The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #3: Legit Treatments vs. The Placebo Effect

by Gregory
natural ways to improve sleep

In Insomnia Chronicles #3, I would like to discuss the slippery slope of dependence that may occur to those with addictive tendencies.  {It is suggested that you read the first two installments of the Insomnia Chronicles (#1: The Origin) (#2 To Drug or Not To Drug).}

Desperation Leads to Dependence

When you are struggling to get even 2-3 hours of sleep nightly you are desperate for any and all alleged remedies that you may read about online or in the social media community.  CBD Oil, Melatonin, Weighted Blankets, Acupuncture, Magnesium, Wet Socks, Lunesta, et al are recommended to you by a variety of well-intentioned people  They think “If it worked for me, it might work for you.”  That isn’t specious thinking, but we are all uniquely different and one solution does not exist for all.  Especially if it is a physiological reason like apnea.  But like the saying “Hope Springs Eternal” we will always be looking for a quick fix especially when it is a debilitating, human-survival issue like sleep.

In my first insomnia spell (and in fact the second) I was very reluctant to try anything pharmaceutical, even OTC remedies like Benadryl or Melatonin.  I did in fact try Benadryl one night and I did sleep a tad better (3 hours instead of 2), but two notions entered my neurotic mind. 1. I was drowsier the following day than had I slept 2 hours. 2. I could become psychologically-dependent on Benadryl.

The second notion is relatable to anyone who deals with control issues and neuroses.  As I mentioned in my Confessions of an Obese Child episode entitled “How Growing Up Obese Sabotaged All My Relationships,” I need to maintain control in other aspects of my life that I couldn’t control with my eating.  So, for example, my house needs to be tidy and I must stay completely away from alcohol and/or drugs because, in my head, I’m two drinks away from becoming an alcoholic.

With the Benadryl, I realized at that moment that I had to make a decision.  If I took the Benadryl another night and slept even a little better, I would begin to think that I could only get a modicum of sleep with Benadryl.  I would thus become psychologically dependent on it.  My mind would ponder “If I don’t take Benadryl tonight, I won’t be able to sleep.” Therefore, I would continue taking Benadryl forever.  Though Benadryl might seem pretty innocuous, it does have adverse effects if taken for an extended amount of time.  At that time, I thought “I would rather work through this insomnia, then possibly get hooked on it.

“Does it work?” or “Do I want to believe it works?”

Flash forward to today.  In its current iteration, the insomnia has gone on for 18 months…and really awful for the last 6 weeks.  As I mentioned in “To Drug or Not To Drug,” I don’t want to take prescription drugs because not only would I possibly develop a psychological dependence to it, I would develop a physiologic one!  The known side-effects of the Benzos and other sleep aids is dependence and tolerance (needing to take more to get the same effect).  So “No Thank You” to the prescription drugs.

But here is the thing, the natural remedies, in my mind, are in the same ballpark.  I’ve been taking Magnesium supplements for years.  Now I have been taking CBD Oil prescribed by my naturopath.  I’ve noticed that I have slept better since taking it (one week), but that is also corresponding with the 6 people I normally live with not being in the house.  Am I sleeping better because of the CBD, or because I have the house to myself?  I guess I”ll find out when they return.

Going back to the alternative treatments, if I try acupuncture, night walks, blue-light blocking glasses, CBD oil, meditation and all the other things and if they work, then I’m in a quandary.  I want to sleep better, but I don’t want to develop a psychologic dependence on them.  I don’t want to reach a point where I feel like I will only sleep well if I only take ___________.  When you get to that point, it becomes a mental prison…a crutch…an addiction.  At least in my neurotic mind.

The other issue is that when I try these natural remedies and I sleep better, how do I know if it was because of that remedy or because of another factor?  Maybe I was really exhausted that night.  Maybe my cortisol level was lower.  But in my mind I think it was a certain remedy that I took that night.  Dependence ensues!

Or in my mind maybe it is just the placebo effect.  Maybe weighted blankets might not make you sleep better, but if in my mind it worked, then I’m sold and I’m in!  “I need to use weighted blankets forever!  But I don’t want to rely on anything forever!”

It is a tricky place my neurotic mind.  I know it might sound weird to you, but this is the mind of a neurotic.  In short, I want to get help with my insomnia, but not at the risk of becoming psychologically or physiologically dependent.  Because then, I have to struggle with two monsters!

Can you relate to this Insomnia Chronicle #3?  If so, I would love to hear from you below.

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