Tuesday, November 25, 2008

43 Things: Sleep Better - Is it possible?

I have had sleeping difficulties my whole life, or as long as I can remember. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, as well as being plagued by intense, emotionally-negative dreams. I would not characterize them as nightmares exactly, because they are not usually about being chased or physically hurt or frightened. The majority of my dreams centre around themes of anxiety, such as being lost, late, or falling behind. I have talked about the dreams with counsellors, therapists, psychologists…and while I recognize what they are about, I can’t seem to get any relief from them.

In 2003, my body started ‘breaking down’, eventually leading to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The majority of people with this diagnosis have a sleep abnormality called alpha-EEG-anomaly, which is characterized by brief, awake-like brain patterns during periods of sleep. What this means is that we don’t get enough quality deep sleep, the restorative stage in which your body repairs the minor damages it receives from normal day to day living. The implication is that the body starts to accumulate more and more damage over time, leading to the condition. The first thing people with fibromyalgia need is enough good quality sleep to start the repair process. We are told to exercise, but this is only if we are getting proper sleep first. Otherwise, we are just damaging our bodies further.

So you can see my problem. I can’t make any progress healing my body because I never get enough of the right kind of sleep.

Recently I have used medications to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. They work for these purposes, however they do nothing to make sure I get the right kind of sleep, i.e. deep sleep. In fact there is evidence that the medications I am on interfere with deep sleep. I am in a Catch-22, because without the meds, I toss and turn for hours at night, and don’t sleep as long as I need to even just to feel “not exhausted” the next day. I know the ‘sleep hygiene’ protocol, but find it difficult to comply. I eat close to bedtime – if I don’t, I have more difficulty falling asleep and/or wake up early, starving. I also smoke, and I have been trying to quit…but that is another story, another goal perhaps. They say you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, but again, this is difficult. If I am not tired enough to go to sleep, I toss and turn for hours, and if I have not had enough sleep, waking up to an alarm is literally excruciating. My sleeping patterns are completely erratic. I may sleep 16 ti 20 hours if I haven’t had enough the previous 3-7 days. This throws the day/night cycle out of whack. I have always been a night owl too, so going to bed early is difficult for me, since I often have just started to feel good in the evening and want to pursue activities.

Recently, I have been able to use 3mg of melatonin, sublingual, to knock me out when I know I’m going to be tossing. Originally I was using Sleep MD, which contains melatonin as well as other natural ingredients. It may be I need those other ingredients as well, but plain melatonin is much cheaper and does the knock out job I need most. Some nights I don’t need it to fall asleep quickly, and this is a relief. I think I have finally taught myself how to fall asleep by taking the Sleep MD every night for a few months. Previous to this, I can’t think of even once when I fell asleep in less than 30 minutes.

A new complication has arisen in the past few weeks. Almost everybody occasionally has slight twitches as they fall asleep, but mine have become increasingly large and disturbing, and seem to occur much more frequently than they used to. Last night as I was in the process of falling asleep, my leg jerked a number of times, waking me up, so I had to start over. Then my entire arm flung itself out. I have had jerks that caused my entire body to startle violently. I have also noticed an increase in the morning of me talking out loud or gesturing with my hands while dreaming. This causes me to wake up at least to the point where I consciously notice what I’ve been doing, but I may be doing it all night without waking up.

This may have sounded like a whining testimony, but since I’m using this site and goal for my own purposes, I felt I needed to clarify where I was at. Now that I’ve written down everything I’m dealing with in regards to sleep (except for pain issues), I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been to a sleep clinic before, but it was a decidedly terrible experience. Not only was being hooked up to the machines utterly humiliating, but I am positive they got my results mixed with someone else’s but wouldn’t admit it. They told me I’d had at least 6.5 hours of sleep, but I remembered seeing the digital clock read somewhere after 1 a.m. and I hadn’t slept yet, and they woke me up at 7 a.m. That is less than 6 hours. In the end all they did was prescribe me clonazepam, which I’d had experience with before, and new it was addictive and only prescribed on a temporary basis. Needless to say I do not want to go back to the sleep clinic, but it may have become necessary considering all my problems. What else can I do? I don’t want my whole life to revolve around sleeping, but if I make it my priority (and if I want to do anything about my fibromyalgia, it has to be), that is exactly what will happen. I already spend 12 hours a night in bed, how much more of my life is this going to take away from me? I am on disability, but yes I actually do have better things to do than sleep or perform activities that should help me sleep.

If anyone reads this and feels like commenting, please do not respond with anything negative. I don’t think I could deal with that right now. Thanks.

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I sometimes write things that I don't really mean or believe. These are not to be taken literally, nor as definitive statements about me or my beliefs. Thoughts and emotions are transient, and I reserve the right to change my mind, generalize, exaggerate, give strong opinions, or write other possibly offensive statements. I don't lie, but I may say something that's not true to check whether I believe it or not, or to make a point. Call it creative license. This is my blog, and do have the right to say what I want. I'm using it in creatively therapeutic ways. Whatever the reader may think of me and my words, please believe that my core intentions are always good and I never willingly hurt anyone.