Tag: insomnia

Sleep Problems

Sleep to sleep - what happens with the brain inside

So if you ‘ve noticed I’ve been a little lethargic lately it’s because I have been.  I just haven’t been feeling great- fever, fatigue, cold chills.  But no other symptoms like sore throat or stuffy nose.  Just feeling really really tired all the time.  I’ve got things to do but would pretty much always rather be sleeping.

The problem it creates is getting back to the gym because I’m so tired.  I slept this entire weekend away and took Monday off work because I felt lousy and slept all day those days.  I feel a little better today but am still very tired.

It’s frustrating because sleep is supposed to be this simple thing.  This basic human function but not for me. There always seems to be a lot of drama attached to it.  And to make matters worse when I am able to get to sleep despite being tired all day I often have a hard time getting to sleep.  It’s just a huge mess.

Can any of you relate? I have to be careful who I mention my sleep issues too because I have found my Mom friends can be a little unsympathetic.  Me a single girl tired!  “Just wait till you have a baby” they say with their eyes.  I get it but I really am tired.  I promise! 😉

I just wish I could figure this thing out and sleep regularly like a normal person but I’ve tried everything from therapy to drugs to meditation.  Sleep is my enemy and constant frustration.

All I know is I am soooooooo thankful to have a job I can do at weird hours that works with whatever weirdness my sleep is putting me through.  There are no words for how grateful I am for that.

So, excuse the sleeping vent.  It’s just frustrating.

 

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Headaches

This is a pretty simple post.  The last few months I have been getting terrible headaches. Debilitating.  Yesterday on Easter Sunday I sat in my room most of the day and nursed about a 10 hour head ache.

headache

I know that some of you have dealt with headaches, so I am curious for some advice.  What do you find to be the most helpful?  How do you function if you get one?  At least I have a job where I can work with lights off or sound free environment if needed but just curious if there are any suggestions that might help.

Sugar seems to help and sleeping.  If I have a bad night, which I did Saturday, than I often get a headache the next day.  But it seems to be linked to my blood sugar a bit so if I sip a soda or something sweet the pain is better.  Has anyone else experienced that?  Medicine doesn’t seem to do much to help.

Anyway, just curious for some advice and maybe to vent a bit.  I hate these headaches!

Sleep and Spoilers

This is kind of a random post with 2 topics that don’t really go together. But this is my blog and I can do that if I want… 😉

Any reader to my blog knows I have struggled for years with insomnia.  Pretty much my whole life but it’s been particularly bad the last 3 years at times leaving me with little to no sleep for days at a time.  This can be very stressful and mentally debilitating.

Since 2012 I’ve tried everything from sleep labs to to medicine to psychoanalysis to solve the problem with nothing really providing any complete solutions.  This has led to my latest solution- stop caring so much!  I’ve decided recently to just go to sleep when I need to sleep and enjoy the time I am awake.

Naturally I still have to work in the morning but I’ve also stopped planning anything if I can help it before 9 am. I used to think ‘oh, i can do it just this once’ and then I would end up not being able to show up for a swim or being late to where I was going. (Sorry friends I’ve stood up in the past).

Anyway, since I made this decision I have been happier and less stressed over my sleeping issues.  We’ll see how it goes but for the moment it is working.  It also helps me be less dependent on sleep medications, which are very tempting but only work for a brief period of time and then they fail spectacularly.

So if you notice me posting late or engaged on social media at 4 in the morning don’t be surprised, I’ve surrendered to the Sleep Godss.  If you can’t beat them, stop fighting!

spoiler_splash

SPOILERS

And now to my totally unrelated rant.

I want to talk for a second about spoilers.  This has been a topic that has annoyed me for some time but I haven’t found a way to work it into the blog, so here goes…

Since I became more involved with twitter last year it seems there never goes a day where I don’t hear someone crying ‘spoiler alert’ over a tweet, video or facebook status.  As annoying as it can be to have something spoiled I am finding these protests to be even more annoying.

First, let’s define what a true spoiler is.  That is where a key plot development is uttered before you have the chance to view said entertainment.  For years this was only a sports phenomenon (mainly due to the fact that VCR’s weren’t popularized until the early 80s).  So, if you knew you were going to be out for the big game, you’d record it and hope that nobody told you the score/big plays. If someone did that would be a spoiler.

However, even then a spoiler would not have been someone telling you how the weather was or who played in the game.  It would also not be a spoiler if someone said ‘that was a good game’.  Such a comment is so broad that it could mean good defense, offense, refereeing whatever.

So, let’s move up to modern times.  Social media is everywhere and a huge part of our everyday life. This gives great potential for spoilers.

That said, just as wildly accessible and obvious details about a sporting event are not a spoiler back in the day, neither is it now.  If I tell you that Toby McGuire or Daniel Radcliffe is in a movie, that is not a spoiler.  If I say Michael Phelps swam in a race, that is not a spoiler.

It is also not a spoiler if something has occurred with enough of a time-lapse for most people to enjoy it.  There has to be a time limit on spoilers. An example from literature would be Dumbledore dieing in Harry Potter.  Giving that away when the book was released, major spoiler.  Talking about it now that movies have come out and it’s been years, not a spoiler any more! I mean at a certain point I’m allowed to talk about Vader being Luke’s father.  It can’t be a spoiler forever…

During the Olympics this was especially annoying.  I get not wanting to know events before the primetime broadcast but if it happened yesterday and we’ve moved on to the next day of competition I’m allowed to talk about yesterday’s events.

On facebook the US Olympic team would post photos of victorious Olympians and it never failed to get hundreds of spoiler comments.  Urgh…so annoying.If you don’t want to know what happens to the US Olympic team during the Olympics than unfollow them for 2 weeks and don’t be spoiled.  I mean what are they supposed to do pretend like we didn’t win anything until everyone has a chance to watch it? Then people would be complaining they are ignoring our Olympians.

The other thing is that part of the fun of watching events these days is sharing them with a social media group of fellow fans. For example, If you know I always tweet about Survivor, do not read my tweets Wednesday night and then be mad at me for spoiling. I am not going to put Spoiler Alert before every Survivor tweet. That’s just obnoxious.

I feel like the Spoiler Alert Kings are simply finding one more thing to complain about. Sometimes part of being a grown up is not being surprised any more.  Sometimes we know what is going to happen but we have to find a way to enjoy the experience any way. I personally am someone who is almost impossible to spoil.  In fact, I am quite the opposite.  At times I enjoy knowing what’s going to happen because I can relax and just enjoy the game/movie/whatever.

Other times I like the suspense of not knowing what is going to happen.  I was grateful nobody told me about the twist in Sixth Sense or the surprise at the beginning of Phantom of the Opera (the stage production).  Both of those scenes are obvious to most human beings as spoilers and most people at least make an effort not to spoil them.  If they do, again take a grown up pill and enjoy it anyway.

It is also not a spoiler if it is a detail that any non-idiot should know.  For instance, it is not a spoiler to say that 12 Years a Slave is about a person who is a slave for 12 years.  It’s getting to the point where you can’t talk about anything in an intelligent way because you are so afraid of spoiling it.

Using 12 Years a Slave as an example- when I wrote my review I gave a spoiler warning at the beginning because I went into detail about characters, motivations, settings, and scenes.  That alert was appropriate but again I think any rational person knows the difference between the types of analysis.  If I tell you the ending of Inception and we discuss it that deserves a spoiler.  However, if I merely say the movie is good and I liked the ending, that the ending surprised me, that is not a spoiler.

So, in conclusion spoilers are a part of life, so work around it.  Stop complaining, be a grown up and enjoy the entertainment spoiler or not.

There I said it! 🙂

 

 

 

 

No Sleep

Last night I got no sleep.  I was tired all day and had to go to the house in Alpine to show someone around.  Worried I would be a drowsy driver I drank some caffeine around 4:30 and I bitterly regretted it by the end of the night.  Plus, my ambien prescription is out and that seems to be the only thing that really helps.

It was a long night.  I kept trying different strategies but nothing worked.  (Deep breathing, counting sheep, listening to audiobook, reading, nothing).  Finally around 4:30 I gave up and decided to start working since I was up anyway.  Its peculiar  because usually this happens when I’m worn out or frazzled but I felt fine.  No real stress. The only thing I can put my finger on is that stupid diet coke I drank.  I used to drink a super big gulp everyday, sometimes 2 and it wouldn’t affect me much but not any more.

I tried to take melatonin but it wasn’t helping.  Nothing was helping.

How do I get in these cycles  you ask?  Well, I stayed up too late during my recent trip and ever since then I’ve had a hard time going to sleep before 2 am.  Sometimes more like 3 am.  My body will be tired but my eyes will be wide awake.  At a certain point you start to have anxiety about not being able to sleep and it gets worse and worse.

I know it affects me in many ways.  Luckily I have a job that is flexible and I can even work late at night if all else fails.  But its hard to be motivated to exercise when you are so tired and a lot of the swim masters are at 6 or 6:30 and I’m sorry but I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night.

Last Fall I went to an insomnia specialist and she helped me get things on track so perhaps I need to see her again.  Meanwhile I’m trying to stay up till 8 or 9 tonight so I don’t wake up at some crazy hour.  Its literally painful.  My eyes hurt, head hurts, my stomach is bothering me and I have no appetite.

I don’t mean to be complaining.  Its just insomnia is the worst!

Do you guys have any strategies that work for you? I’ve also done the sleep studies and have a cpap but it makes my insomnia really bad so I don’t wear it often.  Some days my room helps me a lot with all its beautiful darkness and other days my whole body feels tight and I can’t relax.

Tired Rachel
Tired Rachel

By the way, this is my 700th blog post.  Pretty crazy right! Thanks to all who read it.

A Dark Room

Yesterday a dream came true.  I slept for 8 1/2 hours with only 1 interruption in my own room.    To what do I owe this great miracle, you ask?  I think this picture says a lot.

One dark room!
One dark room!

You know how in most rooms you can see the outline of your bed or your rooms.  Not in my room.  It is totally dark.  That little light you see in all the darkness is from my cable box which I can turn off.

How did I do this?  Well, it was the entire reason I moved.  I wanted to  get away from the loud birds, geese, ducks, and create the darkest room I could.  I even thought about living in the basement apartment and renting out the top part so I could keep it really dark.  I knew it would change my life if I could just sleep well.   It might sound crazy but to me it was worth buying a whole house just for that reason- to sleep!

Anyway, the first thing I did was had a wall of curtains installed by Calico Corners.  This was thick fabric with black out panels.  This created about 90% blockage and creates an awesome statement in the room that I love.

curtains
The curtains!

To a sane person this might have been enough but I’d come so far to not get my 100% dark room.  It wasn’t enough! That light that came through the top of the curtains was actually quite bright (there is a bright street lamp right outside my room).

So I had the company that installed the rest of my window treatments, the Blindman, install these:

IMG_20130313_163441

Combined you have what is in my opinion the perfect room.  It is quiet, totally dark and all me.  I LOVE MY ROOM!!!  I slept 8 1/2 hours!!!!!  Is there anything so exciting!  I don’t think there is.  I am SO HAPPY!!!

I told my friend Adrienne that any visitors can use the dark room.  That would get me to come!   It’s a dream come true.  Come on out!Life is good!

Insomnia Specialist

It should be no surprise to any blog reader that I struggle with insomnia.  I have for years.  Even as a child I remember sitting up late at night wondering about things and staring at the wall.    High school and college were plagued with insomnia and even on my mission when I was tired all the time I sometimes struggled to fall asleep.  (My mission was the only time in my life I’ve successfully taken naps but I still sometimes sat up for a half hour to hour trying to wind down from the crazy days).

Well, I’ve recently had a few breakthroughs in my treatment.  I have been seeing an insomnia specialist that is a psychiatrist not an MD.  She can not prescribe medications but works with you to collect data on your sleep and change patterns.  I have been meeting with her for about a month and a half and already noticed some interesting trends:

1. I find it very difficult to sleep without having eaten and not just a snack.  Preferably something sweet seems to be helpful.  I’m not sure if this is the blood sugar that makes me tired or if it is something psychological but it’s certainly fascinating.  The doctor asked me if food gives me anxiety and at first I said NO!  I hate that fat person cliche that we are always crying into a pan of brownies, not true!  Still, I had to admit that the whole process of losing weight and food management does give me some anxiety (which is a different question than does it make me emotional).  It made me think of being a fat little girl who was bullied and I wonder if that anxiety made me a child insomniac?

2. I typically went to sleep around 2 am and woke up between 7 and 8.  We are trying to train my brain to sleep when I tell it to go to sleep so we’ve been forcing myself to stay up until 2 and wake up at 7:30.  It’s been hard but I think it is actually working.  I find myself getting tired earlier than last month.  Maybe it is just my rebellious nature? Can’t be told what to do even by myself!

3.  My doctor ordered me to not have blue light electronics (tv, ipod, phone, computer, etc) an hour before I went to bed.  I was skeptical but I must admit it seems to be helping me feel more tired.  Part of it is I have just been getting bored.  I can read for a little while but I’ve had a hard time thinking of anything else I could do for that hour but sleep and listen to an audiobook.  I’m not going to say the problem is so easily solved but I’m encouraged by the progress in the last week.

4. There are a lot of insomnia myths out there that don’t seem to make much of a difference for me.  For instance, the not eating after 8 pm rule clearly does not work for me (see rule #1).  Eating spicy food and even caffeine in the afternoon doesn’t seem to affect when I go to sleep.  I also can’t take a bath or shower.  Nothing will wake me up faster than that.  Sometimes I can’t even wash my face or brush my teeth (don’t worry do it in the morning) because the water (and peppermint) will wake me up.

5.  Still incredibly sensitive to light, sound and any other stimulus.  Can’t wait to move into my new house away from the pond and tree where I can customize my curtains and get the ultimate perfect sleep! It is my dream to have everything like at the hotel rooms I’ve stayed at.  When I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Folsom I slept for 12 hours! That’s the difference a controlled sleep environment makes for me, more than double my normal sleep!

6. Go to bed only when you are sleepy.  This I learned from my regular sleep doctor but its been reinforced the last few weeks. Never try to get yourself to sleep for more than 20 minutes.  If you can’t sleep get up do something and then when you feel tired try again.  When I think of that horrible incident in February where I couldn’t sleep for over 2 days a lot of it might have been solved if I had just stopped trying and done other things (although my brain was so worked up then I don’t know if that’s the case)

So, I think that’s a lot to learn in such a short period of time.  I’m grateful for good doctors while they last and soaking up all the knowledge I can.  My endocrinologist decided to not do the pay for practice so I have lost him… 😦  I don’t know what I’m going to do.  Makes me weary just thinking about it- maybe that’s the cure for insomnia, think about finding a doctor!

I know many of you struggle with insomnia and I’d encourage you to keep a detailed sleep log and try different strategies, even if they seem counter-intuitive (like eating before bed) and see what works.  I’d be curious to hear your findings and how they match up with mine.

Btw, the name of my doctor is Dr. Lori Neeleman and she is such an easy person to talk to, so insightful.  I really like her.

 

 

Anxiety

Let me start off by saying this is an incredibly personal thing to share; however, I decided long ago that if I was going to embrace social media I would do it 100%.  You truly know the real me through following me on facebook, twitter or by reading this blog.

So I have good news my friends..  I have slept- from 11:30 last night to 6:30!  I was thrilled!  The truth is Monday night I was having a bit of an anxiety attack.  This is only the second time in my life I’ve experienced such a thing.  I can’t explain it but will just say the brain can become fixated on a thought and it won’t go away.  The crazy thing is that both times this has happened to me were after I thought I had dealt with the situation and had even felt some catharsis that it was over and then BAM!

It’s really hard to understand if you haven’t felt it.  Fixating on something like fibro pain, which has been bad lately, or on possible changes at work, or on other personal changes, and you try to distract yourself but then it keeps coming back again stronger and stronger.  At a certain point I even was getting anxiety about getting anxiety.  Also, the more sleep you lose the more tense you feel.

This chart brilliantly describes what happens when we feel anxiety

The truth is the reasons don’t really matter.  All that matters is that my thoughts changed my feelings into a sense of panic or loss of control.

Like I said, my other panic attack happened in 2007.  At the time I hated my job and felt I had a black cloud over my life.  No matter what I did I felt sad and worthless.  No matter how much reinforcement was given me I felt like a failure.  This was reinforced by the disdain showed me by my boss but it was also due to a feeling of ‘let down’ after being so important on my mission.

There was one particular day where I had finally had it with this boss.  I had planned out my week to the tee and already felt totally overwhelmed.  Then we got this new training on a huge new project.   That was it.  I couldn’t do another huge project. There was no way.  I started crying as the girl in Florida (thankfully over the phone) was giving the training. (And I was not a crier at work)

After the training my boss (who was supposed to be my advocate- or at least that’s how I saw it) turned to me and said ‘well, you are just going to have to get it done.   That was the tipping point.  I just left and stormed out of the office and called my superior boss.  This is a man I’d known for many years.  He calmed me down and we discussed the situation.  He said that he ‘shouldn’t have let this happen.’ (the mark of a great leader in my book).  Then he said ‘we will talk about this on Monday’.

Situation seemingly resolved, I felt calm and went home.  Then the little bug of a thought started in my head.  What could happen on Monday?  What if I lost control?  What if I yelled and screamed?  What if I looked like a fool? etc.   For 2 days I tried to remove those thoughts from my head but they kept coming and coming.  I just couldn’t figure it out.

Finally at Walmart I started to feel claustrophobic and my asthma began to flair up. I felt like I couldn’t breath.  I made my purchases and went home.  After calling my Mom, my brother and roommates came over to help me.  I remember they were all surprised because, like me, they thought everything had been resolved when I spoke with my boss.

Eventually I was able to calm down and everything was okay.  I did go to a counselor after this experience and found some great advice that I have put into practice many times in the last 5 years.

This week was kind of the same in the sense of building stresses, one on top of another, and then once I had thought I had it figured out, I became fixated on a thought.  In addition, I was in pain and when you have chronic pain it is easy to get anxiety about having more pain. I can’t explain it but I couldn’t get to sleep and then began to feel anxiety about not getting to sleep. At a certain point you have anxiety about getting anxiety!

I did everything I could to snap out of it but you know what finally helped?  Talking to a friend who had undergone a similar experience.  She was able to give the perfect advice.  I got out of the house (went to Walmart, the scene of the last crime).  I took some medicine that is for emergency only.  I used my Balance Doterra Essential Oils and I went to bed using as close to good sleep hygiene as I could.  I also ate a very healthy dinner.

All of these things helped but just talking to a friend and feeling understood was probably the most helpful.  Again, anxiety is not about events but its about how we process these events. How we feel about them. Those feelings are usually completely illogical but it doesn’t matter.  Part of cognitive therapy is recognizing those thoughts and then creating a plan for future thought maintenance.

Feeling Good by David Burns has helped me immensely (hey it gave me 5 years in between anxiety!  Pretty good!).  If you don’t have it I will buy you a copy.  Aside from the Book of Mormon (which I will also give you a copy of!) it is the most helpful book in my life.

He says “Negative events grow in importance until they dominate your entire reality- and you can’t really tell that what is happening is distorted.  It all seems very real to you. ”

He then goes on to give 3 Methods for Boosting Self-Esteem (or shutting out negative thought).  They are too complicated to explain here but very effective (like I said they worked for me for 5 years drug free).  But in conclusion Burns says on changing our thoughts:

“How can this be accomplished? You must first consider that human life is an ongoing process that involves a constantly changing physical body as well as an enormous number of rapidly changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Your life therefore, is an evolving experience, a continual flow.  You are not a thing; that’s why any label is constricting, highly inaccurate and global…Your thoughts may be positive, creative, and enhancing’ the great majority are neutral.  Others may be irrational, self-defeating, and maladaptive.  These can be modified if you are willing to exert the effort, but they certainly do not and cannot mean that you are no good.  There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.”

Like Burns says controlling our thoughts takes work and we will have moments where we aren’t successful.  That is okay.  When this happens have a list of resources that you can turn to.  I had mine and they came through for me in spades.  Even just strategies like getting out of the house or making a list of positives can help.

I share this experience with you because I am a smiling girl 90% of the time.  I love my life but like everyone else I have my battles.  There is such a stigma around mental illness in our culture but I believe just like I can get the flu, I can get an anxiety attack.  It happens.  Its OK.  Don’t be ashamed.  You will get through it.  People do love you immensely.   Get the help you need and if the first thing you try doesn’t work try something else.

Also don’t be surprised if healthy people have a difficulty understanding your condition.  To them, they may add up the events and think ‘what is the big deal?’  or even ‘why can’t she be more mature’.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with events.  Its about the thoughts and processing of those events which is completely within your own psyche.  The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself (no denial, no self-criticism) and then create a plan to move forward.  Also, listing your distorted thoughts and a complimentary non-distorted thought (as Dr. Burns suggests) can be very helpful.

Now here’s to going another 5 years! (Its really kind of amazing I hadn’t had one last year with all the struggles but the previous one took over a year to build up to as well.  Another lesson learned).

There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.

Go to http://bringchange2mind.org/ to sign a pledge to end the stigma against mental illness and to find more information for both helping yourself and your loved ones.