Tag Archives: Sleep deprivation

I is for Insomia


by Lillian Csernica on April 9, 2022

When I was a teenager I loved to sleep. Stay up late, sleep late, linger in bed, the very definition of a layabout. Science now tells us teenagers need a lot of sleep because they’re growing both physically and mentally. Adolescence takes a heavy toll on the body and the mind. I’ll vouch for that. Living through middle school meant two of the worst years of my life. Sleep as a method of escaping reality became a coping mechanism. I had what the psychologists refer to as “peer problems.” I grew up alone due to my brother and sister both leaving home when I was only seven years old. Now I was in middle school, twelve years old, and my parents had just gone through a really messy, bitter divorce. The divorce meant Dad was gone and Mom had to go back to work, so I was a latchkey kid before the term had been invented. I was miserable. I could escape that only when I was sleeping.

For somebody who liked to sleep so much, how did I develop all three forms of insomnia associated with clinical depression? It’s been a long and stressful road from twelve to fifty-six, and life wasn’t exactly all rainbows and unicorns when I was a little kid. Just to be clear, let me explain the three separate forms of insomnia:

1. I have difficulty getting to sleep.

2. I have difficulty staying asleep.

3. If something wakes me up, I can’t get back to sleep.

Do I take medication for insomnia? Oh yes. Does the medication I take work? Yes and no. If I avoid caffeine, don’t eat the wrong foods and don’t eat too late in the evening, take my pills on an empty stomach and then go straight to bed, I might have an even chance of actually dozing off in a reasonable amount of time. All of that is referred to as good “sleep hygiene.” In general, my sleep hygiene is poor. I stay up too late. That’s when the house is quite enough for me to write. I watch exciting mysteries or detective shows or supernatural movies on TV. Many of these self-defeating behaviors are tied into my depression. Some nights I’m just too agitated to sleep and the medication makes no difference at all. Then there’s the problem of my body’s tendency to acclimate to medication within about four months. Am I still depressed? Oh yes. Will I ever be cured? There is no cure for Major Depressive Disorder. There is only support through medication and therapy, along with healthy living habits and a determination to keep on climbing up out of the darkness.

I know these things for sure:

Sleep deprivation makes depression worse and causes weight gain.

Depression will make weight gain worse.

Weight gain will make depression worse.

See how easy it is to get stuck in the labyrinth with no way out? The answer is sleep. When I’m asleep, my body is restoring itself and my mind processes what’s going on at various levels of my consciousness. That processing is essential. Picture your mind as one big file drawer. When you get enough sleep, all the files are in the right order and new material gets filed and cross-referenced appropriately. When you don’t get enough sleep, information gets filed incorrectly, memory doesn’t work right, and if the sleep deprivation goes on long enough, what you end up with is that file drawer yanked out, turned upside down, and everything dumped on the floor in an impossible mess. Sometimes the mess is so bad you have what the psychiatrists refer to as a “psychotic break.”

Bear in mind I’m talking about myself here. Different people need different amounts of sleep. Newborns do very little but eat and sleep. Teenagers need a lot of sleep not because they’re lazy but because of their mental and physical growth rates. Older people might not need as much sleep as people in their thirties or forties. Your mileage may vary. All I know is I need more sleep than I get, and that’s partly due to my own bad habits. It’s important to be aware of that. The more control I have over the causes of my depression, the more I can fight it. The more I keep up the fight, the more often I win. It’s when I forget that I can stand up against the depression that it takes over. Fatigue, chronic pain, the endless stress of two special needs children, and the pandemic make it very difficult to keep moving forward. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is my friend.

Right now I’m sitting here at 1:30 a.m. It’s been another long day in a long week. Before I go to sleep, I will write down at least three good things that happened today. I will light that candle and keep it lit against the darkness of depression.

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Stress: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!


by Lillian Csernica on March 26, 2013

It’s been a long day, the kind of day I want people to witness when they make ignorant, offensive remarks about my life.

I am not feeling well right now.  Never mind the details.  It’s enough to keep me from leaving the house.

John played a Narrator in his class’ Reader’s Theater production this morning.  He really wanted me to be there.  Fortunately, Chris decided to go in my place.  Chris doesn’t get to be part of school day events very often. so it was a nice surprise for John.  I was happy John’s teacher got to have some face-time with Chris.  I was hoping for a smooth afternoon since John was in a good state of mind after the performance.  Nope.  He was uncooperative and defiant and things wound up escalating into a full meltdown, teenage version.  By the time I worked up the strength to come downstairs and get in the middle of it, there was no way I could interrupt the cycle John goes through.  His aide couldn’t prevent it, and the confrontational style of other people in the house didn’t help matters.

On top of all of that, there was Michael‘s day.  It started off with a really unpleasant diaper situation.  Once that was cleaned up, it was time to get Michael ready for his MetroParacruz ride to the dentist.  (MP is a minivan service for the special needs and senior citizen population in our area.)  Due to my being out of action, my sister rode with Michael and then later, after John’s performance, Chris went to the appointment to add any required parental authorization.  Michael has what’s referred to as secretion management problems, which means he drools a lot.  That results in serious plaque build up on his teeth, which can cause various dental problems.  So every three months he has to get his teeth cleaned.  The problem is, in order for the dental hygienist to do a thorough job, Michael has to be put under anesthetic.   Michael needs more teeth pulled because more are coming in and the narrowness of his jaw due to hydrocephaly means there’s no room.  Convincing the insurance company to give us the anesthesiologist for oral surgery is very very difficult.

And this evening Michael is showing flu-like symptoms including vomiting, which is extremely dangerous for him because it can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

This is why I have all three kinds of insomnia.  I’m too stressed out to go to sleep for fear of what medical crisis might arise when I’m not awake to cope with it.   After about five years of experimentation, my current doctor and I have finally arrived at a combination of meds that helps me sleep without turning me into a zombie.  Sleep is good.  Sleep is essential.  Do not underestimate the importance of sleep.  Lack of sleep screws up your brain chemistry and that does bad things to the rest of you.

Having said all this, let me close by offering my prayers and support for all special needs families everywhere.  I know many of you have a lot harder than I do.

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