My Sleep Disorders Explained

Picture of a screen with the words 'sleep disorder' on it and a stethescope lying above it.

I have two sleep disorders that originate in the hypothalamus within my brain. Both disorders cause me to be chronically sleep-deprived on a daily basis. I can’t have one disorder – no, my bonkers brain is greedy and must have two sleep disorders!

Firstly, I have a circadian rhythm disorder, also known as ‘Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.’ Our body clock resets every day and adjusts to shifting daylight hours; this is called our circadian rhythm. Mine resets broken, stuck in the same pattern each day. The hormones and chemicals that tell the brain it is time to wake up can happen as late as 10 pm in the evening, just when it should be time for sleep. Then, the sleep hormones signal to the brain that it is time for sleep as late as 6 or 7 am in the morning, just as it is time to get up and start the day. It sounds perfect for a night-shift sleep pattern, but unfortunately, I have been informed by the neurophysiologist that doing this will exacerbate the problem and threaten my health even more.

It is common for people with bipolar disorder to also have a circadian rhythm disorder. For me, both disorders appear to have developed around the same time. In some people, the circadian rhythm disorder is a temporary problem that arises and often happens during late teens. It can disappear as quick as it starts. For others, there is no cure, but it can be treated through strict management using a treatment plan created by a sleep specialist.

Secondly, I am deprived of sleep phases when I am asleep. I miss out on Stage 3 and 4 sleep architecture. I get a fraction of the deep sleep that is needed and sometimes none at all. I spend much of the sleep period drifting in and out of stage 1, the lightest of the sleep phases, which is pretty much just napping with lots of wakeups. As a result, I have much less sleep time than I should get as well as missing out on the deep sleep which is often referred to as ‘quality sleep.’

For the brain to do its job cleaning out toxins and waste products, we need around one and a half to two hours of deep sleep. My brain doesn’t get long enough for this cleaning process and it has a significant detrimental effect on my cognitive function the next day. It is similar to the ‘foggy brain’ effect of jet lag affecting my speech, memory and thinking process. There is not much documented about the stage 3 and 4 sleep deprivation and my neurophysiologist couldn’t offer any type of treatment at all.

Picture of a man sleeping at a desk

The two disorders leave me battling through the day to try and stay awake. The sleep deprivation causes tremendous fatigue.  Some days I am better than others and many days I don’t properly wake up until the evening.  I need a morning nap and an afternoon nap just to get through the day.  And, that’s without taking the bipolar symptoms into consideration!

So, at least I know my enemy; I know exactly what is wrong, and what I am dealing with. Sometimes the sleep deprivation is so severe, I struggle mentally and lose the will to fight my way through the day.

I was thinking to myself; all you lovely people out there with children – your children are our future – they are our neuroscientists and brain surgeons of the future. It is them and the people of their generation that will be discovering radical new ways of treating disorders of the brain. That gives me hope and I wish them well on their journey through education and into the science labs. Until then, being a ‘sleepy Laa Laa’ every day is as good as it gets!

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

What Does Bipolar Disorder Feel Like To You?


Picture of theatrical comedy and tragedy masks

Being bipolar feels much like wading through treacle in a cold, dark, stinking cave. But, sometimes it feels like being the ball bearing in a pinball machine, whizzing around, smacking my head against everything.

I feel like two completely different people; one of me with a bit of a handle on life, and the other like a space cadet terrorised by my acute senses, hallucinations and my screaming, racing brain. I feel out of control in manic episodes and the depressive episodes leave me numb, lifeless and disconnected from my body and the world around me.

The depression makes my body so heavy and fatigued. I feel like I am living in a lead suit. The mania makes me vibrate with boundless energy with no means of shutting down; but oh so soon, I crash back into the lead suit.

The hallucinations make me feel like I am crazy, mad, insane, and not deserving of my place in this world. I hide away unable to make sense of the warped and distorted world that I am trapped inside.

The bipolar rapid cycling robs me of my platform of stability; it leaves me with no choice, but to climb aboard the roller coaster, put my hands over my eyes and hope for the best. Once the roller coaster is in motion, the only way off is to jump and terminate my existence.

The suicidal impulses suck the breath out of me and paralyse me with fear. I get pinned to the couch by an invisible glue, an overwhelming gravity. Then later I’m left with a sickening feeling of guilt and shame that makes me sob for hours and haunts me for weeks.

Some episodes slam me into a wall and smash my world apart to expose the goblins and demons that terrorise me with psychotic images and sensations. My emotions are smashed against the wall over and over, relentlessly. My senses are torn to pieces by walls of sound that break into shards of glass and seek me out with rapid fire motion. Like heat-seeking missiles. They tear through my muscles and cause intense pain.

That’s what bipolar disorder feels like to me.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

The Weight of the Pain



Reaching through the darkness, searching for light.
Nothing is visible, even though it’s not night.
Surrounded by emptiness squeezing her tight,
There is nothing to save her, no reason to fight.

The sick, thick, blacker than blackness envelops her,
twisting and squeezing, tugging and weaving.
Stopping at nothing, it weaves itself into every fibre of her being.
No cell is safe, no molecule untouched.
Muscle turns to lead and guts turn to stone.
Blacker than blackness is bleeding through bone.
Muscles tear when they try to move; the weight is too great.
The weight of the pain.
Too great is the weight of the pain.
Blackness spills from every bone.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
She sinks into the pool of blacker than blackness.
There is nothing to save her, no reason to fight.
But there is one last reach from a dying muscle,
feeling its way through the blacker than blackness.
Oh, the weight of the pain.
So great is the weight of the pain.

Reaching through the darkness, she finds the light
Everything is visible, even though it is night.
Surrounded by life, hugging her tight
There is love to save her, every reason to fight.


Poem by me.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.