Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Radio Silence

Sorry for the dead air around here. I'm afraid I've been going through some sleep-deprivation issues for the past couple of weeks and have just not felt the mental strength to tackle much writing.

I've long been a sufferer of insomnia, mostly stemming from my frequent inability to shut off my brain compounded by my ability to worry myself into a panic-attack on just about any subject under the sun. The going to sleep part isn't an issue so much as is the remaining asleep part. I tend to wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning just long enough for my brain to latch onto one or more of my revolving Hour of the Wolf topics of concern (which are always magnified at that time of morning) and then I stew on them for the next couple hours, catching only snatches of sleep here and there, not getting any real REM time to speak of until close to sunrise. It used to only happen once in a while, but the past couple of weeks have been particularly bad. It's maddening.

In the past, I've tried taking Benedryl before bed, which is loaded with the usual sleep-aid of dyphenhydromine. I find this only works to my advantage about half the time, though. Some nights I take one or two before bed and sleep right through the night with restful dreams. The other half of the time, I am seized by the most effed up chaotic dreams my little pea brain can produce and then still wake up at 3 a.m. for more Hour of the Medicine-Headed Wolf worries, which are far worse than normal ones. The only thing I can really do to combat this is to get up and go watch TV until my brain can reset and I get sleepy again. Too bad TV at 3 a.m. sucks so much.

Like I said, this is nothing new to me. I've sort of examined this area of my life and have come to realize this kind of thing has been haunting me for a long time, going way back into early childhood and probably has its earliest roots in my mother's death when I was age 4. That major event spun into a deep fear of my father dying, which stayed with me to varying degrees through middle school. And, fear being fairly transferable, I developed the power to worry about lots of very silly things and some earth-shattering ones, like nuclear war. This, mind you, was the 1980s, when all we had to worry about nuke-wise was the Soviets getting a wild hair up their ass and deciding a first-strike made sense, not to mention a president who regularly called them evil in public. Good sleep was a hard-won commodity throughout much of this time. I even once guesstimated that I spent collectively around a year of my teenaged life in a state of worry and depression. Reconsidering it now, it might have been more.

Somewhere in young adulthood, I decided worrying about things I had no control over was not productive. I'd had this pointed out to me plenty of times before, but I finally came to agree with it and put it into practice. Worked out pretty good for me for a while, too. Then you get thrown into the real world and suddenly have worries about job security, or the new neighbors downstairs in your festering hellhole of an apartment building, the ones who clearly look up to no good and spend a suspicious amount of time hammering (they were up to no good, and were evidently pulling up floorboards to hide their drugs, a fact I later learned when the police came and hauled them away in the middle of the night), and suddenly worrying doesn't seem out of the question. Then there's the whole matter of people who fly planes into buildings.

Last week I was waking up at 3 a.m. like clockwork, stewing on the horrors and turmoils of the world over which I have no control, and the turmoils of my own life over which I seemingly don't either (like the fact that I don't see my wife very much because she's having to work long hours at the hospital at a job she is coming to hate precisely because of those long hours--and it's freaking me out that she's so miserable and I can't do anything about it and I have life so much easier than she does, so what sense does it make that I'm the one having panic attacks?). And, perhaps because I wasn't getting good sleep, the wolves of 3 a.m. began following me into the daylight and I fell into a swirling funk. I decided to fight back and dropped my caffeine consumption to one cup of coffee in the morning--just enough to stave off the headaches. (Sorry, Sonny.) I also avoided Benedryl, cause I didn't want any more effed up nightmares bleeding into wolfy tossing & turning time. Instead, I switched to Melatonin, which is what I used to use to get to sleep back in my morning radio days. It might have helped with the getting to sleep, but it had largely worn off by the time I needed to stay asleep at 3 a.m. The wife and I even tried switching to the guest bedroom to sleep, hoping the change of scenery would help. Not so much, though the wolves themselves have left me be for a few days, preferring to just let me lie there not sleeping in relative peace.

Yesterday, I went to Wally world to see what sort of other sleep aids were available, but they were almost all chock full of dyphenhydromine. Then I saw a product called Alteril, which I've seen ads for on TV. It's supposed to be an all natural sleep aid full of the usual herbal and hormonal sleep assisters, like Melatonin, Chamomile, L-Tryptophan, Valerian Root, Skullcap Extract, etc. Taking a couple of them an hour before bed did seem to calm my mind down a good bit, and I fell asleep. At 2 a.m., though, I popped awake and pretty much stayed that way until nearly 5. I wasn't even worrying on anything; I was just irritatingly awake. I tried watching TV. I tried warm milk. Twice. Finally, at 4:30, I took a damned Benedryl and was knocked out by it, sleeping soundly until 9 a.m.

All of this sounds like the stirrings of a man who needs a vacation. Trouble is, I JUST GOT BACK FROM ONE!!! It was a rather restful trip to the Washington D.C. area for a medical conference. And, believe me, if anything can put you to sleep, it'll be one of those.



Christa said...

Boy, can I relate. Valerian root can give you really whacked out dreams too (and in some it causes wakefulness...go figure), but it by itself works well for me and doesn't make me next morning groggy like benadryl. Also, passion flower extract can help slow that endless loop of terrible thoughts (but it tastes really, really awful). It might work for you to take whatever you take to sleep when you wake in the a.m. since you don't have too much trouble falling asleep. Hope you are soon getting the rest you need.

Anonymous said...

Buspar. Talk to doctor about it. Worked wonders for me.

Anonymous said...

I can relate on the worry part. If I wake up at night, I worry about everything there could possible be. I am able to enter the 'there is nothing you can do about it' mode on occasion, but it never stays. The only option seems to be not to care about anything, and that isn't right either even if I could do it. Good luck.

Daisy Porter said...

I take Ambien. I hear it gives some people nightmares, but it had just the opposite effect for me - got rid of all my anxiety dreams and scary violent ones too.