Friday, February 26, 2010

Sickle Cell and Insomnia

Many sickle cell warriors have insomnia. I haven't been able to figure out the biophysical reasons around this, but I'm actively searching. The only hypothesis I have is that insomnia is somehow due to the pain meds we take. Perhaps our bodies become attuned to drowsiness only with opiates and as a result we can't fall asleep without sleep aids.

I'm truly nocturnal (as you can see my blog postings are usually between 1 and 4 am). I have been a night owl as far back as I can remember. Going to bed early for me is hitting the sack at 2am. I think better at night, and I honestly believe that there is truly nothing more soothing than having a nice, quiet house all to yourself:)

However, I know that those of you that work regular jobs find it difficult to be alert and functioning after staying up til 4am in the morning. I know that many toss and turn for hours, while others have to take Ambien, Benadryl or some other sleep aid.

The most effective thing that works to put me to sleep after all my other routines have failed is a dose of Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone, produced by the body when you are lying at rest in a darkened room. Melatonin helps to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, promote sleepiness and lengthen the time you are asleep.

The first time I took it, I had 3mg, which was way too much for me!! It had me feeling sleepy even when I was awake at work..ugh! I gradually modified my dose, and now I take 1mg about 30 minutes before I want to sleep. I do not use this every night, just on those nights when I'm having trouble falling asleep, or have to force myself to sleep because I have an early meeting in the AM.

Melatonin can be gotten from your natural supplement store, local pharmacist or grocery store. Be careful with the dose you select: it comes in 1mg, 3mg and 5mg. The body naturally secretes between 0.1-0.5mg, so some experts have argued that the pharmaceutical dosing is too much. But you also have to take into account that not all of the Melatonin will be absorbed in your body (since stomach acids tend to neutralize a large % of ingested medications).

In addition, research has shown the the amount of Melatonin secreted by the body decreases gradually as we age. This is why older people sometimes sleep less than others.

If you are prone to depression, Melatonin is not recommended for you. Also, because we do have sickle cell, one should be careful since some research suggests that Melatonin leads to blood clots.

On the plus side, Melatonin helps to establish a normal sleep/wake cycle, sync your body's biorhythms and circadian rhythm, is an antioxidant, and helps with drug withdrawal.

So if you have tried everything else to help your insomnia and nothing has worked, or if you do not want to tack on another hardcore drug into your already medicated regimen, I would suggest giving Melatonin a try.

If anyone can explain why Sickle Cell warriors are insomniacs, please leave a comment/send me a message. I would love to understand this. Thank you.


Eduardo from Brasil said...

Hi Vixen, how are you. I was traveling around the world, due to my work, and lost contact with Lamonte. Do you have any news about Nicosan and Xechem? Was Lamonte succesfull in its quest of reinventing the company to get Nicosan back on track ? Please send e-mail to
Thanks and Regards !!

Becky said...

My 3 year old daughter has been an insomniac ever since she was a tiny infant. We have chalked it up to being a preemie, or just being her energetic nature, but it is interesting to hear that this could be related to her SCD...a similar revelation, perhaps, to the post you had made regarding pica. As always, thanks for the information! Wish I knew the answer to "why" because our darling daughter is regularly up until the wee hours of the morning!!!

Stubborn Diva said...

OMG! I just chucked it up to my personality. Good to know.

Nydia said...

I agree with this post so much. Its definitely the same for me. I'm naturally a night owl, and often I tend to have pain more often at night then in the day. If I don't take something its very hard for me to go to sleep.