Sleepiness is Stealing My Life

It is all too easy for us to want to snuggle up and hibernate on these long dark, cold nights. The appeal of early nights and late mornings is strong. Getting out of bed ‘full of the joys of spring’ in the deep, mid winter is, for the most, unheard of; falling out of bed and tripping up in the dark is more like it.

For people with a variety of sleep disorders, life all year long can be difficult, but without a doubt, wintertime is the most challenging part of the year because of the effect the reduction of available light and drop in temperature has on how the brain and body functions.
Sleep disorders are not just about what does or doesn’t happen during the night; it’s about the full 24-hour body clock cycle. Extended darkness and colder temperatures play havoc with this for everyone, but it can be unbearable for those with sleep disorders.

Despite engaging in all the therapy of my sleep treatment plan in a morning (which I have written about in previous blogs) I am still exhausted and find it almost impossible to get going, so I have to have a morning nap by 10.30/11am for 30 to 40 minutes. What doesn’t help is two of my four morning tablets for the bipolar disorder cause drowsiness, so I am fighting against this too. As a result, planning morning events or meetings too difficult. If there is something I absolutely must do, excessive adrenalin and anxiety seem to help me push through, but I can’t manage this every day.

Most people feel sleepy after lunch. It is a natural part of our circadian rhythm to do so, but because of jobs and responsibilities, many people have to push through. An afternoon canstockphoto6137940nap is part of my sleep treatment plan, and luckily, I am in a position of not working, so can do it. Depending on how severe the sleep deprivation is, the nap can be between 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

Then there is after dinner; I cannot keep my eyes open and end up drifting off in front of the TV for 30 minutes. Finally, by 9 pm I am so drained and cannot keep my eyes open, I have to give in and go to bed.

If I am lucky, I am blessed with a sleep cycle between 9 pm and midnight, but for the rest of the nighttime, the effect of the sleep disorder results in me not getting sleep cycles and just experiencing light dozing. This is what has caused chronic sleep deprivation for me. Some nights I am lucky and get a reasonable sleep, but these are so few and far between, that it doesn’t reduce the sleep debt or daytime sleepiness.

Every day I am plagued with overwhelming sleepiness but live the best I can. I need to have the naps, though, so every day I am either asleep or overwhelmed with sleepiness, and it is stealing my life. Adrenalin helps me push through where I can and I somehow manage the extra mile to go to meetings and appointments, but I can’t do it two days in a row – I need recovery time.

Bipolar episodes are impacted by this, but as of late, these are becoming less as my body has finally started responding to the medication. I am getting out for a walk or a cycle for 30 minutes a few times a week now, and I am managing to study for about an hour a few days of the week too. It’s as good as it gets, but at least it is something. Sleepiness eats away at the rest of my time and is stealing my life. I don’t stop fighting it, though, and I am determined to never lose the fight!

Dont Give Up The Fight

Related blogs:

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 1: Caffeine

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 2- Light Therapy

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 3 – Aromatherapy

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 4 – Music Therapy

 

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 3 – Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy Oils

As I explained previously in this blog series, living with the daily consequences of a sleep disorder is harsh. The sleep disorder causes chronic sleep deprivation as well as a host of cognitive and physical ailments. I also have a Circadian Rhythm Disorder, which makes things worse.

I use a variety of techniques to treat the daytime effects of sleep deprivation and reset my circadian rhythm. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the use of caffeine; Part 2 discussed Light Therapy and Part 3 is discussing how I stimulate my brain with smell using Aromatherapy.

“Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil therapy, can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.”

Lavender FlowerLavender is probably the most famous of all essential oils and most familiar for helping people get to sleep. There are hundreds of essential oils, though, and they have been used for thousands of years for their healing properties. The oils all have different properties that provide a variety of potential healing abilities.

I know many sceptics still call aromatherapy ‘pseudoscience,’ but ask anyone who has treated burns with lavender and fungal infections with tea tree oil if it works and in many cases, the answer is yes! Science might not be able to explain why, but if it works, do we need to be so critical? After all, antidepressants are used to treat a variety of mental illnesses, but scientists still can’t explain exactly why they work in some cases, but not for others!

The essential oil properties I am most interested in for waking me up, are those with stimulant properties such as peppermint. It is recognised that Peppermint can energise and help us stay alert. It is described as ‘uplifting and invigorating,’ and I certainly have to agree! Peppermint is my favourite, but it is down to personal preference. There are other many stimulant oils such as; Grapefruit, Bergamot, Rosemary, Basil and Ginger available to use.

Peppermint oil is a natural stimulant that is included in hundreds of products for it’s fresh, uplifting scent and taste. The oil can increase your ability to concentrate during times of mental fatigue or stress and boost your energy levels. Perfect for the morning sleep deprivation crisis!

canstockphoto14856779

I use the aroma of the oil to stimulate my brain, by burning it in a specially designed oil burner for about an hour, and it fills the room with its wonderful scent. I also put some on a cotton ball and sniff this periodically. I have found it does cut through the foggy brain sleep deprivation causes and helps me feel more awake each morning. I can concentrate more effectively also. I can feel my eyes beginning to stay open instead of half shut and out of focus!

It is also has a fresh, pleasant sweet smell. I wouldn’t be without peppermint oil in the mornings now!

Please note, essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin as neat essential oil, though; they must be mixed with a carrier oil first. (Lavender and Tea Tree Oils are the exceptions to this rule). Also, the essential oils must never be consumed.

So, far we have discussed how I use my senses each morning to stimulate my brain through taste with the caffeine, sight with the light therapy, and smell with the aromatherapy. Coming up: I will be writing about stimulating my brain through sound using music therapy. These previous blogs are:

Treating Sleep Deprivation – Part 1: Caffeine
Treating Sleep Deprivation – Part 2: Light Therapy
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 2- Light Therapy

canstockphoto33096827

As I explained in Part 1 about caffeine in this blog series, living with the daily consequences of a sleep disorder is harsh. The sleep disorder causes chronic sleep deprivation as well as a host of cognitive and physical ailments. I also have a Circadian Rhythm Disorder, which makes things worse.

I use a variety of techniques to treat the daytime effects of sleep deprivation and reset my circadian rhythm. This blog discusses the ‘Light Therapy’, also known as ‘Phototherapy’ that I use every morning.

A circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock, runs on a 24-hour cycle, controlled by light and darkness. When this is out of sync, my physical and mental function is impacted. It can be treated with bright light, though, which helps my brain register that it is daytime.

I use a Litebook Elite for my light therapy. The lamps are also known as ‘light box’. I use it to expose my eyes to intense light for 30 minutes immediately after I wake up (45 minutes in the winter). Then again, 2 hours after I get up, for another 30 minutes.

candles-492171_1280The light from this box is 10,000 lux which is the equivalent of 10,000 burning candles, and it mimics outdoor light. The lamp sits to the side of me, at an angle so it isn’t shining
the light directly into my eyes, but it is still hitting the optic nerves.

The light therapy is predominantly to reset my body clock by activating the relevant hormones and chemical messengers that tell the brain it is time to wake up. The lamp also helps treat the daytime sleepiness resulting from the sleep deprivation by providing stimulation. It isn’t anywhere enough on its own, though, which is why I need to use several techniques at the same time to treat the sleep deprivation. (Which I will cover in separate blogs throughout this series.)

These bright light lamps are often called SAD lamps, as they are commonly used to treat SAD or the Winter Blues, but they are used to treat many other disorders too. If you are considering purchasing one of the lamps, I recommend you do some checking up first as not all lamps are the same quality or provide the same protection for your eyes. The SAD.org.uk has helped by compiling a list of recommended manufacturers whose products are supported by genuine medical research. The lamp I use has been discontinued now, but there are plenty on this list.

Light therapy comes with possible side effects and a warning for people suffering from bipolar disorder, as it can trigger a manic episode. I have been using the lamp for seven years, but I have never experienced any side effects. It is important to check with your doctor first if you have been considering using light therapy, though, particularly if you are taking medication. Some antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and St Johns Wart can increase your sensitivity to light, resulting in eye damage. If you already have eye damage or an eye condition, the light therapy could make the problem worse. Always consult your doctor first!

Most people can use light therapy safely. The medical recommended light boxes have filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so there’s no risk of skin or eye damage by UV exposure, they also provide at least 10,000 lux which is the recommended strength.

I couldn’t get through the morning without light therapy; it does make a difference in resetting my body clock – one day at a time! I do feel confident in recommending light therapy for people who have a circadian rhythm disorder, or other relevant sleep disorders. I can’t stress strongly enough, though, to consult your doctor first. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Part 1 in this series of treating sleep deprivation

 

Featured Image Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 1: Caffeine

Living with the daily consequences of a sleep disorder is harsh; the sleep disorder causes chronic sleep deprivation as well as a host of cognitive, and physical ailments. I have two choices; give up and die – which sometimes in my dark place, I find myself wanting to. Or, tackle it face on to give me a fighting chance. I can’t have a normal daily life; this the best I am going to get, so I just need to put up with it and find a way to keep going.

I have written two previous blogs explaining what the sleep disorders are that I live with and how I deal with the morning sleep inertia.

First thing after waking up, I kick my senses hard with stimulation using taste, sight, sound and smell, as explained in the sleep inertia blog. I am going to break down my treatment into a series of blogs to explain each treatment in more detail. Hopefully, these will be helpful to others suffering from similar problems.

background-15994_1280
I am starting the series off with caffeine, as this may be the most attractive and readily available to everyone to try. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that stimulates the nervous system, increasing wakefulness, alleviating fatigue, and improving concentration. The length of time it takes to work is variable from person to person and strength of caffeine intake. The average length of time may be around 45 minutes, so it isn’t a quick fix sadly. The lasting effect of one cup can be 4 – 6 hours, though.

canstockphoto13163370The lasting effect, can, however, be a pitfall, as it could interfere with sleep if the caffeine is consumed too late in the day. Take your average bedtime and count back at least 6 hours to work out when you can have your last cup. It is worth nothing, though, if you smoke, this reduces the lasting effect from around 6 to around 3 hours. It explains why I needed many more cups of coffee to make it through the day when I was still a smoker!

Different types of drinks have different strengths of caffeine and the best resource I can find to help you work out the strength of your preferred drink is on the Mayo Clinic Website Caffeine is a mild diuretic, so it is important to drink a glass of water during the period you are consuming your drink, as it can cause dehydration. Dehydration itself can cause fatigue and lethargy, thus counter-productive!

coffee-break-1291377_1280
I need to consume my first cup of coffee within minutes of waking to reap the benefit as soon as possible. I then drink another 3 cups of coffee over the first 3 hours of the morning. If only it took 45 seconds instead of 45 minutes to work!
Although the effect of these cups of coffee will last up to 9 hours of my day, I still can’t stay awake and need to add other sensory therapies to my morning treatment to combat the sleep deprivation symptoms. Even after all the caffeine and additional therapies, I still need a 30-minute nap after 3 hours have passed to make it through the first half of the day!

In part II, I will discuss light therapy (also known as phototherapy) that I do every morning. Light therapy is excellent, but it does pose potential problems for people with depression and bipolar disorder.

Some helpful information about caffeine is available on the MNT website here: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194.php

Sleep Disorder Part 2 – Light Therapy

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Dying to Sleep or Sleeping to Die?

Photo of clock face with 'time for bed'

I heard the phrase “I will sleep when I am dead” so many times during my time working for a global technology company . I would usually hear this response when team members happily agreed to work late. Hell, I started saying it too, as, not only was I a perfectionist and workaholic, I have an agreeable personality type, so didn’t want to let my seniors down.

Working late nearly always means ‘Burning the candle at both ends.’ It’s ok to do this for a short period, but when we do this regularly, it can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Doing it all the time and not getting enough sleep will eventually bite hard and do lasting damage. It did for me and I am paying the price for it now.

Dying to Sleep

So many people don’t have a choice when it comes to sleep. There are not enough hours in the day for working mothers or the people working two or more jobs to make ends meet.  Shift workers don’t even get to sleep at the best time of the day, let alone the right amount of hours.

Photo of a candle burning at both ends

When we burn that candle at both ends for extended periods of time, it might not be apparent that our brains are dying to sleep until it is too late and long-term chronic sleep deprivation kicks in. It can take years to recover from this, if ever at all.

Sleeping to Die

Choosing not to sleep enough hours every night is basically ‘sleeping to die’ because of the long-term chronic sleep deprivation it will cause. This is pretty much the worst thing we can ever do for our health and wellbeing. Sleep deprivation can result in a whole host of associated illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and seizures, not to mention the detrimental effects on the brain. It can cause cognitive impairment, memory loss, lack of judgement and can lead to diseases of the brain. WebMD has an excellent article on their website that covers other risks: 10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss

What is your reason for sleeping to die? Is it late night movies; social media addiction, too much partying, staying on gadgets instead of sleeping, or video games?

Don’t Wait Until You are Dead!

Charlie says “get some sleep!” The most important thing we can do is SLEEP!cat-1270657_640

The most important thing we can ever do for our health, wellbeing and mental health is – SLEEP! We need to sleep the right amount of hours that our brain and body need. You might not need 8 hrs. You might only need around 6 hrs, or it might be as long as 9 hrs. However long our own brain needs, if we don’t get that amount, it will suffer in the long run – trust me, I know!

If I got £10 for every time, I heard the phrase ‘I will sleep when I’m dead’ when I worked in the corporate world, I would be writing this from a sunny beach in the Carribean, outside my second home!

Related Blog: Can’t Sleep – Can’t Wake Up

 

Photo credits: (c) Can Stock Photo

The Dead of Night

Photo of digital clock showing 3 am

I’ve been wide awake since 3 am. It’s an intriguing time of night, 3 am. I like to call it ‘the dead of night’. Nature is sleeping sweetly. The wildlife that frequents my garden are all nestled, gently breathing. Even the trees look asleep, as they stand strong and still, without a quiver from a single leaf.

3 am, is my favourite time of the day. My brain is awake; my head is clear and I can be truly alone with my thoughts and creativity. No sights or sounds to distract me. It is the perfect time to write and read interesting articles. My brain is unjumbled and I can make sense of everything.

Unfortunately, none of this is the case when I am in a depressive or manic episode. The depressive head sleeps through and never notices that 3 am, ever happened. The manic head races around, not stopping to think with clarity. Writing is rushed and creativity is crushed by the speed of my brain. It doesn’t even know that 3 am exists.

So, if I am not manic, why on earth am I up at 3 am? Because one of the drugs I take to treat bipolar disorder; Aripiprazole, is messing with my sleep. I am dead-on-my-feet by 9 pm but hold on until 10.30pm to go to bed. I wake by midnight, then again around 1 am and 2 am; each time, I become more awake instead of sleepy. By 3 am I am wide awake and stay that way. I already have a sleep disorder to contend with, so this is a cruel twist to get from a drug that I need to treat the bipolar symptoms!

I have read and written my way through three hours now. I have watched first light appear and heard the birdsong start. My loyal cat Charlie has been by my side on the desk for the whole time. He has just drifted off to sleep, bless him. My sleep disturbances are affecting him too, as he wants to be at my side all the time. If I am awake, then so is he. It is my cue, I too should be drifting off to sleep as the few hours I have had, is not sustainable.

I rest my head on the couch, but my eyes won’t close. I come back to the laptop and my eyes won’t stay open. I am sleepy but feel awake. I cannot sleep and I cannot stay awake. A paradoxical hell created by medication. Instead, I shall blunder through the day with fuzzy head and weary body. My eyes won’t focus and my brain won’t think clearly. My memory will fail and my speech will stutter. I will look, sound and feel stupid, so I will hide away from the world and won’t go out.

Me and Charlie will be fine; we have each other. I have the internet and he has his blanket next to the laptop. We both sit at the desk looking out into a lovely garden full of bushes, trees, birds and squirrels. I will look forward to 3 am when I will feel alive again.

Can’t Sleep – Can’t Wake Up

Photo of pillow

Have we become a nation of ‘can’t get to sleep’ and can’t wake up’ sufferers? I think if we did a national poll, there would be more than 70% sufferers, compared with those who fall asleep easily and roll out of bed awake and refreshed every day.

Changing patterns

Our world and how we sleep has changed so much since the industrial revolution. Employment doesn’t revolve around manufacturing and mining since the rise of that new fad – ‘importing cheaper goods.’ Employment has managed to diversify considerably, though and along with that, so have working hours. A nine to five job is rarely the norm these days. Our way of life has become ‘always on’ and the world has ‘cities that never sleep’. I suspect some villages never sleep, either.

So what has this got to do with not being able to get to sleep? Frankly, I think our modern lifestyle has left our poor brains confused and unable to know when to sleep and when to wake! In days gone by, the brain, governed by its circadian rhythm, knew to sleep in line with the cycles of light and dark. Nowadays, it need never be dark in our little bubbles, so we, as individuals, can take full control over when we want to sleep and when we need to wake. Can we really, or are we just kidding ourselves?

Maybe it’s a psychological thing or maybe we just don’t want to let go and allow the day to end? For many people I know, though, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to do everything they need to, so they steal time from sleep. For many, I suspect gadgets, games and social media are responsible for stealing time from sleep also.

So why are our brains getting confused?

Photo of Boy asleep on top of bed with laptopPerhaps we don’t let our brains know when sleep time is, by going to bed at different times every night. But once in bed, watching TV, and catching up with social media on our blue-light emitting gadgets definitely confuses our brains. The brain is thinking, hey, I’m in bed, so I am meant to relax and sleep now; but you are trying to keep me alert by playing with your gadgets! So which is it to be when you get into bed – stay awake or go to sleep and let the brain get on with the essential tasks it needs to do during sleep?

Advice Overload

There is a lot of speculation about what we eat and drink and when we do it; about blue light emitted from TVs and gadgets, and what time we exercise are all killing our ability to get to sleep, or cause insomnia. There are plenty of websites and blogs telling us to change this and that, do this and that, eat this and that. Lose weight, detox, quit smoking and start sniffing lavender. Most of all – kill the blue light at night! Many of us try some or all of the in vain, and I dare say some lucky people are successful at fixing the problem!

It’s Wrecking our Mental and Physical Health

I think we are slowly killing ourselves by continuing to be a nation of ‘can’t get to sleep’ and can’t wake up’ sufferers. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause anxiety and depression.It can also lead to a host of health conditions and cognitive impairment.

Are you a ‘can’t get to sleep’ and can’t wake up’ sufferer? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments, or on the Twitter/Facebook comments sections.