Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Counting Sheep

So, sleep seems to be once more spiralling out of control. At the moment, I am lucky to get 3-4 hours of broken sleep a night. I am exhausted, depressed, agitated and I have had a chronic headache for the past week or so. I have done the rounds of medications (currently I take Avanza-an AD with sedating properties, Clonazepam and Serepax.. I was taking Largactil as well, but for reasons unknown BabyDoc has ceased that one) But I can pretty much say I have tried almost any drug you can think of from herbal valerian types, over the counter restavit types, through to benzos and anti-psychotics. I practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscular relaxation and I listen to a CD nightly that is aimed at restoring the correct sleep 'brainwaves'. (Sounds like water with a bunch of bell like bleeps, doesn't seem to work, but is quite soothing, so I listen to it anyway)

The effects of prolonged sleep deprivation has become somewhat of a pandemic in our modern world. For some like me, it is because of MH issues and anxieties, for others it is obesity induced apnea or simply the pressures of having too much to fit into a 24 hour day. Sleep is essential to the regeneration of parts of the body, particulalry the brain. Different stages of sleep are needed for the regeneration and stabilisation of different areas of the brain. Certain stages of sleep are needed for the regeneration of neurons within the cerebral cortex while other stages of sleep seem to be used for forming new memories and generating new synaptic connections.

The frontal lobe is the most fascinating section of the brain with relation to sleep deprivation. Its functions are associated with speech as well as novel and creative thinking . Sleep deprived test subjects have difficulties thinking of imaginative words or ideas. Instead, they tend to choose repetitious words or clich├ęd phrases. Also, a sleep-deprived individual is less able to deliver a statement well. The subject may show signs of slurred speech, stuttering, speaking in a monotone voice, or speaking at a slower pace than usual . Subjects in research studies also have a more difficult time reacting well to unpredicted rapid changes. Sleep deprived people do not have the speed or creative abilities to cope with making quick but logical decisions, nor do they have the ability to implement them well. Studies have demonstrated that a lack of sleep impairs one's ability to simultaneously focus on several different related tasks, reducing the speed as well as the efficiency of one's actions
It is pretty well known that sleep deprivation is a fairly effective tool of torture for interrogations. The Ancient Romans called it tormentum vigilae (waking torture). Prolonged total sleep deprivation (that is no sleep at all) can ultimately lead to death as the bodies inability to regenerate things such as white blood cells, create such a weakened immune system the body cannot sustain life. The longest a person has been officially recorded as going without sleep is 11 days. I personally, (without being under the influence of any illicit drugs which can enable a person to go sustained periods without sleep) have gone without any sleep AT ALL for four days. I know this because I was in a pretty bad place at the time and my friends and boss organised to have somebody with me 24 hours a day through that period. Finally my PsychDoc at the time prescribed some pretty heavy duty medications and I crashed for the next 16 hours. The next day, when my friends finally thought 'hey, she's got some sleep, we can give her some space, I overdosed on my medications badly enough to cause damage to my cerebellum and vestibular system, and end up in ICU on breathing support. I don't remember that week of non-sleep at all, I have only my friends recollections to go off, and I certainly don't remember the week after i OD'd. By the time I actually came to, I was in the midst of full-blown hallucinations, not helped by the pretty bad dose of aspiric pneumonia I contracted, by inhaling my own vomit.  What I do know is although not the primary reason for the overdose, I had been dealing with chronic suicidal ideation for a while, I fully believe it was the sleep deprivation, and the cognitive impairment of impulse control and problem solving that precipitated me actually to act on the ideation. Technically, I guess, my brain used sleep deprivation torture to nearly torture me to death. My own personal tormentum vigilae.

So, I am not in that place exactly. I am not getting a lot of sleep, but I'm getting some. I am having suicidal ideation, but I am able to control my impulse and make attempts at problem solving. But, given my past experience, such deteriations in sleep scare the shit out of me. Add to this the extra dimension of knowing the longer I go without good sleep the more likely my epilepsy will play up and I will seize. I am actually amazed I haven't so far, but would not be at all suprised if it were to happen in the next few days, so for now I'm sticking pretty close to home, and trying, trying, trying to get some damned sleep!

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