Insomnia is a constant bedfellow for the Fluoroquinolone (FQ) sufferer. As a matter of fact, I have found very few FQ victims that have not suffered from insomnia, in one form or another, at least at one point in their timeline. Insomnia hits us in various forms, whether it is the total inability to sleep, light sleep where you wake up quickly and don’t really get good rest, or you fall asleep easily only to wake up way to soon. Some sufferers also report severe night terrors similar to nighttime panic attacks that occur while falling asleep or shortly thereafter. Although there is no magic bullet for the cure to insomnia brought about by FQ toxicity, there are some tips and suggestions that can help us try and cope with this unwelcome visitor in the night. This is the first in a multi-part series on Insomnia.
Our battle with insomnia is as much a psychological battle as it is damage that has been done by the fluoroquinolones. Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge and believe real damage has been done to our nervous system that results in the insomnia. I also know, as psychological creatures, we can allow this unwelcome visitor more power than it actually deserves, thereby making our battle with insomnia an even greater one.
First let’s deal with insomnia and its psychological implications. When, as FQ sufferers, we first get hit with the insomnia it can be very disturbing to our psyche. I have heard sufferers liken the insomnia experienced from FQ damage to ingesting some heavy duty stimulants. For many, even if they can fall asleep, the sleep can be so light that one FQ sufferer wrote, “I could hear a cat walking across a carpeted floor while asleep.” This is very apropos. It can be quite disturbing not wanting to sleep or even have the ability to sleep for days at a time. But this is where we must not make our first mistake; to become fearful of the inability to sleep. I do not like it, and I expect you do not like it either, but we must accept that it is part of the FQ damage and in time it will pass. So basically, flow with it and let what happens, happen. And that brings me to the second mistake we must not make; to get angry and fight against the insomnia when it happens. Again, let it flow and let what happens, happen. Do not become fearful, or angry, or upset because you can’t go to sleep. By doing so, we can make matters worse and create a condition where we train ourselves to become insomniacs. Yes, even when the FQ damage starts to clear, and the ability to sleep returns, which it will do, we can have trained ourselves to stay awake, and we don’t want that. So please, be kind to yourself and remember that this is for a season and eventually will pass.
Now there comes a time when the FQ sufferer may want to try something to help induce sleep during the rough spots. I do not advocate any particular treatment option because whether to use a sleep agent or not is an individual decision. This is a point of great controversy amongst FQ sufferers; whether to take a sleep inducer because many feel that this can hamper your recovery. Some people respond poorly to sleep medication while others have no problem whatsoever. Because of this however, some individuals have chosen to remain as drug free as possible in this realm and I can respect that. However there are some victims that have determined that their level of suffering, such as nighttime panic attacks or not being able to sleep for days requires something to help them through these rough times. As far has help goes, we have several options at our disposal and they are relaxation (cognitive) therapy, herbs, supplements, and medications. I will discuss these options briefly and at the end of the second part of this article I will list some helpful tips shared to me by other FQ sufferers. Remember to discuss any choices that you make with your trusted medical professional.
Relaxation therapy is a viable cognitive way to counter the stress associated with FQ toxicity and when practiced regularly can counter daily stress responses. This reduces the likelihood that stress hormones will be elevated at night. When practiced at bedtime, relaxation response helps turn off negative sleep thoughts, quiet the mind, and relax the body. This type of therapy elicits a brain-wave pattern similar to stage one sleep, which is the transition state between waking and sleeping. Thus, by practicing relaxation therapy at bedtime, it is easier to enter stage one sleep, then hopefully onto stage 2. Anyone can learn these techniques on their own very easily or, if they so choose can be taught and guided through relaxation therapy by a psychologist. I taught myself relaxation therapy by using The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. Now in its sixth edition, this workbook, highly regarded by therapists and their clients, and remains the go-to source for stress reduction strategies that can be easily self taught and practiced with success. Although the relaxation by itself may not cure insomnia, it has a significant positive effect on sleep for most insomniacs.
There are many vitamins and supplements that can be beneficial to make sure that you are getting a good nights rest. Although these items may not cure you insomnia, the lack of the right vitamin or mineral can exacerbate sleep problems. Calcium and magnesium are necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system. A calcium deficiency can cause restlessness and wakefulness that will prevent proper rest. A magnesium deficiency can also cause nervousness, plus many other hosts of symptoms and may be play a vital role in FQ toxicity, but that is for a later article. When calcium and magnesium are taken in the appropriate ratio they produce calming effects and on the brain and are essential for a good night sleep. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a host of neurological issues including affecting a good night’s sleep. Adequate B12 levels usually promote a calming effect on the nerves. It is important to note that some FQ sufferers have reported that B12 actually exacerbates their symptoms causing an almost paradoxical effect, so caution is in order. It is important the B12 is taken in appropriate balance with other B vitamins. The supplement Melatonin, which is actually a sleep hormone, is purported to be able induce sleep without any negative side effects. It is important to note that Melatonin has been shown to only help those that are deficient in Melatonin and many FQ sufferers have reported mixed results. The supplement 5- HTP, a form of tryptophan, has been shown to be an effective alternative for dealing with sleep problems in a safe and natural way compared to sleep medicines. 5-HTP can have interaction problems with certain antidepressant medicines since it affects the serotonin levels. Information on these supplements can be found by clicking here.
In the next article article, I will discuss herbs for insomnia.