- Mental Health
I NEED SLEEP!
Insomnia hit me out of nowhere
For me, Insomnia, like a freight train hit me with no chance of looking back. Following my Brain injury (Click here to read background) I had my first couple of days back at work, on a film set. Around a year after the injury, I was invited to a shoot to help out if I felt up to it. I didn't really have responsibility but I got a few quick chances to operate camera and moved lights around when setting up shots.
However after the first day I hardly got over to sleep, 4 hours at most. My mind was racing! The next day I got through another shoot, with reliance on caffeine, food and energy bars. Unfortunately for me this was just the start of a long struggle with Insomnia.
Long term effects
When insomnia became an ongoing problem for me I felt like I was in a permanent state of half consciousness. Everything, I mean everything was just that bit harder. From basic things like walking and talking requiring a bit more effort to things like memory which took a big hit. Especially when It came to short term memory which really frustrated me as it made me feel like an imbecile.
I always felt like I needed a sleep, yet never quite tired enough to drift off. It was a very painful time for me as I don't believe I was the friendliest of people at the worst of times.
In time my state became what was 'normal' to me. For me it often came down to the fact that it was because of the 'brain injury' and that was the reason i.e. it needed to be accepted.
I had been looking at meditation (when I remembered to do it) That and trying different medication. Some of which I was on for over a year. It was called Zopiclone, I was on it for around 18 months. when I took it I got a solid 6 hours sleep. 6 hours was not enough but it was better than what I got naturally. It helped me maintain a basic routine despite leaving me in a permanent 'foggy brain' state. Towards the end of my time on these meds I started only getting around 5 hours each night which was too tough to get by on night by night. So it was time to come off them. After a painful 6 weeks weaning myself off I was finally free of them. Which then started the next stage which was Dealing with my long term deep rooted problem, anxiety.
Anxiety is the problem?
For me, when I am working at any level my mind is sharp. The downside to this is that my worries and anxieties are coming at 110 miles an hour. I have spoken about before about mental health (read here) which is something that covers so many things. Something that is very far from black and white, along with the fact that it comes with a stigma.
A problem with anxiety is that it has become a way of thinking, the norm. As I am sure it has for many people. No matter how many times I tell myself that some of my anxiety is 'logical' that doesn't mean that it is in any way healthy. For me the big thing that pushed my anxiety to unmanageable was a life changing trauma (read more here) that in basic terms has left me with lot more time on my hands and a decreased ability to fill my time with meaningful things. i.e. leaving me with too much time on my hands often too tired to do anything leaving me to sit and think.
Have you ever experianced problems with insomnia?
Do you have problems sleeping
Caffeine....anxieties best friend
Caffeine is everywhere, it is one of the legal drugs that do not have the health risks as publicly know as others.
Caffeine gives you energy, often much needed. Whether it be a coffee in the morning or even a red bull to help you get through a tough a tough shift at work along with multiple other caffeinated products such as tea, coke, pro plus, multiple cold and hot drinks along with with many sweets often chocolate. However all drugs there is a negative side, caffeine is highly addictive. When you have not had any for a period of time you begin to crave it, be this conscious or subconscious. While it gives you a boost of energy, when you don't consume caffeine it leaves you feeling tired and often lethargic. While it sharpens your thinking, which can be a good thing, it also sharpens any negative thinking you have. This in turn for me caused me big problems when it came to switching off at night. Which was a real problem when I felt that I neede caffeine during the day to keep me going.
How my sleep started getting better
When I first came out to Brazil it was the start of a new journey, a new adventure. I was in a new place learning a new language with a new girlfriend. Any problems and worries that I had once had had been put on hold, left back in Scotland.
In Brazil coffee flows like water, every time you enter someone's house the first question you will be asked is 'would you like a coffee?' for me this was great, I was in a new place always on the go so the energy boost every few hours was needed. When it came to night time it was still quite humid which was ideal for sleeping, for me. I slept a solid 8 hours every night, often with a mid afternoon nap for an hour or two. They do say all good things come to an end, but I'm not going to say this came to an end. However it changed after a few months a bit of reality kicked in, I was getting married, therefore had a wedding to plan. Not to mention our forthcoming living arrangements and life plans to set out. Combined with the fact that it had left the summer and was getting cooler at night, I was not sleeping quite like I had done. My afternoon naps were now few and far between and my sleeps at night had become less restful.
Despite the negative turn my sleep had taken it was still an infinite amount better that it ever was in Scotland. Which made day to day life much more manageable.
When I finally went back to Scotland I was slightly more anxious than in Brazil but still much better than before I left. Maybe it was knowing that I had a new life to go back to on the other side of the world, maybe it was the fact that a had a beautiful new wife, maybe both. Then on my return to Brazil my sleep got much better again. Not the same as when I first set foot here, but a big step forward none the less.
The other reason
The other reason for my sleep getting better was and is meditation. While some don't 'get it' it is just the simple task of clearing your mind, to put yourself in a relaxed state. With practice it becomes more and more helpful until now where it is a part of my daily routine where I meditate at least once if not twice every single day. When I meditate in the evening it helps put me in a relaxed state making it easy to drift off to sleep. When I meditate in the morning I feel calm and relaxed which in turn make me feel much more able to think and do whatever it is I need or want to do that day.
On my return to Brazil (at some point that year) I decided to cut caffeine out my diet as I went through a spell when my sleep was poor. After a gruelling few weeks with no caffeine and minimal sleep I was able to get into a good routine. I was sleeping well, I felt I had much more energy throughout the day than I ever did when drinking coffee.
So where is my sleep today?
So I have to say that my sleep is far from perfect (I am writing this at 1am) but I have to say that I am usually having a good sleep each night.
The things that still affect my sleep are, work. When I work I usually end up sleeping for longer. So for example last week I slept for 14 hours causing me to wake up after midday which then caused me to be awake later and then this routine of sleep late rise late started.
Anxiety. While I am meditating regularly and still undergoing psychologist input for ptsd. As things go in life there are things that come up from time to time that cause me to stress out and cause me to struggle to get over to sleep and often give me problems focusing my attention when meditating. However this is not every day and stress to this level does not usually last for more than a few days.
The last stressful situation that caused problems with my sleep was when I went out with my wife and her family. We were in our car, the others were in my mother in law's boyfriends car. He(the boyfriend) Wouldn't tell me how to get there because he said it was too complicated. He told us to follow him, not believing that our gps would get us there without getting lost. So I followed him, however he rarely used his indicators and often jouked out of lanes turning a certain way at the last minute into minimal spaces. My wife ended up taking over the driving as I was 'losing my shit' Then when I told him that i didn't appreciate his dangerous driving he tried to defend himself then just laughed it off.
Finally, I will mention sleep hygiene. Firstly Sleep hygiene has nothing to do with body hygiene etc.
Sleep hygiene is simply rules of things to do or not do to help promote healthy sleep. I first came to study things about sleep hygiene through a psychologist I was seeing when I was in scotland for brain injury and related recovery.
Below is a photo about sleep hygiene, listing the things to avoid and things to promote good sleep.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this please take a look at my other blogs, I will be posting others soon! Peace and love.