I’m halfway through my 4th week on Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN). It’s far too early to say with any authority whether or not it’s doing any good. And even if it *were*, ‘doing any good’ would mean an absence of symptoms, so measuring its efficacy will be difficult. Having said that, 4 weeks IS long enough to have some things to say about how taking it is affecting my sleep patterns.
Because LDN blocks the serotonin receptors, and because it’s taken at night when one’s serotonin production is highest, it has vastly changed my experience of sleep. (UPDATE: In light of comments I have received below, please note… this blog is not intended to be a source of medical information, and I have no evidence as to the veracity of the preceding statement. It’s what my Dr. told me, and I had no reason to disbelieve him. Please do not use this blog for medical advice. My writings here are primarily to share my experiences.)
A typical LDN regimen will start with extremely low dosages, in my case, 1.5 mg. Under my ND’s advice, I was then to bump up another 1.5 mg each week until reaching a max dosage of 4.5 mg.
I had read, and also been warned by my ND, that when starting the regimen or increasing one’s LDN dosage, sleeplessness could occur and that it typically lasts 2-3 days, sometimes up to a week. This definitely happened. The first week, I got very little sleep and woke up frequently during the night. By the end of the first week though, I was starting to stabilize.
I upped my dosage to the recommended 3 mg and spent the next week tossing and turning again. When the second week ended, my sleep was still incredibly crappy, and on top of that, I was getting sick. I took this as an opportunity to stay with 3 mg for another week, and I’m glad I did. By the end of the second week, I was able to fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.
I’ve been at 4.5 mg since last Saturday, and just last night was able to get a reasonable night’s sleep again.
What’s most interesting about this though, is not the changes in my ability to fall asleep, but the actual experience of falling asleep. As a general rule, I am not someone who has difficulty sleeping. Historically, once I was horizontal, I could feel my body gradually shutting down and consciousness beginning to ebb away. Gradually, peacefully, and predictably, I’d wander off to the land of Nod. If Diana wanted to have a conversation, I’d have to sit up and talk, because if I was laying down, I’d fall asleep mid-sentence. Awkward!
Sleep is not like this anymore.
No longer do I feel the approaching of sleep as it slowly washes over me. Now, things take a little longer. I lay there for a while, consciously focusing on relaxing each part of my body, breathing mindfully, coaxing my heart to slow to its resting rate. I fight against my mind, as it tries to become convinced that I’m not going to fall asleep at all. All the while, my body is feeling ready-to-go, even restless. When it comes, sleep is no longer like the setting of the sun. It’s now more like the lights being switched off. It comes on sudden and strong. The alarm is going off before I’m aware that I’m falling asleep. Weird.
And my dreams!! Oh, wow. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a dreamer. Not only do I generally not remember the contents of my dreams, but I don’t typically remember having had them. Doctors say that we have them even when we don’t remember them, but you couldn’t prove it by me! Things are different now. I’m having deep, immersive dreams that cover grand story lines and convoluted realities. I even wake up remembering bits and pieces. But even when I don’t remember the details, I remember that they were sweeping epics of altered reality and surrealism. They are…. experiential, to say the least.
Interestingly, I believe that I’m feeling more well-rested than I am used to. I am the prototypical morning grouch, and historically, it’s taken me an hour or two of being vertical before I really start to feel like I’m awake. Like everything else about sleep, this is different now. This isn’t to say that I’m springing out of bed with all the zeal of a ‘real’ morning person, but I am waking up alert and functional without that old familiar sense of having to claw my way upwards to consciousness.
If you’re considering LDN therapy, be ready… if your experience is anything like mine, sleeping will be different! Mind you, I’m not discouraging you, nor am I meaning to imply that the experience is negative, but it is definitely an adjustment, and it’s definitely taking some getting used to.
Are you already using LDN therapy? What have your experiences with sleep been like? Has it changed any old, familiar patterns for you? Did those patterns ever return while you were on LDN?