Living With Sleep Disturbances

On Monday, I wrote about my relationship with the night. Today, I saw that the topic for Tale Weaver this week is sleep. I thought I’d use this opportunity to expand on Monday’s post a little and write about my various sleep issues. After all, being a night owl is one thing. Experiencing significant sleep disturbances is quite another.

First, there is of course plain old insomnia. I talked about this on Monday mostly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a lot of trouble falling asleep. Once I was asleep, staying asleep usually wasn’t that hard, except during times of significantly elevated stress.

Then there was the opposite. I honestly don’t think I ever truly suffered with hypersomnia, but there were definitely times I slept far more than I should have. These were often times of low stimulation. IN other words, I was bored to the point of sleeping.

Then there are these sleep disturbances that I cannot really classify and, since I haven’t been to a doctor with them at this point, neither can anyone else. I get really weird half-awakening states where it feels as if I’m doing something for which I should clearly be awake, only to realize later on that I wasn’t doing anything at all and was just half-awake thinking of doing something. With this come weird sensations, almost like hallucinations, too. These half-awakenings currently are very scary. I’ve heard they might be a sign of sleep paralysis, but I don’t think I experience the actual inability to move upon waking up that comes with it.

Then there are nightmares. I don’t get your standard child’s monster-under-your-bed nightmares. Neither do I get violent nightmares usually. In this sense, my nightmares don’t fit the criterion for PTSD. Then again, probably neither does most of my trauma, as most of it was mental and emotional abuse. Rather, I get nightmares that relate to my anxieties, such as of being kicked out of the care facility.

With these half-awakenings and my nightmares, it’s no wonder that sleep often invades my day-time life and vice versa. I find that nightmares often seem to go after me during the day and half-awakenings scare me too. This in turn contributes to a fear of going to sleep, which contributes to insomnia.

One sleep disorder I need to mention here, which I thankfully don’t have, is non-24-hour circadian rhythm disorder. This is common in totally blind individuals and occurs because our natural biological clocks seem not to co-occur with exactly the 24-hour clock of a day. This is corrected in people with some vision by the perception of light and dark, which regulates melatonin production. I have hardly any light perception left, but thankfully my sleep-wake cycle does not seem to be affected as of yet.

My Relationship With the Night

I have a really complicated relationship with the night. On the one end, I’m a true night owl and can enjoy sitting up late reading a book or browsing the Internet. Before the Internet, I used to listen to a talk show on Dutch public radio called “Night shift” on weekend nights between 2AM and 6AM. The show might’ve aired on week nights too, but I wouldn’t allow myself to stay up past 1AM then. (Yes, I wouldn’t allow myself. My parents didn’t set a bedtime for me past age ten or so.) In the show, people called in to ask for advice or opinions on sometimes rather mundane topics, such as the difference between fruit and vegetables.

One time, a woman called in to ask for opinions on her eye condition. She literally had a hole in her eye, she explained, which she could see when there was static on TV. The hole, however, also meant she was unable to see facial expressions, which limited her card-playing ability. She assumed that and wanted opinions on whether she could have gotten the hole because of fifteen years of almost daily crying. I don’t know whether she ever received a satisfactory answer, but I do know that story brought chills to my spine.

As I said, I’m a true night owl. Others might call me an insomniac. In fact, I’m pretty sure my relationship with sleep and the night was rather unhealthy for most of my life. As a young child even, I used to stay up late at night worrying about things I’d seen in the news, things I’d heard or experienced during the day, etc. My parents hardly comforted me. In fact, they pretty much left me to my own resources. That’s one reason they didn’t set a bedtime for me.

When I lived on my own in 2007, I had an even worse relationship with the night. I developed something akin to OCD that mostly showed up at night. I had to check each night whether my alarm was on, door locked, windows open, heating off, electronics unplugged and I’m pretty sure I forgot something. I’d spend hours going through my apartment checking each several dozens of times.

During the last week of my living on my own, I’d often leave my apartment in the dark to go outside and wander the streets. I still get flashbacks of this darkness now.

Once in the psych hospital, the first medication I was put on, was temazepam, a sleeping pill. That worked for all of two weeks. Then I got put on Nozinan, a strong sedative, which however kept me drowsy for most of the day too. Then followed nitrazepam and diazepam until I finally decided I’d rather have insomnia without meds than with meds.

I eventually did have to go on meds after all, but these were daily meds. I currently don’t experience severe insomnia, but I do experience disrupted, restless sleep and nightmares. I did back in 2007 too, but, though I did mention it when admitted to the hospital, it never got paid attention to. Thankfully, my latest addition to my psych med combo, topiramate, does help with this.

This post was written for today’s Tourmaline’s Halloween Challenge prompt: night.

Gratitude List (October 8, 2021) #TToT

Hi everyone. I’m still struggling quite a bit, but I’m determined that, if I don’t write to the 31 prompts for the 31-day writing challenge, I’ll at least write a blog post everyday. To cheer myself up, today I’m doing a gratitude post. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful for pizza. Yes, again. Last Sunday, like I mentioned in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post, we ordered food from the local Italian restaurant. I ordered a tuna pizza and it was delicious!

2. I am grateful for my staff. As I mentioned several times over the past week, my assigned home staff is on sick leave. Thankfully though, I still do have other staff. I struggle to trust them, but am trying.

3. I am grateful for new essential oil inspiration. Last Monday, I signed up to the Using Essential Oils Safely VIP club for one month. It’s too expensive for me to remain a member longer, but I’m learning all I can while I have the membership. I did put a few new essential oils on my wishlist to buy someday.

4. I am grateful for my bed’s adjustable headrest and legrest. That way, I am able to lie in bed much more comfortably.

5. I am grateful for quetiapine (Seroquel). This is my PRN medication. I’ve needed it quite a few times over the past week and am happy it helps at least a little.

6. I am grateful for the support from my community psychiatric nurse and nurse practitioner. I had a regular appt with my CPN on Wednesday and told her how much I was struggling. She offered to ask my nurse practitioner to call me on Thursday and I reluctantly accepted the offer. He did call and we agreed to discuss possibly upping my topiramate (Topamax), which I take for PTSD symptoms, on Monday.

7. I am grateful for my husband. He is very able to put things into perspective.

8. I am grateful for St. Nicholas candy. The holiday isn’t till December 5, but the candy has been in stores since mid-August and my staff ordered it earlier this week. (Thankfully my fellow clients don’t have the awareness of time to get confused by this, as people of higher intellectual level might.) I had a large handful (well, a small bowlful) of candies this evening.

9. I am grateful I am still able to blog everyday in spite of my distress. I am also so grateful for all the engagement on my blog, particularly on my posts about the mental hospital. Thanks a bunch everyone for your support!

Well, okay, nine things of thankful this time, but it’s alright. What are you grateful for?

A Perfect Health Day

I can’t remember when or why I bought the book 1000 Journal Prompts That Will Transform Your Health by Sophia Ley, but today, I felt myself drawn to it. In it, one of the prompts asks us to describe a perfect health day. Here goes.

I get up at 8:30AM. I start my day with prayer. This may not be a direct physical health habit, but it certainly helps me get in the right mindset for focusing my day on what’s right. I then get showered if it’s a day I do this or else I get a quick wash.

After I get dressed, I eat breakfast. I eat yogurt with a little crunchy muesli. This may not be the healthiest food choice physically, but it is something I definitely love and don’t really feel I want to give up on. I also eat some fruit.

After breakfast, I take a little break for writing in my journal and Bible reading. Then I go on the elliptical for 20 minutes. I’m assuming it’s a weekday. If it isn’t, I can go for my first walk instead, as my one-on-one will be there. In that case, I’ll go on the elliptical during the afternoon.

When my day activities staff arrives at 10:15AM, I have coffee. I don’t have a cookie with my morning coffee.

Then I go for a walk of about 25 to 30 minutes. After this, I usually will have some time left to do some of my crafting before my staff goes to help prepare lunch.

For lunch, I have two crackers or slices of bread with peanut butter or jelly. Again, these aren’t the healthiest food choices I can imagine, but way healthier than my current choices of lunch food on most days. I also have some slices of cucumber or some cherry tomatoes and a serving of fruit. I will have another serving of fruit in the evening.

After lunch, I will spend some time doing weight training and resistance band exercises. Then, when my staff returns from their lunch break, I’ll go for another 25-minute walk. Then I’ll have another cup of coffee, again with no biscuit.

I will spend the rest of the afternoon on my hobbies, such as blogging or reading. In the evening, I will go on two more walks with my one-on-one. In total, I will reach my goal of 10K steps.

I will have my evening meal from the meal delivery service as usual. For dessert, I will have a small serving of fruit yogurt.

In the evening, I will drink green tea rather than coffee. Throughout the day, I will also make sure I drink at least two liters of water. This means I will have a glass of water after each walk and with each meal, as well as with each medication round. I will obviously take my medications as prescribed. When it’s a perfect health day, I hope I won’t need my painkillers anymore, but that seems to be beyond my control.

I will brush my teeth twice a day, morning and evening. At 9:30PM, I will start to unwind for bed. I will say a prayer. Then, I will diffuse a relaxing essential oil blend and start a soothing sound track on Spotify. I will go to bed at around 10PM. I will probably fall asleep within half an hour and have a good quality of sleep.

Looking over this, some of these things seem relatively easy to include into my day. Some are harder. Of course, I didn’t take into account the possibility of a severely rainy day when I can hardly go for walks. I’ll have to think of alternative ways of getting active then.

Gratitude List (July 10, 2021) #TToT

It’s been a while since I last did a gratitude post. Today I feel pretty good. Not that I need to feel good in order to do a gratitude post – I’ve written them to cheer myself up on many occasions. However, feeling good is also a good time to express gratitude. Here goes. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful or #TToT.

1. I am so grateful for no side effects from my topiramate. I am not yet sure whether this medication will be working, although my staff say I seem calmer than I was before. It’s only been a week though, so we’ll see. I am however so happy I at least tolerate the medication, since many people don’t.

2. I am so grateful for increased motivation and creativity. Although this has been going on for a few weeks already, I’m really hopeful it’ll not just be an episode and, if it is, will last longer than usual.

3. I am grateful for pretty good sleep particularly early in the week. During the first few days of the week, my sleep quality was truly amazing. Last night it was a lot poorer, but I’m still happy to report I don’t experience major effects today. And it may or may not be the topiramate already working, but I haven’t had nightmares at all.

4. I am grateful for a hair clip my sister gave me for my birthday. I wear it in my new profile pic and, although I still prefer my hair mostly loose with just one small clip at the front, I do like this new look.

5. I am grateful for warm and relatively rain-free days. We’ve had more rain than is usual for the summer here so far, but it’s still okay.

6. I’m grateful my mobility seems to be returning to some reasonably acceptable level. Up till a week or two ago, I could hardly walk a kilometer at a time or I’d feel my legs get tired. Now I can walk somewhat longer distances again. I managed to reach 10K steps several days this past week and almost got it on a few other days.

7. I am grateful for delicious treats for lunch several times this week. Like, today we got mini pizzas.

8. I am grateful for quick package delivery. I ordered several things online Thursday evening and yesterday and they all arrived today.

9. I am grateful I decided to finally order some relatively expensive essential oils. I ordered Roman chamomile, sandalwood and vetiver. I also ordered sweet orange, because I’d used up all of my oil already a month or so ago. I’m so excited about all the delicious essential oil blends I can now make.

10. I am so grateful my staff killed the fly that had been annoying me buzzing around my room all morning before her shift ended. I’m probably not supposed to take delight in animal death, but I’m glad to make an exception for a fly.

What are you grateful for?

When I Can’t Sleep

Today, Sadje asks in her Sunday Poser what we do when we can’t go to sleep. Now I must say I only occasionally suffer with insomnia nowadays. As a child, teen and young adult, I’d suffer with it a lot more often. When in the psych hospital, I even tried a handful of different sleep medications until they all stopped working and I just accepted lack of sleep. The one sleep medication I remember that actually worked for a relatively long while if I didn’t use it more than twice a week or so, was zolpidem. I liked that one best, but I actually still have a kind of psychological longing for the floaty feeling it gave me.

Anyway, now that I only occasionally suffer with insomnia, I usually still don’t like to just lie there and do nothing. The nice, floaty feeling on zolpidem would’ve helped with that at least. Rather, I usually get up and do some reading on my phone. Of course, I know that electronics are supposed to keep you awake and this may be the case for me even without the blue light (being that I keep my screen completely black). Indeed, I don’t usually find that reading helps me fall asleep, but at least it helps me pass the time until I’m naturally tired enough to fall asleep. Or until it’s morning.

I wanted to go off on a tangent here and talk about other sleep issues too. The most annoying of these is finding myself in a half-sleeping, dreamlike state where my mind seems to want to do things but my body won’t. This experience, which some people I know have said might be sleep paralysis, is extremely frightening. It usually happens when I take a nap, which is why I avoid taking naps if I’ve had this experience recently.

Which gets me to fear of sleep due to nightmares. I experience nightmares that actually affect my daytime functioning at least a few times a week. I don’t always remember my nightmares exactly and I’m not even sure those I do remember count as nightmares, as sometimes when I’m in them they aren’t fear-inducing. They however do trigger my PTSD flashbacks, if that makes sense. They usually are very vivid. I have had this issue more since starting on my antipsychotic, but now that I think of it, it’s probably more of an anxiety or PTSD symptom. I am really hoping the topiramate, which I’ll hopefully be starting within the next week or two, will help with this.

Xanax From Nature: Calming Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for the weird title, but I had to come up with something starting with X. Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Here in the Netherlands, benzodiazepine medications aren’t covered by insurance, at least not when used for sleep or relaxation. In the spirit of finding alternatives to benzos, today I’m sharing what essential oils can do to promote relaxation. Now I don’t say that essential oils are as effective, but in some cases, they might just be, especially since benzos are highly addictive.

The most well-known oil for tranquility is, of course, lavender. Lavender is thought to help relieve anxiety by affecting the limbic region of the brain, the area that involves emotion. You can either use some lavender essential oil in a diffuser blend or enjoy a lavender bath. To do this, combine a few drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil of your choice or an unscented bath gel.

Valerian is up next. I don’t own this oil and haven’t talked about it. Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times to promote sleep and relaxation. The herb can be used in herbal teas, but there’s also an essential oil derived from it that can be used in a diffuser blend.

Jasmine is also sometimes used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. It has a beautifully floral scent and, in helping with anxiety, has the advantage that it doesn’t cause sleepiness. Jasmine is usually sold as an absolute and even then can be quite expensive.

Chamomile essential oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is also commonly used for helping reduce anxiety. I do not own this oil, as it is pretty expensive, but would love to in the future. I did at one point use chamomile in herbal tea.

Lastly, frankincense and vetiver essential oil both have calming properties.

There are also oils that have both calming and uplifting properties. For example, I personally didn’t expect patchouli essential oil to help with anxiety, as it is mostly thought of as an uplifting oil. However, of course, oils can do both. I will discuss more uplifting oils later.

Lavender and Lavandin #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I’ll share about one of my favorite and most commonly used essential oils: lavender. I will also discuss its cousin, lavandin.

True lavender essential oil is distilled from the flower spikes of the plant Lavandula angustifolia. It has a sweet, floral yet slightly herbal scent. Lavandin comes from a hybrid between true lavender and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandin’s scent is more herbaceous and camphoraceous than lavender, but it still retains some of lavender’s floral scent. I like to describe it as “lavender light”. Lavandin was originally introduced to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s because of it being more affordable than lavender. For this reason, some essential oil profiteers adulterate true lavender essential oil with the less expensive lavandin.

Lavender essential oil is very well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep. There are no controlled clinical trials of lavender essential oil in people with anxiety, but some less well-designed studies show that lavender may definitely help lessen anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. A study I found reported that internal use of lavender might work as well as lorazepam in treating anxiety. However, please note that I do not recommend using essential oils internally. Besides, this study was done over a time of six weeks, which is enough time for people taking lorazepam to have developed tolerance.

Lavender, when consumed as a tea (not the essential oil, but the herb itself!), is reported to help with digestive issues such as nausea, intestinal gas, an upset stomach and abdominal swelling.

Lavender and lavandin essential oils blend well with many other oils, including clary sage, citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, ylang ylang and patchouli. I like a blend of eight drops of lavender oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to promote sleep.

Do you like the scent of lavender?

Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

Grateful for My Health

Hi everyone, how are you? Today, I want to write, but didn’t know at first what to write about. For this reason, I looked at the eBook Journaling with Lisa Shea, which is really a collection of eleven of her eBooks on journaling. In the one about gratitude, one of the prompts asks us what we’re most grateful for with respect to our health.

I often worry that I’m deteriorating. In truth, I may or may not be, but I have the health I have now. Here are some things I am grateful for about my health.

1. My mobility. I know, I know, I want it to be better. I wish I could walk with the stamina and speed that my husband can. Then again, he’s much taller and skinnier than I am and doesn’t have a physical disability. Considering this, I am so grateful I am able to walk over 10K steps most days. When I wrote a post on my old blog several years ago about what optimal health would mean to me, this was one of the things I listed.

2. My energy level. Generally, difficult as I may find it to see, this has improved much over the past several years. Ten years ago, I struggled greatly to even write one blog post a week. I also slept on average ten to twelve hours a night, sometimes more. Now, I rest for about an hour in the afternoon sometimes, but not always. I also don’t need the long nights I apparently needed some years ago.

3. My sleep. I said above that I need less sleep now than I needed some years ago. Part of the reason may be an improved sleep quality. Though my sleep is still disrupted a lot, it’s much less so than it used to be. I used to snore horribly. Either my husband got used to it or I snore a little less now. I think it’s the latter, as I rarely wake up gasping for air now.

4. My mood. I still experience meltdowns and emotional outbursts almost on a daily basis. However, it’s been months since I’ve been depressed. In general, I feel my mood is pretty good overall.

5. My skin health. Many people experience dry skin in the colder months and it isn’t helped by the need to wash your hands like all the time. I, indeed, do have dry and eczema-prone skin sometimes, but haven’t had a flare up of this since last summer. My hands feel remarkably smooth compared to others’.

6. My heart health. It could definitely be better, but it could also be a lot worse. My resting heartrate is within the normal range and so is my resting blood pressure. As regular readers may know, I had a scare related to possible hypertension last October. The doctor reassured me that it’s okay now.

Of course, there are still areas in which I could improve my health, but overall, I’m pretty content.

What are you grateful about with respect to your health?

My Random Musings
loopyloulaura

Also joining in with Grace and Gratitude. This linky really inspired me to write about gratitude.