I love SLEEP. I think if you are a good sleeper, perhaps you take it for granted. Perhaps you never really appreciate it. If you have spent long periods of your life as an insomniac, it seems like a treasure that continually escapes you.
I first started having problems sleeping when I was in my 20s. I remember talking to my doctor about it and he said “Kim, 95% of sleeplessness is stress-related. You need to reduce the stress in your life.”
I knew that stress was not the issue. There was no correlation to stress, unless perhaps I slept better when I was stressed. Stress is exhausting!
I walked away with no real solutions. It annoyed me. Surely they understand that this is something they should know more about. Surely this is something they can cure! Oh, everyone gave me solutions. “Have a relaxing sleep space”, “no caffeine past morning”, “regular bedtime”, “camomile tea or hot milk”, “St. John’s wort”, “a bar of Ivory soap under your pillow”…. yep, desperate me tried them all. Nothing helped. I finally decided it was either allergies or hormones and just started a regular relationship with sleeping pills. They helped for a while, but then the problem seemed to get worse and worse.
During a particular bad spell, I went to the doctor to see if anything could be done. I was sleeping little each night. I have always been able to go a night or so without any sleep, but this time it was constant. I was not getting more than a couple of hours a night, and REM sleep seemed to be a stranger. What was worse, though, was what was going on inside my body. It was like I was going to jump out of my skin! I felt like my body was resisting sleep from the depths of my being. It was like something was clawing at me from the inside. I would get up and pace the house, hoping my body would eventually calm down. Once in a while I could lay on the couch, or one of my other beds, and get to sleep. But most nights were like a living nightmare. I felt like a crazy person.
So when I described what was going on to the doctor, after less than five minutes he said “Well, I can give you a diagnosis now. You have restless legs syndrome.” Honestly I didn’t believe it at first. I’d seen videos of people with restless leg syndrome and they thrashed over the bed. I didn’t. In fact, the only thrashing happened when I was trying to change positions to bring on sleep. When I questioned the diagnosis, the doctor’s explanation made sense. The unrest inside my body was because I was so still at night. Those muscles in my body were wanting to fire. That’s why the movement to another location sometimes helped.
He prescribed a medication that was a horror to my body. I couldn’t take it. I tried, but finally decided that I still wasn’t sleeping and the side effects were horrible, and I would rather not sleep than continue to do that to my body. It was just too harsh for my system. Understanding why the sleeplessness was happening helped a bit, and so I just suffered on. I was able to get it to manageable, still taking the sleeping pills.
In time, though, the sleeping pills were no longer working. We tried many, and eventually were at a point where we were going back to my old standby. It didn’t help all the time, but did on occasion and that was better than the rest. When I mentioned the restless legs thing to my nurse practitioner, she suggested we try one more drug. It was an old one that they used to use to treat restless legs. For less than $3 a month, that was my miracle drug. I seldom have problems sleeping now.
So after 30 years of issues, now I sleep….and it’s a wonderful thing. I was fortunate to be able to function quite well with little sleep, but so many can’t. It can change who you are. Lack of sleep can take the shine off of life. It can lead to depression, irritability, irrational behavior, weight gain, self medication (drug and alcohol abuse), increased incident of accidents, poor work performance, poor driving…..so many things.
I still don’t get eight hours a night, but my body doesn’t seem to require it. I get enough. Most mornings I awake without an alarm clock and feel refreshed. Well, after a cup or two of coffee and a little bit of waking up time.
If you sleep well, appreciate it. If you don’t sleep, get help for it. Keep seeking help until you get answers. Because sufficient sleep does improve your health and your life. And you deserve a good night’s sleep.
Yes, as someone who has done without it too often, I love and appreciate sleep.