An Insomniac Reveals How The Sleep Disorder Has Affected Their Mental Health

Six years, three months, and two days. That’s how long I had been fighting the sleep disorder called insomnia. And so far, I could still not see myself winning against it.

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The Backstory

I was 19 years old when I moved across the country to study medicine at UCLA back then and promised my parents that I would not come home until I already got MD attached to my name. I wanted them to feel proud of me, so I genuinely worked hard to get fantastic marks throughout the semester.

As soon as the classes started, I often woke up at 5 A.M. to prepare for the lectures that I had to attend. Trying to become a doctor was not all about memorizing medical terminologies at all – I realized that immediately. You must analyze every aspect of the human body to ensure that you could handle the advanced subjects in the coming years. Of course, other non-major classes required attention, too.

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Since I had always been a meticulous student, I aimed to study from 6 P.M. up to 10 P.M. This timeframe would have allowed me to spend more or less an hour on at least four subject matters every night. However, I failed to account for the fact that most college students like me needed part-time jobs to continue my education, so I had no choice but to push the study schedule three hours later. The setback meant that I could only get five hours of sleep every school night.

The first few days of following this routine were hellish, considering I was used to sleeping for eight hours my entire life. I became irritable and impatient with the customers at the coffee shop where I was working, to the extent that the manager placed me on kitchen duty. My classmates became a little aloof since I snapped at one of them just because they needed to borrow a pen. It also felt like five-pound dumbbells were tied on my eyelids, pulling them close all the time. Worse, the more schoolwork I had to do, the more I needed to pull an all-nighter.

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Experiencing Symptoms Of Insomnia

Before the semester ended, I became used to getting very little sleep or none at all. I boasted about it to my friends because I thought that it made me invincible. I even said, “If I could keep it up until my residency and licensure exam, my dream of becoming a full-pledge doctor would be in the bag.”

When summer break came, my parents surprised me with a trip to Paris, France. We flew on the last day of my finals, and I still thankful for developing the ability to function with almost no sleep. Even if we had a long flight, I remained wide awake, but I charged it to high adrenaline because I was about to revisit my favorite city.

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As soon as we landed, my parents wanted to sleep in, complaining about jetlag. I also felt jetlagged, but my body refused to stay idle. In the end, I roamed around the streets of Paris in my lonesome, taking as many selfies as I could with the Eiffel Tower behind me. I only went back to the hotel when my parents called and told me they already ordered our dinner.

After not sleeping throughout a whole flight and walking for hours, I was beat. I thought I would pass out when my back hit the cozy mattress, knowing I could use some sleep at that point. It was the first time that I could sleep in for a while and wake up to a beautiful Paris morning. Unfortunately, no matter how exhausted I was, I could not force myself to sleep immediately. The sun was already rising before my lids got heavy. As a result, it did not feel as I got no rest when my parents woke me up.

Insomnia Diagnosis

I experienced similar symptoms every night during the month-long trip, to the extent that I could not enjoy Paris at that time. It also persisted even when I was already spending the rest of the summer break at my parents’ house, practically doing nothing. I did not let my parents know about it until I was two weeks away from going back to UCLA and still had the same sleep dilemma.

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We found a sleep doctor in town on the same day and confirmed that I most likely had insomnia. It entirely made sense because my mentally and physically strenuous activities halted when the semester ended, but my sleeplessness did not.

I tried several things to counter my insomnia after that. I practiced yoga and meditation (as the sleep doctor recommended) since my schedule was always too chaotic to induce sleep. I let go of my part-time job so that I could finish my schoolwork early. Furthermore, I focused on having a social life, hoping that having fun would do the job. The only thing that worked was the sleeping pills that the doctors prescribed to me, but I often halved the drugs so that I won’t get used to taking them.

My battle against insomnia is not over yet. Hopefully, yours will never start. 

Good luck!

 

Childhood Insomnia: Consulting The Family Doctor

 

 

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Does your child habitually walk up in the middle of the night because he has trouble sleeping? Or is he fidgety during bedtime? Read these tips from the family doctor so you can help your child fall asleep and remain asleep when he needs to.

Knowing More about Sleep Problems

If you look back into your own childhood years, you would perhaps recall times when you were so frustrated about being told to go to sleep, got up in the middle of the night, or felt impatient but really couldn’t go back to sleep. Yes, sleep problems are pretty usual among young kids. Some might not feel sleepy yet at their assigned bedtime, or have difficulty going to sleep without their nanny or sitter with them or sleepwalk. While it is annoying to handle a fussy baby or run around during the mornings because you preschooler is very hard to wake, there is help around the corner.

A lot of sleep problems are related to bedtime routines and behaviors during the daytime, and you can definitely work on this with your kid to make positive changes. Fortunately, with some resilience, discipline, and patience, you’ll soon see them sleeping soundly and have more peaceful nights yourself.

Your Child’s Sleep Needs

Before identifying if your kid has trouble sleeping or really does have a sleeping disorder, it would be wise for you to first understand his sleep needs. To be more efficient, young kids and teens are required to sleep more hours than the adults do. Infants need 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including their morning and afternoon naps. Toddlers must be able to get a total of 14 hours of sleep for the entire day. Kids 6 to 12, on the other hand, are totally fine with a minimum of 9 hours’ sleeping time. Finally, teens up to 18 are required to sleep for 8 to 12 hours in total.

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How would you know if children aren’t getting sufficient sleep? They are actually like adults. They have their moods when they lack sleep. They’re often cranky and over-emotional, they can’t concentrate, and they fall asleep on their way to school. They also have some ‘space-out’ moments and they don’t follow conversations because they lack focus.

Rituals for Better Sleep

Other explanations for children’s insomnia may be related to their bedtime habits. Perhaps they’re used to being fed or rocked until they fall asleep. If you or your baby’s nanny are used to doing this at night, don’t stop abruptly. Instead, try putting her to bed when they’re almost sleepy. Maybe hum a tune sing a song. After a few days or weeks, they will be able to sleep without being rocked or fed.

Set a Relaxing Mood

To prepare your child for sleeping, create a relaxing mood beforehand – about 30 to 45 minutes. You may also include a few activities that could help soothe her. You can give her a quick warm bath, sing a lullaby, or read her a bedtime story. Don’t use smartphones and other electronic devices, as these worsen insomnia and further interrupt the sleep/wake cycle of the body.

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Establishing Limits

When you create new routines, anticipate that your child will initially defy you. But instead of letting her cry all night, you can slowly let her get used to your absence. She’ll gradually be able to learn how to comfort herself and stop depending on you. If your kid finds it hard to sleep without you by her side, don’t keep checking on her always. When you go to the room and she’s still awake, just give her hugs and kisses but don’t stay long. If your child can get up from bed, close the door and tell her you’ll check on her but she has to stay in bed.

Practice a Reward System

If your child is a preschooler or older, you can try creating a positive reinforcement system for her. Give her incentives if she’s going to sleep at almost the same time every night. Reward her with smaller things first, like stickers or snacks to encourage good outcomes. Make sure you set achievable goals for her like if she sleeps in her own bed tonight, she’s getting her favorite ice cream in the morning.

Build Daytime Routines

In some instances, children’s inability to sleep and remain asleep during nighttime is linked to their behavior during the daytime. This is usually seen in teens and adolescents. Practicing daytime routines help support restful sleep.

·      Encourage your child to sleep at the same time every day, including weekends. This will help her wakeup and sleep more easily. Adolescents can be given an hour more than their usual bedtime during the weekends, but not more than that.

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·      Don’t let your child go to bed very full or hungry. A piece of banana or warm milk before she heads off to bed would definitely fill her tummy and help give her a restful and continuous sleep. Heavy meals will keep children awake if they are too full an hour before their sleeping time.

·      Inspire your child to be active. Exercise can be in the form of walks in the park during the afternoons, gardening with you in the morning, dancing with you in the living room.

 

 

COVID-19 Health Awareness: Tips For Getting Good Sleep

Now more than ever, we need good and relaxing sleep. Sleep can help our overall immune system function at its best. It can help us think clearly and solve problems better. It is vital to understand that an adequate amount of sleep aids in our mental health, which is essential in fighting the uncertainties of the pandemic. Sleep is tied with our immune system, so when we get less of it, we become prone to sickness and infections. Gladly, there are tips for getting good sleep. So without further ado, here is the list.

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Establish A Connection Between Sleep And The Bed

Home quarantine experience can make us feel bored and unmotivated. At times, we want to find solace in a place where we feel secure. That is why we often choose to stay in our bedroom to keep ourselves company. However, for us to get a good night’s sleep, we need to establish a connection between our bed and sleep. Thus, we should never eat, work, relax, or pretty much do anything in it. We need to understand that our bed only serves the purpose of sleeping. And for times that we lay in bed and still can’t sleep, we need to get out of bed and do something that can make us fall asleep.

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Set A Schedule And Following A Routine

Having a fixed wakeup time each day is an essential part of the schedule. But of course, a bedtime routine should be associated with that. Thus, waking up early but going to bed late is not advisable. There are no benefits. So, we should spend a couple of hours doing bedtime routines such as brushing our teeth, changing into our pajamas, and arranging our beds. And if we find it difficult to sleep due to stress, we can try keeping our body lying in bed while the lights are off. We can also practice breathing exercises and meditation to calm both our mind and body so they can prepare to sleep.

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Keep Technological Devices Out Of Reach

There should be a wind-down moment without using technology if we want to get a good sleep. The problem with most people is that they use their smartphones before bedtime because they believe that it can make them fall asleep faster. But contrary to that, the device emits a blue light, which is similar to the sun’s light that stimulates the brain to think it is still day time. The light suppresses the release of melatonin, which supposed to help us get a good night’s sleep. So to avoid sleep disruption, we need to keep away our devices and turn off the notifications.

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Avoid Napping During Day Time

Nap is essential because it helps our mind and body rejuvenate. However, if we do it often in a day, it can disrupt our 24-hour sleep cycle requirement. To avoid that, we have to do it early in a day with no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Arguably, some of us might excuse themselves with boredom due to home quarantine. To address that situation, we need to be physically active to avoid thinking that our body is tired and requires a nap. Also, we need to note that our bed is not the right place for a nap as it can confuse the brain and body in distinguishing it with sleep.

 

We can all understand the difficulty of the situation due to COVID-19. We are all under stress. But regardless of what is happening with things around us, we need to take care of ourselves. With that, we should never underestimate the health significance of sleep.

When The Pain Just Won’t Stop

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As a student in the medical field, I was privileged to be able to attend the 2019 Headache Conference. I learned a lot about different causes and effects of having a headache. We may think that headaches are normal, especially if we are stressed. Still, we should also not forget to consult a doctor to make sure that we are diagnosed well and can be treated immediately to avoid further complications in the future.

Continue reading “When The Pain Just Won’t Stop”

Sleeping Problems Due To Pandemic Stress

Understandably, the world is dealing with the domino effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are shutting down, not getting enough food, and being restricted in doing what we want, etc. These are all contributors to anxiety that causes sleep problems. Over the past few weeks after the issue of Coronavirus hit a global crisis, we become aware of the problems of not getting enough sleep. Honestly, it is a serious issue because the damages are inevitable. Not getting enough amount of sleep can lead to many health complications, such as physical, mental, and emotional ones.

Since there are a lot of things going on around us this pandemic time, we can’t help ourselves from overthinking. It is not easy to shrug thoughts because it somehow lingers every time we experience something challenging and uncomfortable. Thus, we get to be prone to sleep-related issues. And since we understand that the common cause of this sleep disorder is stress and anxiety, we must find solutions to do something about it. Yes, we must do our best to eliminate the factors that cause mental instability, even if there is too much uncertainty about the pandemic situation.

What Can We Do To Address Sleeping Problems?

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Some medications might help ease sleep disorders. However, we need to make sure that we get a consultation first before purchasing anything in the drugstore. We also need to consider the possibility of getting caught up with its use. That is if we depend too much on these drugs because it can also lead to severe health complications. In some unfortunate instances, taking too much of it can impact our daily routines as well. With that, experts suggest that we should consider taking self-improvement remedies or seek professional help first before trying to pop some pills.

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One of the best pieces of advice that we need to take a moment to understand is the changes in our routines. It is essential to make our activities scheduled as much as possible. That is if we are going from one task to another. For us to secure a better sleep at night, we have to ensure that we limit the things we do in the day so that we don’t need to worry about a pile of unfinished tasks at night. Thus, we can count the accomplishments throughout the day, and that helps in providing us a better sleep.

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Another thing that might help is the habit of exercising a few hours before going to bed. No, we do not need to do a full course of workouts. Just a couple of stretching and light to medium exercises will do. It is also important to expose ourselves to light more frequently. Since most of the time, we have to stay indoors, we need to find a way to get ourselves a good source of lighting. It will not only help our immune system, but it will also allow the brain to signal a waking time.

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Being home quarantined, sleeping in time is necessary. Therefore, we must avoid alcohol, caffeine, or heavy meals before going to bed. These factors disrupt the body’s ability to recognize sleep. It hinders us from going to bed at the same time every night because the body gets confused about what it needs to do at that particular moment. With that, it would be beneficial if we do some unwinding stuff hours before going to bed instead of eating and drinking. We can listen to music, read a book, meditate, or even practice breathing exercises.

The pandemic situation until now is uncertain. But hopefully, we can all get through this together.

How Insomnia Can Destroy Your Body

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The 2017 Scottsdale Conference talked about many things, and one of those is the benefits of sleep, and another is how insomnia will affect one’s health. I was lucky to be part of the conference because of my sister. She needed to tag me along that time, and it was a very productive two days for me. Of course, I also wanted to see the beauty of Scottsdale, and yet the highlight of that short visit was the discussion.

Continue reading “How Insomnia Can Destroy Your Body”

Top 7 Benefits Of Sleep

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We all know that getting enough sleep is good for our body. It keeps us alive and energetic for the entire day. When this happens, there is a high tendency that we would accomplish more As long as we get enough sleep for the night, then it is guaranteed that we are going to become productive for the next day. Well, the best part of all is that this is only one of the hundreds of benefits of sleep. Here is the list:

Continue reading “Top 7 Benefits Of Sleep”

Why You Should Work Harder Than Ever To Beat Insomnia

 

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Perhaps there are mornings when you wake up very early, unable to return to sleep—or you wake up feeling exhausted before you’ve even started your day. — Michael J Breus Ph.D.

Insomnia is a stressful health condition that prevents individuals from sleeping whenever they need and want. Some consult their physician in hopes of finding a remedy for it, i.e., pills and cognitive therapy. Despite that, it’s a fact that many still don’t see it as a disorder that requires immediate medical attention; that’s why they tend to brush it off.

But that’s where everything can start to go wrong. Sleep deprivation does so much harm to your body, to the point that you can no longer function like a regular human being. In case the disadvantages of letting your insomnia prolong is still hazy, here are a few ideas that may clarify them for you:

 

 

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  1. It Decreases Sex Drive

The condition is a libido-drainer, especially for men. It can slow down the body’s production of testosterone; thus, the sexual drive can become unstable. Not to mention, the sleep irregularity also depletes your vigor – you may prefer relaxation over sex anytime.

  1. It Makes You Absent-Minded

Insomnia deprives you of your capability to remember details and events. Isn’t it embarrassing when your date or boss asks your opinion about a serious topic, and then all you can muster to say is, “Huh?” That may be the regular case if you’re not sleeping as much as you should.

People with insomnia tend to unknowingly over estimate the time it takes to fall asleep and underestimate the time they are asleep. — John Cline Ph.D.

  1. It Causes Mishaps

People who often lack sleep feel extra clumsy the next day since the coordination between the motor skills and the brain is off. It may feel as if you’re drunk as well even though you’re not. Hence, accidents, big or small, will surely follow you.

  1. It Drains Youthful Glow

Insomnia can make a 25-year-old man or woman look like he or she is their mid-30s. The skin under the eyes become either puffy or dark. The fine lines seem prominent too. That’s because you produce much more cortisol – the hormone that crushes your collagen supply – than you need at this point.

  1. It Increases Weight

Dealing with sleep deprivation can be so grueling that your brain may signal that you should consume larger serving sizes than usual. It is as if it’s your system’s technique to console you for not receiving reset. Because of that, however, your waistline may expand in no time.

  1. It Affects Intelligence

Lack of relaxation at night does not just turn you into a sluggish zombie in the morning. You may also lose concentration and ability to resolve issues both at home and work. The more it happens, the more you can stray away from logic.

  1. It Weakens Immune System

A bountiful sleep gives your body the opportunity to refresh its supply of cytokine, which is the body’s first line of defense against disease-causing viruses. Not getting enough of it every day means you won’t get much of this important substance and may jeopardize your well-being.

 

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  1. It Causes Mental Illnesses

When your mind does not rest, you tend to overthink about a lot of things. It exhausts your energy, happiness, and sometimes grip on reality; that’s why sleep deprivation can push the development of depression, anxiety, delusion, and other psychological disorders.

Figure out through trial and error what your optimal amount of sleep seems to be, then strive to get this amount of sleep every night by adjusting your going-to-bed and wake-up times accordingly. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

Momsomniac: New Mothers Struggling To Sleep

Most new mothers desperately want to sleep but are unable to even after putting their baby to sleep.  It happens because of a condition called postpartum insomnia.

Countless adults in the United States suffer from insomnia, the maddening inability to sleep when given the opportunity. — Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D.

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Continue reading “Momsomniac: New Mothers Struggling To Sleep”

Shift Work: Threat To A Healthy Body And Mind

As a single mother of two, I have chosen to work as a home-based medical transcriptionist.  I have been in this kind of job for 17 years now, working in rotational shifts.

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While being awake at night is a very unpleasant and difficult experience, it is the daytime symptoms which most impact on the lives of those suffering with insomnia. — John Cline Ph.D.

I have been happy and thankful for this job as it allowed me to work from home and be a hands-on mom, taking care of my kids’ needs and mine as well.  At first, I found it hard to stay awake eight hours straight during nighttime, but as time went by, I got used to it.   I can even work two shifts straight.   I never realized that it could in the long term be a threat to having a healthy body and mind.

Continue reading “Shift Work: Threat To A Healthy Body And Mind”