Woman stuff and sleep hacking

“When we last met our intrepid explorer, she was having problems getting a good night’s sleep…” And that hasn’t changed, but I’m slowly starting to track down what’s going on.

I saw the new gynecologist and I like her very much. She explains things very well and even draws diagrams. 🙂 During my initial visit she listened to my issues and history, performed an exam, and then ordered some blood work so we could understand my current hormone levels. She also gave me some information about supplements I could try to see if they help my sleep.

The supplements are all ones I’ve heard of or tried before: Vitamin D, fish oil, magnesium, valerian, and melatonin. I’ve already been upping my magnesium over the past several months, but her recommendation was to take 500 mg in total and I wasn’t taking that much. So I added more magnesium to my daily supplements (which also already included 5,000 units of Vitamin D and fish oil). I’ve tried melatonin in the past as a supplement to help with jet lag and never found that it had any effect on me, so I’m putting that at the bottom of my experiment list. I may try valerian. Doctor advised me to take that an hour before bedtime to get the full effect.

A week later I was back in her office to talk about the blood test results. And here’s where it gets interesting. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), estrogen, and progesterone were all tested. These are the hormones that work in tandem to move a woman through ovulation and menstruation. My estrogen and progesterone levels were nearly non-existent, which means that I’m now technically menopausal. My FSH, however, is super high, which worries the doc a bit since I haven’t gotten to that level in just a short period of time. Also, I’m still bleeding on a semi-regular basis, and with such a low estrogen and progesterone level that shouldn’t be happening at all.

I had an ultrasound a couple of days ago and am returning to the doctor next week to discuss the results. The ultrasound could lead to even more procedures and tests which are likely to be unpleasant. One of the potential options we discussed was an endometrial biopsy, and since I just had one last fall I know what that is like. (I agree with my friend who had the same procedure and said the doctor needs to give way better drugs than just advising one to take ibuprofen first!) This doctor also mentioned polyps as a potential issue, and noted that those would have to be removed, although she didn’t get into details about how that would be done.

Doctor said that since my estrogen is nearly non-existent, it’s no surprise I’m having hot flashes. The ones that happen during the day aren’t too disruptive to me, but the night-time ones have been waking me up and this is what led me to the doctor in the first place. Until we can figure out what’s going on, I can’t start any hormone replacements so I’ve been working on ways to increase the amount of restful sleep I get.

For now I’m left trying different things to increase my “good sleep.” I’m a bit skeptical about the recommended “sleep enhancing” supplements of valerian and melatonin. Beside, I don’t have a problem falling asleep, my problem is disruptions that prevent me from entering and maintaining a deep, restful sleep. Just before I saw doctor I got a Fitbit that I’m also wearing at night to track my sleep habits. The Fitbit is showing just what I described: I fall asleep quickly, but I’m experiencing many periods of “restless” sleep and short periods of being awake. I suspect some of the “restless” sleep the Fitbit is recording is me moving around at night, which is normal for me; I’ve rarely been a sleeper who maintains the same position throughout the night. But since I’m now clearly recalling periods of waking up hot and trying to remedy that situation, that’s a very different type of restlessness for me.

I’m getting better at managing these disruptions. I keep the remote control for the fan very close to my bed so it’s easy to grab without having to heave myself up first. I know where the buttons are to turn the fan on, increase the blower, and change the oscillation pattern so I waste little cognition on it. In other words, the pattern has become more “normal” for me: throw off covers, turn on fan, sink back into sleep. Waken sometime later feeling cold and reverse process. Repeat.

I’m experimenting with going to bed earlier in order to increase my opportunity to cumulatively get “enough” sleep. Last night I was in bed at 8 PM so I could squeeze in about 30 minutes of reading and then be asleep by 8:30. I had to be up at 6 AM this morning and I thought that if I was in bed for 9.5 hours, it was more likely I would get 8 hours total of sleep. It wasn’t even dark when I went to bed last night, which feels very odd to me. Sadly, if I have to keep this up I may also have to curtail or completely give up some of the fun activities I do at night. On Wednesdays I have to be up at 5 AM, which means that going to knitting group at 6:30 PM on Tuesday nights just can’t happen if I need to be in bed at 7 PM. On Thursdays I usually hike from 6 to 8 PM with a group, but trying to squeeze in dinner and be in bed before 9 PM will be very hard so I may have to skip the hiking group, too. Last night I gave up the weekly bike ride I had just started adding to my routine with another group.

Despite my increased bed time, I’m still not feeling very rested today, either. But it’s only been one night so I don’t think I can form an opinion of the approach yet. I’m hopeful that I’ll find out something at my next doctor visit that leads me to get better sleep, too.

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6 thoughts on “Woman stuff and sleep hacking

  1. Hope your sleep has improved. I was at that point a few years ago–similar #s, similar issues. A bio-identical E-patch worked wonders to fix it all (Minivelle was the brand). I used it for about 3, and eventually stopped with no after-effects.

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  2. Hmmm… The manifestations are pretty classical menopausal frolics, about which about the best you can do is to keep reminding yourself that “this, too, shall pass.”

    But…If i were you I’d sure want to know about the follicle-stimulating thing. Have you been tested for BRCA? The new tests are not as pricey as they were, and…uhm…it might be worth a peek.

    On less dire topics: if you can possibly cling to the exercise, hang on with all your strength. Exercise helps, short- and long-term.

    As for immediate comfort…my strategies went along these lines:

    Always have a squirt bottle full of nice, clean, clear water right at hand. One in the bedroom. One where you watch TV. One where you play with the computer. WhereEVER. Set it on the finest spray. At the first sign of a Flash, grab the squirt bottle and spray yourself straight in the face!

    Set on “fine,” it will not disrupt your makeup but it will help a lot to cool you down. And it’s good for what remains of your complexion.

    Make the bed in layers: a sheet, a very lightweight blanket, and (on top) a light down comforter. At bed-time, cover up with as many of these as needed to keep warm. A Flash will quite naturally awaken you sometime along the line. Immediately push the comforter and the blanket down to the bottom of the bed. Throw off the sheet, if necessary. Within about three minutes, you’ll feel uncomfortably cold. Now pull the sheet and maybe the blanket back up. This usually works…but by the time you’ve performed these calisthenics, the Flash has passed, and if it hasn’t, the lighter coverings will probably provide enough comfort to get back to sleep.

    Then as you mention: Fans. Plenty of fans. Two or three blowing on you will not do any harm.

    BTW, when you reach un certain âge you no longer need 8 hours of sleep. Seven is about ideal; six won’t kill you. Try not to obsess about the actual number of hours. It’s not how long you sleep. It’s how you feel the next day.

    Plain & Simple Press is Funny about Money. 😉

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  3. It’s possible that if you’re waking up all the time, you’re not getting restorative REM sleep – what the body needs to not feel tired. Going to bed earlier might not help if you keep waking up. I hope you will be able to talk further with the doc about some sort of bio identicals.

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  4. Pingback: More medical fun | a windycitygal's Weblog

  5. Pingback: Do over – Windycitygal

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