I have struggled with insomnia for years. It’s complicated. Perhaps the root of it started when I was quite small; bad things happened to me in the middle of the night, contributing to a tiny lifetime habit of hyper vigilance. Then when I was a midwife, sleep deprivation and upside down hours made it worse. However, regardless of the causal factors – once I was caught in the cycle, insomnia became a demon that I have spent decades trying to pummel into submission or run away from.
Everyone who suffers with chronic insomnia has theories and a personal story. And I can assure you; most of us have tried it ALL – run the gamut – desperately hoping to discover the cure—from warm milk to hard core Ambien and other addictive and sketchy drugs you resort to when nothing is working and you are crazy, exhausted, and have come to a place where you don’t care; you just want to be knocked out. The insanity of insomnia takes over and becomes your new norm.
A month ago, brought to my knees, I said ENOUGH. I turned around and looked the demon straight in the eye. “Who are you? We have to talk because this relationship isn’t working for me, and I am out of options!” I found a woman trained in EFT (tapping) to address the wee issues of PTSD around night sensitivities. I then got a referral to a sleep clinic where a geeky doctor, who has studied everything there is to know about sleep, drew out all his findings on the exam table paper. First he got me off of the unhealthy things I was doing. Then I did an overnight test at home where I wore an oxymeter (oxygen sensor) that showed my oxygen levels were dropping into the 80s, which indicated a potential problem with sleep apnea. Finally this morning I completed a sleep study that took place overnight at a special center.
I could not imagine how I could possibly sleep with all the wires and monitors, let alone with someone watching me through a camera using infrared light to see me in the dark – but I did. The room and bed were cozy and comfortable. The technician was trained as a somniographer – a sleep specialist. She was warm, fun and reassuringly professional as she wired me up like a research rat. She explained that they monitor the brain waves watching the levels of sleep you move through during the night. They look for any cardiac irregularities; check the rate and quality of respirations; look for restlessness in arms and legs, and continuously monitor the oxygen levels. I found it fascinating.
In the morning about 6:00 am I got unplugged and received the preliminary results: Obstructive, severe sleep apnea, especially while on my back during the REM cycle. “No wonder you wake up throughout the night,” she said. “A CPAP machine will help enormously to keep your airway open at night, letting oxygen flow smoothly.”
Wow. Sleep Apnea! That had never crossed my mind all these many years. I felt a huge relief. There is something to do here – a new possibility that makes physiological sense. Could healthy, restful sleep become my new norm?
Something to consider if you, too, have one or two sleep issues. Just saying. . .