Chasing The Elusive Sleep

Chasing The Elusive Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a dream in itself at the best of times. So many things can make it hard to sleep, from outside noise and stressful thoughts to uncomfortable bedding or a snoring partner. But when you’re ill, these difficulties can be magnified and getting that much needed rest may seem impossible. Here are some tips that might help you settle down.

Adjusting medicines

Some medications, such as the steroid prednisone, are known to be stimulating and they cause insomnia. Other medicines make it hard for people to stay asleep because of what they do to your body. For example, Lasix – a “water pill” – makes you urinate frequently. If you take it later in the day, you may find yourself waking up at night to go to the bathroom. The same thing can happen with laxatives. For many people laxatives work 8 or 12 hours after they’ve taken them. If you take a laxative in the morning, you could find yourself getting up at night as the laxative begins to take effect. So, if you take medications and you’re finding it hard to sleep, speak to your pharmacist to see if the medicines could be part of your problem. If so, ask about adjusting the times you take them.


Aches and pains always seem worse at night than during the day. As we try to relax and rest, our mind has fewer things to think about, so it’s easier to notice the pain that we may have ignored during the day. If you are already taking analgesics (pain medicine), ask your pharmacist if you are taking them at the best times for optimum pain relief at night. If you don’t have any pain relievers, ask your doctor what would be best for you to get some sleep.

Sometimes pain at night can be eased somewhat if you change your sleeping position. For example, if you have lower back pain and you sleep on your side, try placing a pillow between your knees so your hips are more even and your “upper” leg isn’t twisting your lower back. If your pain is in your mid or upper back, or shoulders, try loosely holding a pillow to your chest while you are on your side, with your “upper” arm resting on the pillow. This keeps your arm from pulling down.

New pillows can also reduce neck and upper back pain. Many mattress stores sell pillows, and you can lie on a bed to try various types until you find the one that gives your neck the support you need.

Light and noise

Sensitivity to light and sound can be made worse when you’re not well. If you can’t make your room as dark as you need it, a sleep mask may help. And white noise machines or ear plugs can help minimize the disruptive sound. While they don’t block all noise, it may be just enough to help you doze off.

Nausea and heartburn

Like pain, nausea and heartburn can seem worse at night. If you have tried medication and it doesn’t seem to help, sometimes sleeping with your head elevated does. While the easiest way to do that may be to have a few more pillows under your head, that might not be too comfortable. Instead, try elevating your mattress at the head or the head of the bed itself. You could either put something underneath the head of the mattress so it tilts up a bit, or put blocks under the bed’s legs at the head, so the whole bed is tilted a bit.

Don’t give up

There are many other ways to try to encourage sleep to come – and stay. Some people find it helpful to fall asleep to meditation recordings, while others can’t have any electronics at night, to transition the body and mind to rest. It’s important to to try different things to see what may work for you and lead to many a good night’s sleep.