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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sleeping With My Cyst

Oh sweet sleep! Something that I have had to fight to get for a long time. I remember when I used to love to sleep. I loved to sleep in, and I loved to lounge in bed. How many years ago was that? A lot of years ago...probably since 2004 when my symptoms first began. For me, it became a chore, rather than a natural process. 

Through the years I have tried multiple things to help me sleep. I consider myself master of sleep tricks, although they aren't really "tricks" but things that many people do to help themselves sleep. I just have gotten good at trying, choosing, rotating, and combining.

One of the first things I did when I first became symptomatic with my cyst and noticed that my head ached at night, was to change pillows. I couldn't figure out why my pillow suddenly felt like a rock rather than the soft, fluffy thing I used to love laying on.

After an MRI discovered the large Posterior Fossa Arachnoid Cyst on the back of my brain, it made sense. It was putting pressure on the back of my brain and pressing on the skull, so my head ached when I laid on it. Once the cyst was discovered, it all made sense and I knew I had to do something about the aching, so I began shopping for a different pillow. I went through about 4 pillows before I settled on the softest, down pillow I could find. It used to be that I didn't like down pillows, now, it is my best friend and the only pillow I can and will use. I have had the same down pillow since 2004, and it goes everywhere with me - on vacation, whenever I've moved, everywhere.

Today, not only does my cyst cause me to lose sleep, but also my Chiari Malformation and brain sagging. So more than the pillow, I have had to adopt tricks for sleeping. A few of the things that have helped me, and they may seem simple and no brainers, but they have helped many people get sleep, and for many - they do work. My remedies are all-natural remedies because I cannot take medication easily. With all my neurological issues, I have reactions to medications and simply cannot take sleep-aids. 

If you have trouble sleeping, maybe you'll find that one of my tricks works for you, and helps you too.

  • Warm Milk - Most of us have heard that a cup of warm milk before bed helps you sleep. Well, believe it or not, it does actually work. Milk contains the amino acid, L-Tryptophan, the same amino acid in turkey that makes many people sleepy after a big turkey dinner. L-Tryptophan triggers the feeling of being tired and sleepy and can get you relaxed, like a natural sleep aid. It works for me, and it is one of my favorite tricks to use.
  • Warm bath or shower - A nice warm or hot shower before bed can relax tense muscles, relax your body, and for me, relax those sore, tense muscles in my neck that flare up due to my cyst and Chiari. A good 20 minute hot shower before bed can be enough to relax me so that I get more hours of sleep, rather than not doing anything at all before bed. It is especially effective when done in combination with another one of my remedies.
  • Heating Pad - Sometimes a nice warm heating pad on my neck or the back of my head in bed, can help me relax enough to sleep. I own one that shuts off automatically so that I don't have to worry about it lying there all night, turned on. The warmth will help me relax, get sleepy, fall asleep, and many times - stay asleep.
  • Chamomile tea - Matricaria recutita, or Manzanilla, is the main herb in Chamomile tea. This herb has been brewed and drank for centuries, especially as a sleep-inducer. It has a good flavor, is smooth, and about half way through a cup, I am relaxed and sleepy.
  • Meditate - Some nights before bed, I will turn the TV off, put on some soft, relaxing music, and I will meditate. I sit on the floor in Indain style, close my eyes, and zone out. I try to think of nothing, but rather just get in touch with my inner self. I picture myself getting sleepy and before I know it, I am. I have even been known to doze off, right there in my spot on the floor.
Some nights I may have to do a combination of the remedies: a warm or hot shower and a cup of tea, or warm milk. Or I may have my tea and meditate. It just depends on how wound up I and my brain are. It also depends on the kind of pain level I have, or if I am already a little tired.

Try a couple of these home remedies the next time you can't sleep. See which ones work for you. You may have to try it a few times to let your body adjust, or a combination of two remedies. I now am so glad I don't need medication to help me sleep, since medications and I don't mix well. I can get some sleep and not have any side effects. 



  1. Great post! Sleep is so important and so elusive at times. Most nights I only get 3-4 hours but about once a week I will end up sleeping about 12. I have tried everything I know and its still sporadic at best. I will pray for an angel on your pillow to help you sleep.

    1. I pray for an angel on your pillow too. Sorry for the delay in response. Keep me updated, and do look into my book, "It's all in Your Head." You can get it through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc. You may find the story and info beneficial. At the very least, you will have some comfort knowing there are others going through what you are.

      Take care and keep me updated,


  2. Yes, sleep is extremely important under all circumstances. But it is even more important when you have physical ailments or challenges. I understand all too well, about the 3-4 hours a night, then suddenly you are just so tired that you sleep hard, and good one night. I wish it could even out and get about the same hours of sleep a night, each night. I suppose it is just not in the cards, so that is why I have to be creative. Good luck with your sleeping situation, too. Is yours caused by medical problems? And....may that angel land on your pillow too. : )

    Thanks for the post.


  3. Hello Maria,

    Thank you for your very informative site. My 12 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with a PFAC as you have as well. I am trying to find alternatives to surgery if possible. I am only in the reading and learning stage but have found almost no info for natural ways to diffuse the cyst with time. Do you have any sites that may be helpful?


    1. Thank you for following and your kind words. I've been through a big move and haven't been able to be on top of things like I should, but plan on it now. Yes, do keep reading and learning. There was not this much information out there when I went through it all, and certainly not books with people's stories. So you may be interested in my book too, "It's all in Your Head." It's avail through Barnes and Noble and Amazon etc. You may find it some help to you with how to deal with your situation. Let me know.

      Take care and may God bless! I will look up some sites....what I typically do is just put in arachnoid cysts and see what pops up. A lot of reading and searching. So let me see which ones I would recommend today.

      Take care and God bless!

  4. You are welcome. Sorry about your daughter. Always breaks my heart when it's children. Have you looked into getting my book, "It's all in Your Head?" It may be helpful to you for when you really start dealing with doctors etc. YOu can get it on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, through Tate Publishing. Many have found it helpful.

    Keep me informed. I wish you all the best and all the luck in getting the proper help for your daughter!