Sleeping Sickness

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    Believe and trust yourself, put yourself first!

    <p>Believe and trust yourself, put yourself first!</p>
    Megan Lane

    The Treatments That Help My Sleep Paralysis

    During the second trimester of my pregnancy in 2010, I experienced sleep paralysis for the first time. I shook it off, convincing myself it was no more than an eerie nightmare. Let’s face it, sleep disturbances amid pregnancy are practically customary. I proceeded to be plagued by these events several times a night. These occurrences were not your run-of-the-mill bad dreams. I lose all ability to move or speak, yet my brain is fully aware. Only my eyes are capable of movement. They can open and close, in conjunction with using my peripheral vision to glance around my bedroom. Horror movies continue to portray sleep paralysis as a form of possession. There are no demons involved, I assure you. In Scandinavian folklore dating back to the 1600s, sleep paralysis is said to be the result of a supernatural entity; a damned woman known as the “night hag.” She frequents the homes of townsfolk, sitting on their rib cage’s while they rest peacefully in a deep slumber; rendering them immobilized. Asia, Africa, Europe and some states within the U.S. have procured their own variation of this old wives’ tale. Tying together the prevalence of recent sleep paralysis-themed horror films such as “Mara” and “Dead Awake” with ancient folklore spread throughout the world leads us to view this genuine sleep disorder as a rare phenomena. Actually, it is extremely common. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 3 million cases are reported every year in the U.S. While sleep paralysis is not an act of demonic possession, it is frightfully disconcerting. At the outset, I would repeatedly attempt to scream, with the objective of awaking my then-husband. I recall aggressively trying to move my limbs; to no avail. There is no feasible way to gauge time while in this state; it feels endless. Being utterly unaware of when I would regain full-range of motion induced panic. The Stanford Health Clinic has stated that sleep paralysis typically lasts for several seconds to several minutes. Upon fully awakening, I felt exhausted, drained from the immense physical exertion I had extended in efforts to move my body. I considered the illogical possibility that my heart might pound right out of my chest due to the anxiety paralysis precipitates. With sleep deprivation listed as a potential cause, it made good sense as to why I first endured this unnerving disorder during my pregnancy. The increasing amount of occurrences became overwhelming. I underwent anticipatory anxiety during daytime hours, having full knowledge of what was to come in the dead of night. My bedtime routine was once tranquil and free of interruption; I relished the eight consecutive hours of sleep I once took for granted. This was no longer the case. I dreaded falling asleep. In fact, I lived in fear of it. I scheduled an appointment with a sleep clinic some years back. Two nights in succession, I slept on the most comfortable mattress known to man while hooked up to dozens of wires. Not so cozy. The sleep study informed me that cycling properly through the stages of sleep is not my strong suit. I spend a prodigious duration of time in REM sleep, resulting in fatigue during waking hours. Aside from that remarkable discovery, my diagnosis was confirmed: sleep paralysis. This condition is deemed self-diagnosable, yet for some reason I felt the need for confirmation from a sleep doctor. As far as treatment options went, I was prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant that is commonly used to regulate sleep cycles. Effective? Eh, not that I’ve noticed. As for sleep paralysis, the main treatment is improving sleep hygiene. Routine is crucial. No caffeine, television or cell phone use in the evening. Going to sleep at the same time every night, in a distraction-free environment was highly recommended. The doctor gave me one last piece of advice before I exited his office. He told me that I hold all the control required. By constantly trying to shout and shake my paralyzed body, I was allowing this disorder to riddle me with anxiety. He suggested slowly wiggling toes and fingers, a tried-and-true method that has proven successful in many instances. Over the past decade, I’ve habituated to these reoccurring episodes of sleep paralysis. Since the finger-wiggling trick does not always work, I began incorporating different forms of breathwork to reduce my panic levels while laying in bed frozen. Upholding a regular yoga and meditation practice has been essential in fighting the fear. I am capable of slowing down my own heart rate by lengthening my inhalations and exhalations. I am mindful of the fact that I will be able to move my body again. Everything in life is impermanent; thus I will not be perpetually paralyzed. As I also have generalized anxiety disorder, I recently found out mental illness is a potential cause of this sleep disorder. My psychiatrist prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication, which I later found out is used off-label for treating sleep paralysis. It isn’t a cure, by any means. I still encounter episodes a few times a week, but this has been a relief from nightly episodes. I refuse to allow sleep paralysis to affect my quality of life the way I once did. On nights where I am feeling apprehensive, I remind myself that I am in control.

    Mary
    Mary @mary_
    contributor

    10 Not So Common Sleep Disorders We Need to Talk About

    Being unable to get to sleep, feeling excessively tired or perhaps sleeping too much; whether it’s for a short period of time or a chronic problem, the issue of sleep is one that we all seem to struggle with at some point or another. While we are all aware of the all too common insomnia, there are many other sleep disorders that are not as well known — some of which may surprise you. 1. Fatal familial insomnia. In this form of insomnia, you may begin experiencing difficulties falling and staying asleep, occasional muscle twitches, spasms and stiffness, as well as frequent kicking and movement when you have finally fallen asleep. After time, you may find you cannot sleep at all and may begin to experience deterioration in mental function and coordination. Eventually the heart rate may become rapid, blood pressure may increase and you may sweat profusely. This is a serious type of insomnia that can be fatal between 7 to 73 months after symptoms begin. 2. Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes periodic stops in breathing during sleep, which can cause the person affected to wake up often abruptly and in a state of panic. Episodes typically last ten seconds or longer and result in oxygen levels in the blood to drop. It may be due to an obstruction of the upper airways (obstructive sleep apnea) or by failure of the brain to initiate a breath (central sleep apnea). 3. Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder in which an individual experiences excessive daytime sleepiness resulting in sufferers falling asleep involuntarily throughout the day. This may occur during monotonous situations, but it may also occur in the middle of normal activities. Narcolepsy appears to be a disorder of REM sleep, where the features of REM sleep intrude into the waking state. EEG recordings show that sleep attacks consist of REM sleep and unlike normal sleepers, people with narcolepsy tend to enter REM sleep when they first fall asleep. Night sleep is also often disrupted in narcolepsy, resulting in daytime tiredness. 4. Restless legs syndrome. This is a disorder in where you may experience unpleasant feelings in your legs such as aching, buzzing or tingling that causes a strong urge to move ones legs. These feelings appear to arise primarily at rest and can make it difficult to sleep. While there is no one specific cause of this disorder, it does appear that iron deficiencies may contribute to its prevalence. 5. Circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Our circadian rhythm is commonly referred to as our “internal body clock.” This is the cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat etc. and one that plays a role in regulating many physiological processes. When this is disrupted, sleep disorders can often result. People with delayed sleep phase disorder may find that their sleep pattern is delayed by two or more hours in that they may go to sleep later at night and sleep in later in the morning. Advanced wake sleep-wake phase in comparison refers to the opposite, where people tend to fall asleep hours before a “normal” bed time and wake up much earlier than most people. 6. REM sleep behavior disorder. This disorder prevents an individual’s muscles from relaxing during sleep. People with this sleep disorder will often act out their dreams: literally. They may engage in activities such as sleep talking, shouting, hitting or walking about. 7. Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS). KLS, also commonly referred to as “sleeping beauty syndrome” is a rare disorder characterized by episodic hypersomnia in which you may sleep for up to 23 hours a day. These episodes of excessive sleep or hypersomnia commonly affect teenage boys and may last for days or weeks in a row for several years with a few months’ break in between. 8. Sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is a disorder in which you may find yourself temporarily unable to move when waking up or falling asleep. As the individual affected is actually awake in these circumstances, this can be quite frightening as these feelingsmay mimic that of being “paralyzed.” Occasionally, these symptoms may even be accompanied by hallucinations. 9. Exploding head syndrome. This surprisingly common sleep disorder refers to the experience of hearing loud imagined noises as one is falling asleep or waking up. These noises are often linked to doors slamming shut or gunshots firing, and are often accompanied by a flash of light or muscle spasms. This is said to result from bursts of neural activity in the brain and may be due to sleep disruption such as that from temporary insomnia or jet lag. 10. Sleep related eating disorder. A sleep related eating disorder is characterized by uncontrollable cravings, which results in bingeing on foods during the night. However, this type of bingeing is different from “normal” midnight snacking, as people who have it often have no control over their habits and often have no recollection of the event itself. While many of us are likely to struggle with some type of sleep dysfunction at some point in our lives, there are a range of sleep disorders out there that vary widely in characteristics and intensity. If you believe that you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, it is important that you contact your doctor or a sleep specialist to further assess and treat these underlying causes.

    Community Voices

    Sick and Tired #SleepingSickness

    Without my #Cats informing me that their meals are due, my schedule would no doubt consist of something akin to one of a night-worker.

    Instead I subsist on a few hours sleep per night ( #Insomnia ). The evading rest with possible #SleepApnea combined with loving nudging mewing causes me to become more and more exhausted each day.

    Today my batteries couldn’t continue (the image of swapping them around in the TV remote to eek out a few more moments of functionality comes to mind). By 11am I was feeling nauseated and dizzy.

    My fatigue was exaggerating my #Autism as my subconscious couldn’t muster the ability to use #SocialMasking and the #Clumsiness attached to my #Dyspraxia kept causing me to constantly collide my flailing limbs with inanimate objects. #Forgetfulness is the bane of my life which is even worse when I am not just responsible for myself #Carer #AutisticCarer but it had reared itself up with surprising frequency in the 4 hours I had been awake so far.

    I decide to be kind and relent on my usual rule of not napping when I can’t sleep properly at night, and give myself a few hours: followed by a relax in the bath listening to my favourite podcasts.

    A quick recharge before real life had to continue.

    However, when my alarm went off it was like my body was heavier than normal, my vision was unfocused, and my usually over-active mind was filled with one thought: #Sleep

    My “kitten” kept watch over me like a little furry nurse-maid, giving me a quick nuzzle and a loving purr the few times I opened my eyes. Until the next meal-time eventually stirred my limbs into shifting into actual movement.

    I thought about taking the evening off; having that bath, burning some incense, and catching up on of those long-recorded programs...but an email that I had forgotten for for the nth time reminds me that that nap was probably as selfish as I can be today.

    It’s now nearly 7pm and I’m still going to have that bath ... but after dealing with reality once more.

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