Sleep is a major factor in both the mental and physical health of every living creature. Lack of adequate sleep increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and a whole slew of other issues. Lucky me, and maybe many of you. As if we didn't have enough to worry about while we sit awake at night.
For me, it all started in high school. During that period of my life, I regularly only got about 2 hours of sleep a night. It is really no wonder that panic attacks were a several times a day occurrence. Mix together a jumble of hormones, panic attacks popping off at random, and top it off with some sleep deprivation - it was an interesting time to exist.
And then came trazodone, a true hero. Thank goodness for science, huh? I was suddenly able to fall asleep when I chose. The power of knowing that you can rest your eyes after years of struggling is really amazing. That's not to say that my sleep problems, or associated complications, disappeared, but it was a beam of hope.
Over time I did try some of the heavy duty sleep medications but they seemed to have a less than desirable effect on my body chemistry. Sleepless nights with Insane anxiety and wide-eyed paranoia are interesting things to experience in a dorm room. I will leave it at that.
Then there was the matter of my lucid dreaming. It always started out well and good but, like most things, anxiety came in with its baseball bat of destruction. The problem is, once a fearful idea touches the edges of your subconscious, it suddenly fills the whole space and you lose control. You know you are asleep, but now you are a victim of the dream. I awoke, and still do too often for my liking, in a full panic, gasping, heart racing, adrenaline pumping through my veins.
As I worked on my mental health, through medication, therapy, exercise, and reframing, these panic dreams decreased. Finally, by the time I was a year out of graduate school, I had a good grasp on mental health and sleep management. Just in time for the night sweats and snoring to start. *sigh*
When I say night sweats, I don't mean like I wake up in the morning frustrated that my face is kind of wet. I'm talking, get up one or more times during the night to fully change clothes. And then the snoring...what can I say? Elias really picked a winner of a sleep partner.
So folks, it's finally time. Time for me to get a sleep study done. I mean, really, it was probably time 10 years ago. Better late than never. As I write, an at home sleep apnea test is on its way to me. My doctor said that these at home tests are pretty accurate. He couldn't say for sure, as they are proprietary, but it seems to use a combination of blood oxygen, heart rate, and conductivity measurements. These measures correlate with important indications of your body's intermittent reaction to lack of oxygen, as would happen should you have sleep apnea. Science, man.
All this to say that mental health is a journey and sleep is central to it. If you are struggling to sleep, don't be like me and wait for 10 years to get a dang test. Take care of yourself friends.