Battling about sleep disorders, the physiology, characteristics,

Battling the beastI have been wrestling with this monster since I can remember. I feel muddled, annoyed and exhausted every mornings.

It’s engraved. It became part of who I am and has resulted in a whirlwind of emotions.Insomnia is not my friend.

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I am no stranger to sleeplessness. Being awake for most parts of the night, tossing and turning become a daunting reminder that insomnia is TORTURE. It’s like my days are reversed, I wake up with heavy eyelids and go to bed like I just had a cup of coffee. It’s an eerie feeling knowing that you are wide awake while the rest of the world is sound asleep.

At the end of a tiring day, I expect my mind and body to shut down, instead I am fully aware of my surroundings all night long. Every single sound magnified a million times over – the wind, the leaves, the insects – everything.  It becomes worse when I’m on call – the loud beeping sound of the pager remains like a creepy crawly snaking its way into my ears. Then reality catches up, you get up and start preparing for the day, albeit, one crucial factor – sleep. Thank you insomnia, I had fun – not!When it all startedI have a vague memory of how this came to be. It must have come from somewhere. Could it have been a childhood trauma? An incident that triggered a little snip off my sanity? Bad lifestyle? I really don’t know – all I know is that it’s been ages since I had a deep and restful sleep. I would bemoan the coming morning, forcing my eyes shut while I cower under my sheets, falling deeper and deeper into anger and frustration.

Having been married to a doctor also has its perks, it’s like having a personal hotline to the medical encyclopedia. He gave me a brief lecture about sleep disorders, the physiology, characteristics, diagnosis, treatment and the whole Chapter 38 of Harrison’s Principle of Internal Medicine 19th Edition  A lecture about how diverse it is and how it is intertwined with many medical and psychological issues.The causeMine is the marriage of insomnia and anxiety. I have this inclination to get really anxious if things get overwhelmingly chaotic, at least in my perspective. My anxiety has waxed and waned through all of my emotional cycles. When I’m up on cloud nine, I get a few hours of sleep, if not, then I’m in the rabbit-hole again. My obsession to do things the right way, makes me really nervous and worried. I worry about the outcomes of projects and decisions – what if it fails? what if I don’t succeed? There’s a lot of what-ifs.

This in return contributes to over working my brain 24/7, broadcasting situations, plans, wishes and scenarios keeping sleep beyond my arms reach.When you fight this inner demon of anxiety and restlessness, it could get emotionally messy. I was trying so hard to eliminate what’s already part of me – that it felt like I am losing myself. There were times where I get easily annoyed with the simplest things, I couldn’t concentrate on work and I take every single frustration out to my husband, there were months of fights and blame, being annoyed and bad mornings. I had to control this monster!AcceptanceIf you can’t beat it, tame it! Since I can’t make it disappear, I just have to look for compromises that help me work around my insomnia. I have learned to pace myself when dealing with this enemy. Find what works as I go. Studying what works for me and my habits.

I also learned few points or two from talking to doctors and reading articles about conquering insomnia.My has mastered the art of sleeping anywhere and at any condition – being a medical student, were one work for 36 hours straight, gets a few minutes of power naps and few hours of shallow sleep – you have to adapt. It’s like changing your sleep DNA to where you can easily shut down in 2 minutes after closing your eyes.CompromiseI have opted out in taking medications to make me sleep better. I never really liked the idea of taking a pill to shut you down. It scares me.

So I have to find an alternative solution.Prepare – As much as possible, I have to completely feel drained by night time. In order to do this, I have to refrain from taking naps within the day, stay away from sugary drinks and caffeine. I also do not eat at least an hour before my bedtime.

No gadgets –  I do not use gadgets 30 minutes before hitting the hay. The effect of gadget screen can disrupt your sleep initiation. So I try to avoid using them.Meditate – I had to learn how to clear my mind.

To shut out intrusive thoughts is by far the hardest one for me. The way my mind works is in total conflict with this approach. But when I do this right, it works.

I set the foundation by trying to find the most comfortable position – focus on my breathing until every single muscle in my becomes relaxed and weightless and feel it starts from my head up to my toes.White noise – I choose the kind of white noise that reminds me of peace and relaxation. This helps pacifies the sounds of the night that might distract me form getting into the sleep zone. The repetitive sound puts me into a sound proof bubble of tranquil.Lights – In my personal opinion, light has a profound effect on my sleep process.

I prefer to have a night light on at all times. I find it reassuring that when I happen to wake up at the middle of the night, I can see a little of my surroundings and not to confuse me.A friend?In general, Insomnia has always had a bad reputation. Having dealt with this, you tend to develop the ability to see another side of insomnia – the good side. Insomnia helped me with things I couldn’t finish in the morning like term papers with closing deadlines, brainstorming on projects and ideas for work, books to finish reading, these are only few of them.

I am not imposing that insomnia is not a debilitating disorder – because it truly is. What I’m trying to say is a night or two of wakefulness comes with few, small rays of goodness. It’s a matter of attitude.A girl who STILL can’t sleepI still have bouts of sleepless nights, still wakes up in the middle of the night for no reason and I still feel tired and exhausted in the morning, but I have already come to terms with this unlikely friend.

I’d like to think I have the best of both worlds, the world where I walk among people and the other where I walk alone. Despite the fact that it’s still there and it might never go away, one thing I know for sure -insomnia will never get the best of me.”3 am is the best friend I never had – it knows most of my secrets”


I'm Ruth!

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