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Archive for the ‘Sleep/Insomnia’ Category

It’s late and I should be in bed, so I’ll just throw out a random hodgepodge of brain spew.

Finding myself back in my old company, which I left several years ago right after a merger/acquisition, I am somewhat amused to be plopped right back into a newly-announced merger/acquisition. If I hadn’t left, I could say I’ve worked in the same building for 12.5 years, yet have worked for three different companies. Not too unoriginal in this day and age of consolidation and the death of small companies. Sad. Interesting. Could be good. Good be bad. We shall see.

I learned of the death today of Senator Ted Stevens and, among other things, thought of the blog I wrote a few years ago about Senators Larry Craig and Ted Stevens. I can’t say that Mr. Stevens was someone I admired in any way, shape, or form. But tragic accidental deaths are sad, and I send my condolences into the ether in the general direction of his family and friends. I feel almost bad that I ended that blog referring to another anti-environment Congressperson who died tragically in a moving-vehicle accident. But only as bad as either one of them ever felt about the eradication of many many species of animals living on Earth.

Am I the only one that noted that last week, during the exact same time we had a large solar flare hit the planet, we have 6 earthquakes over 6.0 in magnitude in less than 36 hours? I check the USGS site almost every day. That is not quite normal. But don’t worry. My co-worker who specializes in geology, hydrology, and hazards just laughed at me when I mentioned the correlation to her.

It’s August 10 (yesterday was 8-9-10) and I’m pretty sure I’ve spent over half the year apart from my husband. *sigh* Even for us, that’s quite a large percentage. But I spent a bunch of time in California looking for a job while he was working in Hawai’i. Then, we both moved over here in July and he has spent half of July in another state working. He just left tonight for a 2-day class in the Bay Area. I should be used to saying goodbye. And I shouldn’t worry because I can easily spend 12+ hours at work the next couple of days. But you know what? It still sucks.

I know I’m pretty bad about spending time on this blog updating y’all about what is really going on with me. That was the original intent of the blog. But I haven’t been very good at it. Here’s an update – Sweetie and I are home-shopping. It’s fun. And slightly exhausting. And nerve-wracking. I’ve discovered what I’m sure every other house-hunter in the world has – at this point in time, I wish my Super Power was “Being Able to Mix and Match All the Best Things from Several Different Houses Into the PERFECT House for Me.”

*sigh* Tis not to be. This one has a fabulous kitchen but crap construction. This one has a pool but an ugly backyard. This one is sooooooo cute and soooooo unique, but there is no way I can fit more than one piece of furniture in the living room. This one has great inner space but is in a less-than-desirable-location. And on and on and on. Right now, I think our favorite candidate house is one with: some awesome space inside (large living area); some super-awesome funky-cool details (70’s-like entryway, room partition and fireplace (looks way better than it sounds); and an incredible backyard; but also has a small very outdated kitchen and location issues (a little too close to the freeway). I’m thinking we can live with the drawbacks. Assuming we buy new appliances. But I don’t know. Do we throw out an offer to nab it now? Or do we keep shopping around in hopes of finding something better?

Don’t know. We’ll figure it out. I’m going to do more recon – try and drive around during different times of the day and get a better feel for the neighborhood and noise. Sweetie does NOT understand me when I try and explain that I get “feelings” from houses. I’m not talking ghost-of-your-dead-dog-in-the-backyard or anything like that. I just get feelings about the general flow of a house. Dare I say energy? No, I better not. But I get feelings as to whether or not *I* would be happy in a space. And I need to listen to those feelings because, as much as I liked many things about the house my parents moved into after I went to college, I could NEVER EVER sleep well in it. Even for me, it was bad. But I would only visit. I can’t live in a house that is like that every day. Anyway. Feelings. Sweetie doesn’t get it. But it’s another check-mark in my brain. And this house may get a positive mark.

The search is still young. I’m sure I’ll have a different story to tell in a week. There’s your update for now.

Aloha and good-night.

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Compulsions.  We all have them.  At least one or two.  What’s yours?

Mine is door locking.  At home.  I don’t worry so  much about car doors.  I have a friend that does.  Check and rechecks them.  Will check them, walk half-way across a parking lot and then run back to check again.  Silly huh? 

But at home?  I’m the same.  I’m a compulsive door-locker at the end of the day.  I guess I don’t trust people enough to leave my home doors unlocked.  My sister may disagree with me as she has had words with me about leaving mom’s garage door open.  But, generally, I run to my front door to lock it.  At night, I check my doors.  Then, I check them again.  Before I go to bed, I check them again.  Occasionally, I’ll jump back out of bed to check again.  If I’m home and Sweetie walks out the door, I lock it after him.  If he forgets something and tries to run back in, he’ll walk right back to the door and *whack* into it as he finds out that I have, indeed, locked the door right after him.  While staying with my mom, I know she sometimes like to keep a sliding glass door open at night to cool off the house.  Security-wise she is probably ok since she is surrounded by neighbors and the screen door has a lock.  I try and respect her choice.  I try and ignore it.  I do.  Sometimes I succeed.  But most of the time?  Nope.  Can’t do it.  I run to the offending door and squeak it shut after Mom goes to bed. 

Not that I don’t miss a door sometimes.  I do.  Usually not the front door.  But I woke up one morning a while ago to realize that I didn’t check the doors the night before and Sweetie left the garage door open all night.  This just feeds and fertilizes my natural compulsion to check and recheck. 

I think there are a couple of seeds to this compulsion.  One is probably from my father who was generally quite security conscious.  The other has to do, I think, with my sleep paralysis.  Since I sometimes panic because I fear that someone has crept into my home while I am paralyzed, it helps me to know for sure that I’ve checked all the doors and someone can’t just walk in without my hearing.  Not that this helps most of the time, but that’s still partly where it comes from. 

As compulsions go, I don’t think mine is the most irritating.  Sweetie can laugh at me as I open the garage door for the 5th time in a night to recheck the garage door.  But other than running the risk of waking someone up from loud creaky doors closing, I don’t think I’m hurting anyone. 

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And yes, by “funny,” I mean excruciatingly irritating.

You would think that – after someone spends several days with little sleep at night and reaches the point where she can’t finish a sentence and her brain is mushy enough to be mistaken for cottage cheese – well, you would think she would easily fall asleep the instant she falls back into bed.

You would think that. 

You might think that if you’ve never experienced the joys of insomnia firsthand.  If you don’t understand how it works.  If you think that logic enters into it. 

But the truth is that in sleep, as with many things in life, there are no guarantees.  There is no “supposed to.”  Should does not equal could.  You take what you get and roll with it.  That’s what you do.  I know other people worry for me and I appreciate it.  I keep looking for that surefire solution and I’ll keep a diligent lookout for it for as long as it takes.  But I roll with it.

Meanwhile, I memorize a lot of interesting things while trying to dull myself to sleep.  May come in useful someday. 

See?  Benefits. 

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I don’t know if these work.  Yet. 

I plan to try some of them.  Why not?  It’s just food.  I’ve tried other food.  I’ve tried milk (now they say milk to help you sleep is a myth….grrrrr…).  I tried Melatonin when the Dr. who conducted Sweetie and my pre-marriage counseling lectured me about taking prescription sleep aids.  She told me to try Melatonin.  I tried it.  Didn’t help.  Actually seemed to make my insomnia worse.  I’ve tried other methods.  I’m game to try new things out.

My current experiment?  Sesame seeds.  It’s on the list.  Supposed to be loaded with tryptophan.  Sure, I’ll try that.  It may take a while before I can figure out if they help or not.  I can’t easily correlate one good night of sleep with any one solution.  Except prescription sleep aids (Nahnah nah nahhhh to you Dr. Counselor!).  So, I’ll try and track sleep progress with sesame seeds and without.  Who knows.  Can’t hurt.  Sure, I’m skeptical (goes well with my cynical nature), but I’m not closed-minded.  I mean – almonds as stress relievers?  Who wouldn’t be skeptical of that??

Everyone has a theory.  I work in an office full of insomniacs and everyone has a different theory.  I’m telling you – if someone really had a natural solution to insomnia and could bottle it – they’d be gajillionaires.  Someday I’ll figure out something mass-producible.

Happy dreaming!

Link in case you didn’t click above:  http://www.naturalhealthontheweb.com/sleep/snacks.html

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In my ongoing effort to be the most unattractive and awkward sleeping partner in the history of this planet, I tied my legs together last night.

OK, I didn’t really do it just to look weird. 

It’s related to my new “oh crap, I’m old” ailment – my hip has been killing me.  Particularly when I sleep, I have for several months been waking up with pain in my lower back and hip.  On my left side, the pain is so great in front and in back that I can barely turn over in the middle of the night. I talked to my doctor about it and about the fact that my left knee is crap.  We agreed to start with an x-ray of my knee.  Maybe get one of my hip.  In the  meantime – more pain.  And then I realized that, while I sleep – my right leg is fairly straight but my left leg tends to get quite askew in the middle of the night.  It moves out and twists. 

I was suspecting this could be the cause of my mainly nighttime pain.  So, last night I grabbed my trusty bathrobe tie and knotted it loosely around my legs right above my knees.  My legs were able to move a tiny bit but it kept my left leg from straying too far during the night.

Night 1 of Operation Tie Legs and – Sweet! – no waking up at 4 a.m. with excruciating pain in my back and left side.  hmmmmmm……I like this.  Sweetie told me one night of no pain doesn’t prove anything.  I agree.  I’ll try it for a few more nights and see what happens.  I’m hoping I can train my leg to stay put all night on its own.  Seemed to work for my arm, I think.  I haven’t been throwing it over my head a lot since I tied my arm down during the night. So much for doctors – I’ll figure out how to make my body stop hurting it I have to mummify myself to do it!

Kudos to Sweetie who puts up with the ties and knots and extra pillows and mouth guards and ear plugs and all the other signs of my advancing age. 

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The dark quiet hours of the night.  The hazy wasteland of a bright morning.  I see nighttime through the fractured lense of an ocassional insomniac. 

People sleep when I stir.  I doze as others awaken. 

Even the online world is quiet at my normal midnight.  My loved ones certainly are.

Nothing quite so disconcerting as to wake from a short sleep to the vague sensation that the world doesn’t need you.  The late night conversations flow, perhaps thankful of my absence.  The tired sleep, oblivious to my wanderings.  I think of people I wish I could talk to – the ones who will talk.  And who I miss talking to.  But the world is dark.  The night is still.  And I am awake.  Sleep-deprived e-mailing should be avoided as much as drunk calling.  What would one say without the barriers of logical thought and alert restraint?

The dark of night has exclusive hold on feelings and sensations the daylight can vanquish.  A short hall is a halting obstacle course of pointed edges and flitting shadows.  A loneliness born of half dreams and a mind left defenseless by an exhaustion too complete for mere sleep.

You are who you are.  I am who I am.  We do what we do. 

What I feel is real.  Just over-heightened perhaps.  Maybe a little too raw to explain. Maybe a little too sharp to remove from the sheath of quiet expectations and full-rested patience.  It isn’t for most.  And the exceptions are never awake anyway.  It’s enough to make you want to run to the moon.  If I wasn’t so tired, maybe I would.

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I have a subject I’d like to talk about. But I don’t want to talk about it. How’s that for you?
I want to talk about it because I think it can be informative to people who don’t know about it. But I don’t want to talk about it because I’ve spent time trying to explain this to multiple people in my life and I always seem to have the same impression: You really can’t understand it unless you’ve experienced it. Oh well. Here goes anyway.

I suffer from recurrent isolated sleep paralysis. Or, more generally, sleep paralysis. I’ve been suffering from it for over 15 years. It sucks and I don’t like it, but I’ve learned to live with it.

What is it? You can read about it here. Or here. But I’ll try and explain what I’ve read over the years.

Well, first off – did you know that your muscles go in atonia when you are in REM sleep? Not just me. You. And you. Everyone. Muscle atonia is basically paralysis, and the body does this so that we don’t act out all the motions of our dreams, which occur in REM sleep. I’ve been trying to explain my sleep paralysis to my Sweetie for a couple of years and just recently found out – he thought I was the only one who was paralyzed in my sleep. “No”, I told him. “Your body does it too.”  Everyone’s does. Except, I suppose those who sleepwalk (although I’m not sure sleepwalking occurs during REM). My Sweetie was quite surprised to hear that his muscles also paralyze when he dreams. Happens to the best of us.

So for most people, most of the time, you either transition into non-REM sleep, or you wake up – boom! and you can move. That’s what we all experience right? But, during sleep paralysis, the sleeper awakens (heh heh, the sleeper awakens – good line) and becomes conscious but CANNOT move. You can be aware of your surroundings, aware that you are waking up, but you cannot move a muscle. Literally. Sounds kind of scary, huh?

But wait, that’s not all. For reasons I don’t really get from all the reading I’ve done, sleep paralysis is usually accompanied by some sort of hypnagogic hallucinations. Sounds fun, right?

So, here is the deal. You wake up. You can’t move. BUT, not only can you not move, you sense a malevolent presence somewhere near you. This thing, whatever it is, is going to kill you. Is coming for you. And you can’t move. At all.

For me, this is the most frightening experience I’ve had. Because I am trying so hard to move. But I can’t. So I try and call out – either for help or, more importantly, just to let this *thing* know that I am awake. I may look like easy sleeping prey, but I am NOT. I am awake, and about to spring into kung-fu, ass-kicking action, just you wait, any second now. I’ve learned through the years that my attempts at a verbal warning are actually very feeble kitten-like mewing noises. Great. So much for threatening a non-existent menace in my room.

But here is the thing. This is scary for me. This is *always* scary for me. So scary, I concentrate with all my might to wrench myself out of sleep and move. It feels like I am covered with mega-magnets, and I am wrenching myself away from the mother of all opposite-poled magnets. And if I do manage to sit up, my body feels like it is still in REM sleep, my eyelids are heavier than bricks, and I could easily fall right back asleep. I could. If not for the fact that I am completely SCARED. So, I can’t let myself fall back asleep because 1) I’m just too scared to, and 2) experience tells me I’ll have another sleep paralysis episode after I do. So, I try and push myself out of bed, hoping that if I have to stand up I will. And I do. And I shuffle to another room of wherever I am. And I find a couch or something. And I try and sleep again.

Always the same. Even after I learned what sleep paralysis is. Before I ever heard about it, there was some small part of me that wondered if Death personified was really stepping into my room at night. I could not figure it out. I knew nothing was ever there. How could I be that scared every time it happened? I never actually saw anything, so it was not a real visual hallucination for me. Just a presence. And why was it I always felt like I could not move? (I didn’t know about REM muscle atonia)

Then, I talked to someone who, around 1998, was the first person who ever seemed to know what I was talking about. He said he had heard something like that before. I wanted to hug him. Well, I did – he was my boyfriend at the time. Then, my buddy (T) had the bright idea of “Why don’t you look it up on the Web?”  Which never occurred to me. So I did. And I read another woman’s account of her own sleep paralysis episode. And I wanted to cry. And hug her. And laugh. Holy crap! There were people out in the world who *understood* what it felt like. And there was research. And information. And it helped so much to learn a little about it.

Not that it helped much. Because I still can’t seem to just let myself sleep through a sleep paralysis episode. I can’t. I’ve tried. Now that I know what it is, I know there is no unnatural presence beside me, but I still can’t sleep through it. My brain has morphed the danger into something more practical. Now, my fear is this: I’m paralyzed. But I’m sure I’ve left a door open somewhere. And someone is breaking in. And they are going to kill me. Just a stupid, mean person who intends to kill me for no good reason. And I’m helpless to stop it. And for the life of me, I cannot reason these fears away. I will literally lie there, in a panic, and think to myself “Stone Girl. This is sleep paralysis. No one is there. Stone Girl – in 16 years of this YOU HAVE NEVER DIED. No one has ever killed you. It’s pretty likely that no one is going to kill you right now. Go back to sleep.”

But I can’t. I still mew, and fight the mother magnet, and wrench myself awake. Stupid. But true. And I would love to be able to sleep through it. I’ve read reports where some people can enter a lucid dreaming state if they stay asleep. How cool would that be!? I’d love to do that. Research also claims that people who sleep through it experience something like an out-of-body experience. I know it sounds strange, but it’s a common feeling/experience for some people. But no, I gotta wake up. I’m a sissy. I’ve read some helpful suggestions. Some people say – try wriggling your fingers and toes first – as small motions. Which, I gotta say, is better that trying to wrench my whole body up in one motion. So that does help. Some people say – to try and sleep through it, focus on your belly button. ??? I don’t know about that. I can’t seem to focus well enough on anything to stay asleep. Too bad.

Why do I have this? I don’t know. I don’t suffer from narcolepsy (although it would’ve been fun to blame my old meeting snoozes on narcolepsy). I don’t suffer from a panic disorder. I get sleep paralysis under the entire gamut of life conditions – stressed, not stressed, sleeping well, insomnia-induced zombiness, exercising, not exercising. It’s been happening for about 16 years. There is no rhyme or reason for me. It just happens. It used to only happen to me when I napped – hence I learned to hate napping. Now it happens when either napping or sleeping at night.

It happened about a week ago while Sweetie and I were at his mom’s house. We were in single beds in her guest room. And I had an episode early in the morning. And I think I started mewing. Because I saw Sweetie’s hand reach over to my bed and try and touch my shoulder. But he didn’t wake me (which I’ve asked him to do if he sees me having an episode). I still don’t think he completely understands it. Because he told me the next day that he heard my crying out in my sleep. And I said “I know. And you reached over to me.” And he was surprised and said “You saw me?” Well, yes. How many times can I explain it? I am aware of what is going on around me. I just can’t freakin’ move! It’s an actual physical reality. It’s hard to get across exactly what that is like if you’ve never experienced it.

So there you go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Research says many people will have at least one episode of sleep paralysis during their lifetimes. So, if you’ve experienced something like this, it has a name. Actually, it has many names. Ever heard of the myth of the succubus? The old hag who sits on people’s chests and sucks the air from them? Ever met someone who honestly believes he or she has been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night? Heard other sleep creature myths? Chances are, these people have suffered from sleep paralysis and didn’t know it. Or so the researchers say. Interesting huh?

For those of you wondering, why don’t you do something about it? That’s a complex question. I don’t hate it enough to try any sort of drugs that may or may not work. And frankly, I don’t want to. Besides sleep paralysis, I also sometimes have very vivid dreams. I have scary dreams. And beautiful dreams. I’ve composed music in my dreams (even managed to save one tune once when I kept a tape recorder by my bed at night). I’ve been sharing my dreams with friends for years. I can still remember exact details of some of them. How would affecting sleep paralysis affect dreaming? I’m not sure. But I don’t think I hate it enough to mess with the natural sleep cycles and dream possibilities of my self. Even if it does seem unnatural sometimes. I keep hoping I’ll just outgrow it someday.

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