pills from my GP - these were very helpful to get the odd decent night when I was really struggling but you can't take them for too long and they lose effectiveness anyway. I would really look forward to 'pill' night!

Then I enrolled on an insomnia CBTi course- it was brilliant. It was just online but listening to the videos, advice and developing an understanding about our sleep pattern and sleep drive was hugely beneficial. I had to stick to the strict reduced 'time in bed' and gradually extending the time seemed to be working. It was hard as I had to stay up to midnight.....I love bed and I always went by 10pm. I also had to set an alarm and wasn't allowed to have longer than my sleep window- also very difficult when you are sleep deprived and in a deep sleep- it would be far too easy to hit the snooze button several times. It has been back to needing discipline!

I saw results quickly though and I didn't feel tempted to take any more pills because I was getting some quality sleep- a bit less than I would like but it was solid and I felt soooooo good.

Covid then got me (probably not helped by the lack of sleep). I felt rough so I brought my bedtime forward to 11pm- sleeping so well. Thanks Covid, on this occasion you helped someone out! I have managed to stick with that time which feels much better.

I am not saying there won't be a set back and I will shorten my sleep window as well as the HRT maybe help. The reassurance and tools from the course also help control the anxiety lack of sleep can bring and worrying that you will struggle to get through another busy day.

Having read that 1 in 3 suffer with insomnia symptoms, I thought I would share how this awful bout of insomnia hit me and what I have done in attempt of resolving it.

I will never take sleep for granted again- I promise!!

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