The reason I selected chapter 6 is because it deals with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Insomnia is something with which I can personally relate to and narrate my experiences about this very common problem. I suffer from chronic insomnia, an issue that has plagued me since I was young, from adolescence to now. I now realize that sleep disorders like mine are extremely common and can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, and other problems. I also now know that insomnia is differentiated in it’s forms. I have issues falling asleep, but once asleep I do not wake easily.
Others, unfortunately have the type of insomnia that causes them to wake up some time in the middle of their resting and not be able to go back to that state of rest easily, if at all. Still others can fall asleep with ease, but wake up in the early morning hours. I must say that I have dealt with my inability to easily fall asleep in such a fashion that allows me to get in the necessary amounts of sleep, even if it means sleeping for only a few hours in the night and then napping during the day, sometimes I even skip a night of sleep to make it easier for me to fall asleep the next day.
After reviewing the other types of insomnia, I do feel that my type is easier to deal with and propose that it is very possible that every person knows what it is like to have at least one sleepless night in his or her life. Although many people have traumas and other life changing events that can cause them to have trouble sleeping, I must say that my life of insomnia most certainly had nothing to do with any negative event. When I was in my high school years and was attempting to juggle work, school, and a social life, I found it necessary to stay up late in order to complete everything I felt I needed to do.
On the few hours of sleep I did get each night, I managed to stay awake during class, but I began to feel different from my peers. I was able to retain the information my teacher’s gave me in class, but it seemed like when I tried to move out of my comfort zone of learning to socializing, it was difficult during the day. My peers did seem to be wide awake and happy while I felt like I was only going through the motions until after school hours where and when I felt more awake and comfortable.
Sometimes I almost felt that I was a different person during the day than I was in the late afternoon and evenings and this disconnect made my very self-conscious. It was almost as if every morning and early afternoon I would feel bored and unhappy and I constantly fought off the urge to sleep. I felt like a person in “survival mode”; where my days consisted of simply staying awake and trying to make it until a later time, when I felt more in control of myself. This vulnerability undoubtedly led to anxiety and I can say with full confidence that the insomnia came first and the anxiety came second.
My situation was also depressing, simply due to the fact that I felt different from everyone else around me. I tried to convince myself (and still do to this day) that some people are hardwired to be “morning people” while others are “night people”. Scientific evidence has showed this to be true and since this problem seems to be biological unless another disorder causes it, then there seems to be little to do about the problem. Since I am without a doubt certain that my depression and anxiety was caused by my insomnia and there was no trauma in my history, I have always treated my insomnia as a part of my life.
Though, of course, I have sought counsel from medical professionals and others on the issue. I am firmly against taking any type of medicine for my insomnia and have always felt this way, since I believe that I would be interrupting my natural state of being. Although, I did try several antidepressants, some of them seriously exacerbated my insomnia while others caused major depression. Today I am not depressed and do not take antidepressants whatsoever, as I believe that my depression was due to me comparing myself with others; people who went to bed early and woke up happy and ready for the day.
I find that I am much happier around 4pm and can easily work until 4am or later on whatever projects I have to do. I am very productive at these times and I constantly have to remind myself that I am not lazy, though I have been called this many times over the years. I believe this also lead to feelings of depression, so I am careful to treat myself with respect and to realize that I am just as productive and happy as others, who are not biologically predisposed to being a “night person”. As far as anxiety is concerned, I do feel a great deal of anxiety in the daytime hours when I feel vulnerable.
During these times I remind myself that people, who are at their peak in the afternoon, most likely feel vulnerable in the evenings, when they are not as awake and alert as I am. I use this positive reinforcement and encouragement when this anxiety comes and so it usually is not a huge issue. Though I do have to watch what I eat and also my caffeine intake during the day, as when I eat larger portions of food I tend to become extremely drowsy. I simply limit the amount of food I eat and consume several small portions of meals rather than three large meals.
I also drink quite a bit of caffeine to help me stay awake during the day, but I have found that only certain brands of coffee are effective and energy drinks are extremely unhealthy due their various contents. As far as other types of ways to fall asleep or to stay alert during the day, I have sought several methods that do seem to help. Cutting out caffeine after 7pm seems to help, as well as eating bananas as a snack. I cannot remember where I heard that remedy for sleeplessness, but it does seem to work. Exercise, as much as I can possibly get in during the day, is by far the healthiest and most effective way to sleep easier.
During the summer months, swimming or spending time outdoors seems to also help my mood in the day, as I guess the exposure to sunlight and nature puts me in a more relaxed mood to where I do not feel so vulnerable. This, however, makes sleeping during the colder times of the year more difficult, because even if I exercise, my time outdoors is limited and I feel like I need nature and sunlight in order to feel better. I have turned to tanning salons in order to get the warmth and light that I miss in the winter and when I tan before or after exercising, this does improve my sleeping.
I also have a variety of music that I use that calms me and if I find that I am tossing and turning, I put the music on a loop. The repetition of the music that I implement does help to drown out the thoughts that I have of being irritated with my insomnia, as I find the more I think about sleeping the harder it is to do it. I really try to not even think about it. I have also, in times that all other methods have failed, turned to watching television, as this seems to have a calming effect in that it distracts me from becoming irritated with myself or feeling depressed because I begin to feel that I have no control over my life.
Reading a book hardly ever works, as I find myself getting drowsy and then put the book down, and lie down only to find that the silence makes it difficult for me to sleep or I am too busy thinking about what I just read. White noise or music seems to be a necessity in sleeping and once asleep, noises do not easily wake me. I do count myself fortunate in that once asleep, I do seem to sleep well, though since I never seem to be on a regular routine and many nights only sleep for a few hours, daytime drowsiness is common.
I am also fortunate, I feel, from deferring from unnecessary medicines and medical procedures. Before I had tried the methods listed above to counter my insomnia, I did consult with a physician. I told her that I was suffering from insomnia and that this led me to daytime drowsiness that impaired my functioning during the day. I had become concerned since I was working during the day and instead of the many 3rd shift jobs I had handled with ease, the daytime job was difficult. The physician suggested that I had Excessive Daytime Sleepiness or EDS, which is a part of Narcolepsy.
I insisted that I certainly did not have Narcolepsy and that my insomnia was certainly to blame for my daytime problems. The doctor suggested that I take medication to stay awake, I declined. The doctor then suggested that I have a sleep study done to determine whether or not I ever entered into a complete REM stage of sleep. I told her that this was most certainly a bad idea, as I had issues sleeping while in the comfort of my own home, I was concerned that being in an unfamiliar environment that I might never fall asleep at all in a hospital.
I was also concerned about the money that this sleep study cost, so it was never conducted. However, the physicians eagerness to connect my insomnia with a very different sleep disorder; Narcolepsy then caused me to lose faith in the medical community. I also feel fortunate that I have accepted who I am and do not look at insomnia the same way that I used to when I was younger. I do not look at insomnia as a disorder at all or a medical problem, though it does cause some impairment in my life, simply due to the structure of out society and that being slanted toward daytime activity.
I look at myself as that “night person” stuck in a world of “daytime people”. I am creative, intelligent, and capable of functioning very highly and efficiently at times that others are less likely to be active. The point is I do utilize the same amount of time of activity and productivity as others do. As long as I can continue to be productive and happy and to not let myself be upset by the opinions of others, I consider myself to be high functioning and am more proud that I do not use any types of medication for insomnia, which at this point I even argue insomnia as a disorder, at least on my part.
This would be like saying a “daytime person’s” inability to sleep during the day is a disorder, in my opinion. In conclusion, my experiences with what is considered a textbook case of insomnia in the form of having issues with falling asleep, is something that can be considered a biological predisposition to being more awake and productive in the evening hours. Though trauma, stress, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other issues may cause serious impairment in people, I firmly believe that people like myself simply are geared to being less productive during the hours that are considered socially acceptable to be awake and alert.
Interestingly enough then insomnia can be classed as a problem with the way society views activity and while many people may be fighting the urge to sleep during the day while finding themselves active and unable to sleep in the evening, they may be trying to fir into the norms of society while fighting their own biology. My personal research through my years of dealing with this issue has led to interesting scientific theories on alertness as a part of evolution. I do also believe that this feeling of being different from what is considered normal can cause depression, although my trials with antidepressants certainly made problems worse.
I am not depressed today and have not been for years due to the acceptance of who I am as a person. As well, I have found ways to control my anxiety from feeling like I am vulnerable during the day while I am more strong and confident in the evening. Exercise, eating right, limiting caffeine, getting plenty of time in nature, as well as music or white noise at bedtime are all very safe and effective ways of dealing with insomnia or rather, dealing with fitting in-in a society that favors daytime activities.