Working On Us – sleep disorders.

It’s week #13 of Beckie’s mental health prompts series Working On Us at

Beckie’s Mental Mess.

The topic for this week is sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders. Here are the questions for prompt #1.

 

  1. Have you, or do you suffer from sleep disorders? – I have a lot of sleep issues, which are both related to my mental health difficulties as well as the fact that I don’t see the light so my sleep cycle is just messed up. They change with time. Just as I sleep at different times and my sleep schedule and habits change, so do my sleep related problems. Most of the time I struggle with insomnia more or less. It is my normal to lay in bed for an hour or longer before I fall asleep. Sometimes I wake super early, like 3-5 AM and after going to sleep at about midnight. Luckily it’s not as often as it used to be for me that I have, as I call them “Zombie days” – a day after a night of no sleep at all. – Sometimes my insomnia is clearly due to anxiety or stress and I just overthink everything and worry about every single thing and ruminate, it’s gotten worse recently, but sometimes it’s like my inner clock just isn’t set on sleeping whatsoever and I may even feel a bit hyperactive, playing with Misha at 2 AM and not feeling even slightly tired, and then sleep until noon or so. Then I have times when I sleep a lot, 12-13 hours and usually miss a great chunk of the day as a result. Sometimes it just comes on its own, and then I hate it, because I don’t want to sleep my life through like that, and feel lazy and lousy, plus then it’s usually not the best kind of sleep, filled with bad dreams and such. But sometimes I do that on purpose because I’m so depressed and sleep is way more interesting than the reality. I suppose I might have non 24 hour sleep-wake disorder (what a grossly long name) which is very common among the blind, but I haven’t ever heard about it being diagnosed in Poland so I guess people don’t know much, and while I know there is medication for that in other countries, I couldn’t find the evidence that it is used over here, so I don’t see the point in seeking a diagnosis. I have very vivid dreams, which can be an incredible gift and a really great thing, I love my good vivid dreams, but it can just as well be something close to a curse, because my nasty vivid dreams are super creepy, as if I had a personalised horror movie production studio in my brain, with horrors right just for me. πŸ˜€ I’ve read that there was some Danish study which revealed that apparently blind people have nightmares more often than sighted people do, which would make sense from what I’ve heard from many blind people. If you have vivid dreams things get just a bit more intense. And on top of that I am one of the lucky ones who regularly struggle with sleep paralysis. And that’s probably the biggest sleep related problem for me. There is also my silence anxiety and sounds anxiety involved, which makes sleep often difficult. I won’t get into detailed descriptions of what it is for me but, very shortly, I just don’t do complete silence, so I need to have some quiet music in the background, and Misha, and it always works, but to a very varying degree.
  2. Have you sought treatment for your sleep disorders? – I had a point in my life where I thought I was unable to take this sleep paralysis thing any longer, I was so fed up and constantly scared and I just lost my patience with it. It’s something that I’ve lived my whole life with but suddenly I had that “why me?” crisis. And then I went to the neurologist looking for some help, also because I wasn’t perfectly sure it was sleep paralysis, because some things in it are different for me than they are for most people whose stories I read. She confirmed that and gave me some tips on things that I could do myself to alleviate it, and told me that there’s no medication that would be 100% working for it, but that she could put me on some antidepressant that is said to help with that, though it’s not certain how effective it is and it’s mostly prescribed for people with narcolepsy who additionally suffer from sleep paralysis. Since it’s not clear if it actually works, I said I’d rather try dealing with it without medication first. I was also offered antidepressants by the psychiatrist who diagnosed me with dysthymia but I’m honestly pretty scared of some of the side effects like gaining weight. I’m currently underweight actually and could probably put some on just to stop my Mum’s grumbling and make buying clothes less tricky and look healthier, but I wouldn’t like that to happen because of taking medication. And so far I am managing with just anti-anxiety meds. I’ve learnt over the years some tricks to get out of sleep paralysis or to prevent it, but it doesn’t work all the time. Sooner or later it will always catch me.
  3. Have you ever had a sleep study on you, and if so, what was recommended? – No. I would kind of like have one though, and my Mum says I should, because, in her opinion, my sleep is weird and I should get it checked out if not because of any concerns, then at least out of curiosity. And yeah, it’s interesting, I am curious, though I don’t know if my sleep is objectively that much of a phenomenon, I guess not, my Mum is just very typical. I’ve never had an opportunity though, and I don’t think there is any sleep clinic in the area or anything like that, I don’t know anyone in person who’d have a sleep study done.
  4. Has your doctor prescribed medication for your sleep disorder, if so, what has worked for you? – Not directly for sleep, mostly for anxiety, but that has affected sleep too. I took Hydroxyzine for a while as a child, and then my psychiatrist put me on it again when I was 17 and got the reactive depression diagnosis and told her about the anxiety I was having. I’ve always heard good opinions about Hydroxyzine and that it works well for people, that it’s such a safe medication and all but it wasn’t so for me. It was making me extremely groggy, I would be just switched off and away from the world for hours and hours and hours, the only thing I could do on it was sleeping, and then I would wake up hungover and with a headache. Perhaps it was because I hate being groggy and foggy and not in control and thus my anxiety got worse, but in any case, I really didn’t feel like it was working for my anxiety at all. The only times when I have found Hydroxyzine very helpful, life-saving almost, have been when I felt really depressed, only feeling like sleeping, or very unstable and overwhelmed, like last year after the first of my final exams when I was super triggered I just slept the whole night and most of the day away on Hydroxyzine afterwards, worked the trigger through while sleeping and woke up (almost) a new person, (almost) ready to face another final exam. Hydroxyzine is also an antiemetic, so when my emetophobia is through the roof and for a very sound reason – like a norovirus raging in the house – it helps too. And I don’t mind sleeping norovirus invasions through at all. I still have it and can take it when I need but that’s rarely. I don’t see my psychiatrist regularly, so after some time I went to my GP with my anxiety problems and told him the whole Hydroxyzine and anxiety and messed up sleep story, and he put me on Afobam, which as I heard later from my psychiatrist is more suitable as a sleep med for those people who tend to wake up a lot rather than those who can’t fall asleep, as is more often the case with me, but it works great for me so I’m still on it. The thing is, it’s highly addictive so I am only taking it on as needed basis. That is, when my anxiety is really severe or when I want to regulate my sleep cycle at least for a while or when I just know I won’t sleep and I have to sleep. If I need it for a few days in a row I take only a half of it. That’s not a perfect solution definitely, but at least when I take it, it works. I often do feel groggy after it and sleep for a long time, but I don’t feel hungover like after the Hydroxyzine and it noticeably improves my sleep quality, I wake up refreshed and well-rested most of the time.
  5. Have you ever tried home remedies to alleviate your sleep disorders? – Loads of herbal-based supplements and some other OTC products that worked just as well as candy, melissa tea which apparently is placebo, melissa essential oil which apparently works very well but not for me, smelling lavender which probably didn’t work because my sense of smell doesn’t work too well either haha, CBD oil which I am still trying but with no great results, I guess the concentration is too low or something, I’d like to believe that it works, niacin, which I really tried supplementing and wanted to but as high doses as they say that you should take for mental health were not doable with me because those pills are really big and I have a bit of a trouble swallowing big pills, let alone five or more at a time, and even when I broke them into halves or thirds it was still tricky to swallow such amount of pills in one go, it was crazy. πŸ˜€ I was able to notice some small improvement on it but I just couldn’t continue this way, my life would evolve around swallowing niacin three times a day and dosing it the right way, and then they say for it to work you need to take other stuff too, because it changes the absorption of vitamin C, and the niacin itself is absorbed better with something else. Ugh no thanks, my life is way more interesting without all that, and what if that cocktail wouldn’t work? All my efforts would be wasted! πŸ˜€ Also, I am trying out progesterone cream which also my Mum is using, which has directly nothing to do with sleep obviously but my Mum, being a great lifestyle geek has read loads of material on how helpful progesterone supplementation can be for women and also how much of an effect hormonal imbalance can have on mental health, and my hormones aren’t balanced even just because I have hypopituitarism. My Mum says it works miracles for her, though I guess for her it’s a bit different since she’s going through menopause so that must be rather obvious. I can’t say much on that cream though because I’m only using it since July, and it needs some time to have noticeable effects. What helps me is Misha, listening to music, reading before sleep, doing some visualisation exercises, prayer, having my feet warm – they’re usually cold so I like having hotwater bottle and when it’s cold outside I won’t fall asleep without it ever πŸ˜€ – trying to implement some sleep routine, though for me that’s really really difficult and never stuck for long, I am trying though, so I hope that counts and makes it better than it would be without it. Doing something relaxing always helps, whatever I find relaxing at the time. Oh, I nearly forgot, I also had numerous trials and errors – more of the latter – with melatonin, which at first didn’t work, and then every time I got back to it I had very nasty nightmares every night I was on it. I’ve heard that could be transient, but no one told me how long that transience should last and every time it felt like a bit too long to keep trying and waiting so I don’t think I ever will again. With my sleep paralysis, good sleep hygiene and some sort of a routine/schedule helps. I can’t always have the latter, but what I’ve found helpful is not napping, though I was never an enthusiast of naps at all, they just make more chaos. No napping, and no laying in bed awake in the morning for ages, as I carelessly used to do especially at weekends. Suddenly, after a while I become surprisingly, extremely sleepy again and I don’t even notice when it sucks me in. Also, generally I know I need to avoid such things like waking up and then going back to sleep after a while, because that very often brings sleep paralysis. But I never know how long that while should be, seems like even half an hour break between one sleep and another at night is too much and is risky, so if I want to avoid sleep paralysis I should just get up and start to live. Of course, that’s not always practical, because even if I wake up at night I may still feel like I need more sleep, or will be very tired during the day if I’d just wake up and start my day in the middle of the night, so sometimes I do this, but sometimes I don’t. The neurologist told me that sleeping on your right side helps with sleep paralysis. I laughed at it internally and thought it must be some superstition, the more that I much prefer sleeping on my left side, it’s just comfier and I read about some weird study that has shown that it helps the brain to clear from all that could be potentially toxic while you sleep, and I’m all for keeping my brain healthy. But it makes some sense. Sleeping on my right side, as I’ve noticed so far, won’t prevent sleep paralysis if it’s inevitably going to happen, but it’s less intense and shorter. The worse is when you sleep on your back, and that seems to be the case for most people. I hate sleeping on my back but it used to be the position I laid in when awake most of the time so then it hit me hard, now I try to avoid it if I can.
    1. Β Β  What’s the longest amount of time you went without sleep? – Thankfully only a bit more than 2 days. The good thing about my insomnia and Zombie days that I feel really lucky about is that I don’t have it the way some people do, that I would go on for days without sleep. If I have a Zombie day, it’s awful, but at least it means that at night I will fall asleep like a baby, and, usually, sleep like a log until early morning, and my sleep cycle will reset nicely and will be really decent and in line with my time zone for a while. Unless I am trying to play a hero and by night am so exhausted that my nervous system just gets overloaded and I can’t fall asleep despite you can’t really say I’m fully awake and sane by then.

Question of the day.

What are five things you’re grateful for this week so far?

My answer:

1. A very nice meeting we had on Tuesday that was organised by Zofijka’s friend’s mum, I wrote about it in the coffee share post, would give the link but I’m posting via email so don’t have it at hand. It was a very interesting meeting and a very nice one.

2. My anti-anxiety medication. The meeting wouldn’t be quite as good for me without it, and even with it it was still a bit of a challenge socially.

3. My exquisitely Scottish dreams that I had the night before the last. I just don’t know what happened, but I assume it’s also my anti-anxiety med that I should thank for that, to some degree at least, that it made me sleep so deeply and for so long. When we came back from the meeting, I felt a bit tired, like sleepy, and I thought it was because of the med, as it sometimes works like that for me. So I went to bed really quickly and early and was knocked out in a minute, or not much longer really. And then, I had one absolutely crazy, gloomy, sad and awful dream to do more or less with my past, but then I had loads and loads of Scottish-themed dreams, it was incredible! As if I had some calling from Scotland or whatever! Like I had one dream about being on holidays in Edinburgh, then another about a gig I went to with my Dad, of a harpist and I even remember her name – she was Aileen or Eileen MACHamish – beautiful name (especially that Hamish is one of my recent fastest rising personal boy name favourites, how did my brain know that?!), and she was also a fabulous harpist. But sadly it doesn’t seem like Aileen/Eileen MACHamish even exists! Then I had a dream involving Julie Fowlis (a Scottish singer who sings in Scottish Gaelic, and whose songs I’ve shared here some time ago and am certainly going to share more over time). I remember that there was a BBQ at my gran’s, we were all sitting in her garden, my family that is, and I was sitting on a swing that my gran has in there, with Julie Fowlis, and I remember we were chatting about something and both very absorbed in it and laughing a lot and hugging each other, and we had both crazily heavy Scottish accents, even Julie doesn’t normally have an accent like that, not to mention me! πŸ˜€ It was a bit comical. I also watched “Brave” with Zofijka, you know, that Disney movie about Merida and her mum who was transformed into a bear, the only Disney movie I actually care about at all. We did watch it with Zofijka loads of times and by the way Julie Fowlis sang in there. And I even dreamt about my potential boss, or the one I hoped would be my boss. You might remember that I was looking into another job opportunity about two months ago. So that company I so wanted to work with was Scottish, and I dreamt about the guy who’d be my boss there if I’d get that job. πŸ˜€ But while in our email exchange he was reasonably nice, in my dream he was very grumpy and not at all likeable. And I had other Scottish-themed dreams too but I don’t remember enough of them to have any very specific recollections. Anyway, that was cool, and funny and I really enjoyed all those dreams. I guess that must be some sort of a sign that I seriously should do Scots as my next language! πŸ˜€

4. The fan in my room. And that even though it’s really hot this week again, and I’ve had a lot of headaches thanks to this, I didn’t get another migraine.

5. Audible, Audible credits, and interesting books in ENglish.

What would be your five things? πŸ™‚

New gem stones in my collection.

I’m really starting to wonder about taking photos of all the stones in my collection and putting them here. It would take a lot of time and obviously I would need someone else to involve in it and take the pictures, but I think it could be a good idea. What do you think?

My Mum wanted to make me a surprise and bought me some more stones which are really beautiful. They are standing on my window and everyone says they look brilliant in the sun. It’s very snowy here recently, but also the sun is shining a lot so they have great conditions to present themselves. I am really happy I got so many new stones recently. I plan to go to the Festival Of Minerals which will be sometime in August in Silesia. I’d love someone acquainted to take a look at my collection and tell me whether all of these stones are really natural and I’d love to take a look at some minerals I’ve never seen before.

As for other things, yesterday I had an intensive Welsh day, well I’ve heard of people having much more intensive days, but it was the most intensive Welsh day I’ve ever had, because I did 5 challenges during one day. My brain felt drained, but, in contrast to the brain drainage I always get when I have Maths, that one felt really good and I felt glad and proud of myself, not depressed and tired as I usually am after my Maths lessons, simply because my achievements were much much bigger. I decided to praise myself for that and when we were going for a walk with my Mum, we also went to the grocery shop as she needed some vegs and I bought myself a chocolate with nuts which is really yummy. We had a really long walk which I definitely needed after all that brain fitness and which felt very refreshing, and my leg didn’t go as crazy as it did recently, I think it’s healing and going better, slowly, but surely. I can’t wait when I’ll be able to go horse riding finally, gosh I didn’t ride for TWO MONTHS! My horse will forget me! πŸ˜€ No, seriously I don’t think he will, I had a few years break time years ago and he seemed like he remembered me. πŸ˜€

Today I went to my GP in the morning, as he finally came back from vacation. I decided I will listen to my therapist’s suggestion and will ask him to prescribe me Afobam again. Also I asked him for some more Hydroxizinum as I was running out of it and then picked my prescription along with that from the dermatologist I got on Thursday.

I did some more Welsh today too.

I just had a very yummy dinner, pasta with Napoli sauce. Dad and Olek are both at work, so we don’t necessarily have to have some meat. They must always have meat for dinner, but not me and my Mum, so always when they’re not at home, we have something we like and Zofijka usually likes it too, or she eats at school.

Today I also helped Zofijka with her English homework a bit, but it only led to both of us being frustrated. Zofijka is very hard to teach, it is difficult for her to focus and she hardly ever listens what you tell her and doesn’t really get English and I am not really good at explaining language stuff to people and the last thing I’m good at is teaching anyone anything, but since as for now she doesn’t have any English lessons besides school as she used to have, I try to help her as it’s at least something.