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Sleep Disorders/I Can't Sleep Unless I'm Sleep Deprived

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Hi Karel,

I've always been a little weird about sleep. As a kid I was a frequent sleep walker and talker, and would sometimes walk out of my room at night to have conversations with my family members. I've grown out of sleep walking, but according to my friends and family I've been a consistent sleep talker for most of my life. I'm now 19 years old and unfortunately have had constant sleep problems for the past five years.

It started out with unusual dreams. I wouldn't jump to call them nightmares because I never felt terrified or even scared. However, my dreams would ALWAYS have situations with a lot of conflict. Sometimes my family members would be chasing me down, sometimes I would get badly hurt doing something, and other times my life would be in danger from something random like drowning or a T-rex. The dreams were stressful, even unsettling at times (mostly due to the topics), but I was never really upset while the dreams were happening. Seriously, I'd be very aware that I might die or that someone I love had just died and it wouldn't bother me too much while I was dreaming. Then of course when I woke up I'd be horrified, but otherwise I don't really think they count as nightmares.

My bad dreams got a lot more frequent and vivid when I started a dream journal, so I shut that down pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I started to have really bad insomnia when I was around 16. I would lay in bed for HOURS, sometimes as late as 4am, and couldn't fall asleep. This continued frequently throughout high school until I graduated and no longer had to keep a regular sleep schedule. I quickly found out that if I'm sleep deprived I'm able to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly, so I did that for a long time. I'd regularly pull all-nighters and for a short period of time would only sleep about 4-5 days out of the week.

When I was about 18, I started to experience sleep paralysis. Fortunately, I'd read about the phenomenon before experiencing it myself, so I knew that as long as my eyes were closed I wouldn't have any hallucinations and could just wait it out. Unfortunately, it started to happen a LOT, and occurred most often when I tried to go to bed at a decent hour, or when I tried to sleep when not tired. I haven't had any hallucinations, but I've had sleep paralysis several dozen times now, and sometimes when it happens I feel like I'm suffocating, which is scary in its own respect (mostly because at times I end up paralyzed with my face half pressed against a pillow and worry that I might actually be suffocating.)

(I've also had a habit of twitching myself awake, especially if I fell asleep sitting up)

Over the past year I was able to get "excellent" sleep, in that I fell asleep quickly, slept soundly, and had very few dreams. However, I was only able to do this because I was constantly sleep deprived, to the point that I usually only got 5 hours of sleep a night, at most. I was able to catch up on a lot of lost sleep over the past few weeks, but now that I'm not exhausted I'm starting to have sleep problems again. I can't fall asleep until it's very late, and even then I toss and turn much more than usual. I haven't had a sleep paralysis episode yet recently, but I'm worried that they might start recurring again. I've started remembering my dreams too, and they always have me try to solve problems or get out of mildly distressing situations.

I desperately want to get a regular and healthy sleep schedule but when I'm not sleep deprived I have so many problems with sleeping that I just can't do it. Part of me wishes I could just press a button and be knocked out at a regular time each night, but I know that sleeping pills are horribly addictive and am not sure if I should head down that path.

Why do I have so many problems with sleep? How can I fall asleep without being sleep deprived? Should I see a sleep doctor and get a formal diagnosis, because part of me feels like since my issue is so widespread that maybe it's a legitimate issue?


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this,
-Lauren

Answer
It sounds to me that you have many issues with sleep.  The part that concerns me is the twitching.  It could have been sleep seizures.   I would definitely go to a sleep center to get some kind of diagnosis.  You could have a problem with delayed REM> Rapid eye movement.  Their are antidepressants for this that hold back the dreaming. However the problem with them is side effects and with the sleeping pills the same thing.  You would have to discuss this with the sleep center. Your local hospital can refer you to one. However in the meantime, I would first try these tips since you say that your sleep was doing well until now .  But a definite diagnosis is something I would definitely pursue.Hope this helps, feel free to email again. Karel See the tips below, the most important one is the part where one goes out of the room to a different room to read.          
         TRY THESE TIPS RELIGIOUSLY FOR AT LEAST 4-6 WEEKS BUT MANY HAVE SEEN RESULTS IN AS LITTLE AS TWO.

3 HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME, STAY AWAY FROM, CAFFEINE, ALCOHOL, CHOCOLATE, EXERCISE, CARAMEL COLORED SODA LIKE COKE AND PEPSI AND GINGER ALE. ALL THESE MAKE FOR RESTLESS SLEEP.

30 MINUTES BEFORE BEDTIME TAKE A HOT BATH. LATEST RESEARCH FROM JOHN HOPKINS IS THAT PUTTING THE HANDS UNDER THE HOT WATER, PALMS UP, SENDS IMPULSES TO THE BRAIN THAT IT IS TIME TO RELAX FOR SLEEP.

15 MINUTES BEFORE BEDTIME, DRINK A GLASS OF WARM PLAIN MILK. MILK WHEN HEATED CONTAINS TRYPTOPHAN, A NATUAL AMINO ACID SLEEP INDUCER.

WHEN YOU GET INTO THE BED TAKE A FEW DEEP BREATHS, YOU ALSO CAN SET YOUR RADIO FOR SOFT MELLOW MUSIC HOWEVER,PUT IT ON A TIMER FOR 20 MINUTES. DO NOT TWIST AND TURN FOR MORE THAN 20 MINUTES. IF SO GET OUT OF BED,GO INTO ANOTHER ROOM AND READ A BOOK OR MAGAZINE, NO TV OR COMPUTER. WHEN YOU START TO DOZE, IMMEDIATELY GO BACK INTO THE BED. THIS RETRAINS THE BRAIN INTO THINKING THAT THE BEDROOM IS FOR GOOD RECUPERATIVE SLEEP. DO THIS AS MANY TIMES AS YOU AWAKEN THRU THE NITE. IT WILL LESSON AS THE WEEKS GO ON.

IF AFTER 6 WEEKS, NO IMPROVEMENT IS SEEN YOU SHOULD CALL YOUR LOCAL HOSPITAL AND ASK FOR THE NEAREST SLEEP DISORDER UNIT TO HAVE YOUR SLEEP MONITORED.

YOU CAN ALSO GO TO SLEEPNET.COM FOR MORE SLEEP FORUMS.  

Sleep Disorders

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Karel Sleis

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all questions on sleep disorders,expert on narcolepsy,its symptoms

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i have narcolepsy since age l6

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past chairman of the american narcolepsy association
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