SaffronRose (saffronrose) wrote,

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How I dealt with my insomnia and lived to tell the tale

Below is the letter I sent to the folks at PopCap Games, who make, among others, the very popular games Bejeweled and Bookworm, for many platforms. I had made a great discovery about taming my insomnia (YMMV), and they were part of the solution. Many of you know I have been insomnia my entire life.

The VP of PR wrote to me, suggesting I might be useful in a study of theirs. On Bejeweled3, they worked actively to make what had been the Endless version of Bejeweled2, now the Zen mode, into something that players could use to achieve stress-reduction and relaxation. Don't know how it would work for getting to sleep.

PopCap's games are not clearly gender-specific, although there may be a dearth of female characters in games where the characters have genders. I suppose the bookworm in the iPhone version might be male--the bowtie being the only indicator, but Bejeweled has no characters. They do seem to be working to be more inclusive of the neurologically atypical.


I love the new features on Bejeweled3 that assist with relaxation, and even sleep. I haven't bought the game or played for free yet, because I need it on my iPhone to use it for sleep aid. I don't sleep with my computer in the same room.

I use Bejeweled (and Bookworm) on my iPhone exclusively these days. I call them my patience-keepers: if I have my phone charged, I can play one of the games until whoever I'm waiting for (and sometimes it's the light to change) is ready to help me.

However, I am a lifelong insomniac, for whom the main family of sleep meds, the benzodiazepienes, do anything BUT help me sleep. No folk cure or OTC med has ever worked--except when I need it not to work. I gave up trying artificial means to get to sleep--level of exercise, relaxation exercises, diet, blood sugar stats, how physically tired I was, how sleepy i was. If my brain didn't want me to sleep, I didn't sleep.

I came to realize that I needed to turn my active brain off, so that words and thinky-thoughts were not in the picture, keeping my brain from shutting down. So I tried reproducing instrumental music in my mind--that worked sometimes, but I was often to distracted to focus.

At one point I was on a medication that had a strong sedative effect, and I got great *restful* sleep then, until the med stopped doing what it was meant to do. Labor Day weekend of 2001 was the first time I'd had restful sleep in over 25 years.

While I was using Twitter, I found a blog/forum called InsomniaLand. The man who runs the blog wanted to gather insomniacs together to share experiences, possible cures/aids, and he would keep us up on the latest articles and research on our problem. Now if there were such a thing for *migraines*, I know dozens of friends who would be there faster than I could tell them about it.

I knew I had to do something non-verbal, but until two months ago, I hadn't found anything that worked, and worked *consistently*. My bedside lamp wasn't working, and I hadn't been able to get it fixed for about a month. This meant no reading a book before sleep. I recharge my phone by my bed each night, because it is also my alarm clock for getting my son up & off to school.

I'd get into bed late, my husband already asleep, get snuggled down in my comforter, with or without a dog up against me. I'd play Bejeweled2 until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and I was almost dropping the phone.

Night after night I did this and I realized that I was falling asleep after 5-15 minutes, instead of nearly an hour. Every night. If I was sitting up, no sleepy; lying down, bundled up, ready for sleep on my side, snooze. Consistently. If I woke up and didn't drop back immediately, as often happens, I play Bejeweled2 a while and drop off.

It's not a drug. It doesn't engage my "active brain". I can't put into words at all easily what is happening as I play the game--same as me trying to describe or reproduce music. I just don't have the vocabulary for music, or read it, or play by ear, or anything of that nature. Watching the pretty colors line up is not a verbal activity.

I can now get to sleep easily enough, thanks to Bejeweled2. This is the first breakthrough I've had since that med I was on between 2001 and 2003, and I can't tell you how grateful I am. I still need to work on quality of sleep, but I have a hunch that Bejeweled3 is going to influence that change.

I've told the Insomnialand community, as well as my endocrinologist, about what has changed for me.

Please thank the entire development and testing team for me. I never thought I was going to be able to get to sleep quickly, consistently, ever.
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