Friday, September 20, 2013

Documenting Sleeplessness part 1

This has been going on for several weeks now.  At first, I thought I was just one of those unfortunates who would sleep eat while on Ambien.  I'd started waking up around 3 in the morning, about 2 or 3 hours after going to bed, shoveling a few handfuls of popcorn into my face, then eventually settling back into sleep until my first alarm clock when off at 7:30 (followed by another at 7:35 and I final one at 7:40, these combined would awaken me by 8:15 or so.  On a good day, anyway).

I started reading up a bit, just casually, not academically, on segmented sleep, coincidentally encountering an article on it in a recent issue of Harpers.  The general idea there is that prior to the industrial revolution, people naturally slept in sections of about 3-4 hours, interrupted by about an hour, then followed by another 3-4 hours, it was somehow programmed into our natural body block (though often advisably supplemented with a later afternoon siesta of about 30 minutes).

Part of me was trying to figure out how to embrace this.  If it's the natural order, why fight it?  Of course, fight it  I still did, with Ambien, Ambien supplemented with Benadryl, then supplemented with Benadryl and Melatonin, then with GABA and a Saffron appetite suppressant in an attempt to curb the late night eating urges.  Despite these additions, or perhaps because of them, the past two nights have been interrupted much more severely.

Both nights I've found myself wide awake about 3-4 hours after going to sleep.  Wide awake.  Unimpeachably awake.  It's 4 or 5 in the morning and I shoot out of some anxiety dream (lately relating to work, family or forgotten friends- I am not relishing the inevitable dreams of romantic and sexual failures that I'm sure are to come with the next cycle of neurotic visions.  Those haunt me plenty enough in my waking hours) into total consciousness, and that's where I remain for hours on end, not the slightest bit heavy eyed, though certainly not able brained enough to function on a normal human level.

Part of me is still telling myself that this is some symptom of a late summer bug.  I'd been feeling a bit fatigued earlier in the week and hadn't had much of an appetite for several days.  Still, my sleeplessness the past couple of nights has been so pronounced, I question where this is a symptom of a large illness, or the illness itself.

Worst of all, as a person with a day job, it leaves me in the awkward position of having to make the judgement call of whether I've obtained enough sleep to function humanely during the course of the following day.  Yesterday (or today, I supposed), I opted out, the thought of trudging through a day of emails and meetings and conference calls on 3 or 4 hours of sleep just seemed like too much to deal with, the other vague flu-ish symptoms on top of them.  Tonight, just as awake just as late at night, but no particular hope of returning to sleep, despite the ingestion of an additional Ambien, GABA and Benadryl, I'm faced with the decision all over again.  How much sleep is enough sleep?  Tonight I have about 3 hours in the can and about another 3 hours of potential sleep before I have to be up and on my way to work.  I don't think it's enough, but my supply of sick days is dwindling, nerve wrackingly so.

Is it better to trudge on, zombie-like, and muddle through, or to indulge in the notion that insomnia is some kind of an affliction and should be treated as such.  I've been to the doctor for this, been going to a doctor for years, and taking his suggestions, his medications, supplementing them at times with home remedies and the like, but really, in moments like this, I feel no better off for the effort or the expense, faced with the fact that this is most likely just something my body wishes to do, something I may not be able to fight, to create a lasting, restful peace from internal conflict.

Which is all a nice, hopefully reasonably thoughtful bunch of words, but where does it leave me tonight?  I've been up a solid hour, taken an extra round of supplements and medication, had a cooling shower (bringing body temperature down is supposed to be good for sleep and I tend to run warm) and gotten up from bed (experts say you should get up to read or write or do something to engage and presumably wear yourself out mentally) for a bit to write all this down.  What else is there?  Force myself to lie in bed and stare up the ceiling, silent and alone with my insecurities and other various concerns, none of which can be remedied alone in my bed as the sun is rising.  And do I suck it up and drag my unrested carcass into the job tomorrow, for the sake of appearances and the conservation of PTO if nothing else, to sort of sleepily, distractedly fumble my way through the day's tasks, all the while feeling just a little bit extra sensitive, a little bit extra irritable, a little bit more than normal like I could start crying at my desk at any minute.

 Anyway, I suppose this is an attempt for me to get these thoughts I'm having in these moments down somewhere.  Hopefully my sleep becomes more normal again soon and keeping a journal of my sleep problems becomes irrelevant, but in the meantime, any feedback anyone else might have on their issues with sleep would be greatly welcome.  Leave a comment or drop me a line.