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I really want to sleep without sleep meds. I have had insomnia off and on for almost twenty years, since I was fifteen. When I was younger, it was usually trouble getting to sleep. As I got older, it became trouble with staying asleep. I took Ambien every night for around a year, which at first was bliss. It stopped working, though, and I spent three weeks sleeping almost not at all. Then I got Lunesta, which I have taken every night for the last year. If my options are really not sleeping or taking meds, I am definitely willing to take meds.

But if there is a possibility of a third option, I would like to take it. There are some side effects to Lunesta–nothing terrible for me, just a bitter metallic taste in my mouth and some daytime sleepiness. More importantly, it scares me to be so dependent on it, especially since I don’t always do wonderfully with getting renewals in time and since it seems to be showing some signs of losing its effectiveness on me. The possibility of more unpredictable and horrible successions of literally sleepless nights disturbs me deeply. I’m also not sure what long-term effects of taking the drug for years and years would be for me.

I’ve been thinking and talking and reading a fair amount about sleep in preparation for an attempt to taper off Lunesta. I have a long, detailed draft plan that I keep editing (bullet points give me a sense of security). It includes these sections: Light; Exercise; Learning and community; Supplements, drugs, and food; Routine; When you can’t sleep; Self-care when sleep-deprived; Physical pain management; Interventions for when feeling highly anxious or worked up; Emotional and spiritual fitness; Balance.

I haven’t actually started cutting down on Lunesta yet but plan to start at the beginning of February. I do anticipate that I will have a lot of sleeplessness, because of my long history of insomnia, what happened when Ambien stopped working for me, and reports that rebound insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom from Lunesta. That’s why self-care when sleep-deprived is one of my sections. I know I will feel horrible when I haven’t slept and I don’t think I can stop that, but it still feels a little comforting to know that I can do some things to take care of myself when I’m feeling horrible. Here is what I have come up with so far for that section.

• Remember sleep-deprivation can interfere with appetite. Take care to eat regular meals.
• Remember sleep-deprivation can make you colder—bundle up.
• Remember sleep-deprivation can make you irritable—practice patience and avoid snapping at people. Tell people you’re close to that you’re feeling grumpy so they know what’s going on.
• Remember sleep-deprivation makes complex tasks more difficult. Prioritize simple tasks when you’re at the worst. When you do complex tasks, take extra care to double and triple check your work. Ask others for help. Be gentle with yourself when you make mistakes.
• Remember sleep-deprivation makes big decisions more difficult. Postpone them if you possibly can.
• Remember sleep-deprivation can depress your immune system. Take care to wash your hands; consider taking Vitamin C.
• Remember you never feel like exercising when you’re sleep-deprived, but you’re generally still capable of it and it can help you sleep. Unless you think it would be dangerous, keep it up.
• Remember sleep-deprivation can make you more prone to diarrhea. Stay stocked up on Tucks, Calmoseptine, and Fiber. Drink lots of water and consider eating bananas.
• If you can nap, do.
• Consider doing something extra nice and soothing for yourself before you go to bed when you’re already sleep-deprived, like taking a bath or massaging your feet with lavender oil.
If you have ways you take care of yourself when you haven’t slept, feel free to post them in comments.

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