I don’t remember sleep issues as a child. However, once I hit adolescence, I laid awake well into the wee hours of the morning every night. I thought this must be how one sleeps in the teen years. However, I found out as an adult that my sleep schedule was not normal. After many years, I was finally diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, Nocturia (needing to wake several times at night to urinate), and PTSD-induced insomnia. I also have a very reactive nose, which contributes to the problem.
Of course, not all my sleep disorders were discovered at once. In fact, it took years for my primary care doctors to really believe how little sleep I was getting. In my twenties, I was given Ambien, which didn’t help me go to sleep, It kept me feeling sleepy well into the next day. Then I was given Lunesta. It helped me go to sleep, but it didn’t help me stay asleep. We even tried Benadryl, which didn’t work. By the way, I had already set up a “go-to-bed” schedule recommended by every doctor in the universe. That includes no caffeine, a routine, etc.
In my thirties I went through a battery of bladder, intestinal, and gynecological tests, but they revealed nothing. When one doctor perceived me to be overly anxious, I went through a psychological evaluation. I was able to connect memories of being molested in childhood by an uncle, with going to bed. He always came to me at night. That is where the PTSD-induced insomnia came in. Years of therapy have been helpful, although it is something that still keeps me from falling asleep immediately. The best remedy for that has been a muscle relaxant (not habit forming) and exercise.
The Nocturia is somewhat under control after a lifetime of fighting it. I did consult a urologist, but there isn’t any drug that has been helpful to me with this. I have to count back about four hours from when I plan to go to sleep, and drink nothing. It may also be a remnant of my bedtime molestation.
In my forties, I started to get very sleepy early in the evening. My doctor tested me for everything by blood and urine, and then sent me to a sleep study clinic. There, they found I was stopping my breathing about every two minutes or so. I was fitted with a sleep apnea apparatus (C-Pap) and further tested. These masks (which keep your airways open) have been life savers for many people. I find it only partially helpful, but it is better than nothing.
In my fifties, I finally was diagnosed by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist with vaso-motor-rhinitis. My only real allergen is dust. And dust is everywhere. But the vaso-thing means that I have very sensitive nasal and sinus passages. So whenever any kind of irritant is in the air, I will cough, sneeze, or at the very least, produce post-nasal drip. It’s difficult to breathe and sleep peacefully with partially obstructed breathing passages. I use a variety of over-the-counter items (especially a saline nasal spray), along with sleeping with the head of my bed raised.
It’s been quite a puzzle over the years, but my persistence has finally paid off with proper diagnosis and remedies that work for me. Sometimes, the simplest are the best.