Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thanks, everyone, for the emails of advice on how I can get more sleep. Here's what's been going on.

In September I went to the doctor because I wasn't sleeping. I had been on a sleeping medication called Amitriptyline for many years, as prescribed by my old doctor in Oklahoma. My new doctor in Texas said it's really not normal to take sleeping pills for years at a time and clearly I have a sleep disorder. She prescribed me Ambien and signed me up for a sleep study.

I started the Ambien immediately and started sleeping better that night. That lasted for about three weeks and then I started having trouble sleeping again.

On October 31 I went for the sleep study. The technician was pretty cool and made me feel very relaxed and I fell asleep quickly, even with the 18 or so electrodes attached to my legs, arms, neck, chest, face, ears, and head. I also had a belt around my waist and one around my breasts. A monitor was attached to my fingertip to monitor something or other. I was being video-taped and I was on a microphone so the tech could see and hear everything I was doing. All of the electrodes and things monitored leg movement, REM sleep, breathing, anxiety/stress, oxygenation, and other things. I remembered waking up four to five times in the night but still felt that I had slept pretty well, considering.

At about 5 a.m. the tech woke me up and I went home. About two weeks later the report went to my doctor and someone called me to tell me that I have severe sleep apnea and wake up several hundred times per night when I stop breathing. I am an efficient sleeper in that I fall asleep very quickly and go into the REM cycle extremely quickly. Unfortunately, I don't stay there very long and end up only getting about one to two hours of good sleep per night. My apnea is not the obstruction kind but the neurological kind. I don't have the physical problems associated with the kind of apnea that can be fixed by surgery but what happens is that my brain doesn't send the appropriate signals to my central nervous system to remind me to breath. So I literally stop breathing several hundred times per night for 20-30 seconds each time.

As soon as the report for the first sleep study came back I was immediately scheduled for a second. So on November 14th I went back to the sleep lab to sleep with the same implements used before only this time a PAP mask was added. This mask covered my nose and anytime I stopped breathing it forced air into me. I don't remember waking up too much that night but when the tech woke me up around 5 a.m. I found it very hard to wake up. We took this as a good sign because I had clearly gone into a much deeper sleep with the mask.

So for the past three or four weeks I haven't slept. I now know that those sounds I make in my sleep are only made when I stop breathing and so it freaks me out every time. I have been waking up in panic attacks and cold sweats and also sleep paralysis a few times. I was finally able to see my doctor again this week and she prescribed me Lunesta, in the hopes that it would put me to sleep. I took the pill two nights ago but four hours after swallowing it I was still wide awake (it should take effect within 15-30 minutes.) I called the doctor yesterday and she said to stop the Lunesta and to double up my regular dose of Ambien.

So last night I took a double dose of Ambien and I slept pretty well. I have no idea how much sleep I actually got but it was definitely more than an hour or two. I woke up feeling happier and more refreshed than I have in weeks. Apparently awhile after I took the pills last night I was acting funny and saying funny things but David was able to get some amusement from it. I remember nothing except at one point when I stood up from the toilet and fell against the wall.

I don't like the fact that I was awake for an hour or so after taking the pills and have no memory of what happened, but I do like the fact that today I feel much less crazy and exhausted. The report from my second sleep study should come back in the next week or so and then I'll get fitted for a mask and then, hopefully, I'll be able to get sleep like a normal person.

1 comment:

UnrulyDuckling said...

I recently found out that my grandmother was on Ambien, and it caused anxiety attacks and worsened her memory loss. She is much more coherent and sociable since she quit taking it.

Unfortunately, I don't know what's worse: crazy caused by lack of sleep or crazy caused by the supposed sleep aid. At least for me, having a reason for anxiety was easier than just feeling like I was going insane.

I hope the mask will fix the whole sucky issue. Hang in there in the meantime, and let me know if you ever need anything.