I suffer from chronic insomnia. My grandmother says it because I don’t pray before going to bed. My mother thinks am disturbed or take too much coffee. I have problem falling asleep and when I do, it’s not for more than three hours. And when I do, it’s not for more than three hours. After that I can’t get more sleep. Not even with all the lights out, not even when am exhausted. As a result I wake up tire and my mornings are dull. At times am drowsy or fatigued during the day, but I don’t nap. To remedy that, I rely on coffee. I am a coffee addict. Energy drinks also come in handy.
It’s been going on for more than two and a half years but I had never given it much thought. I don’t have suicidal thoughts, am not depressed and no problems with my social life. I learnt to find a positive side to my insomnia, it leaves me a few more hours to get stuff done; mostly I write at night, read and anything else to keep me ahead. I stay away from television and movies lest the sun will rise before I sleep.
I have heard suggestions and warnings on pill in equal measure. “Try sleeping pills”, “DO NOT ATTEMPT PILLS”. So I have been a good boy and stayed away from pills. I have heard suggestions to take a drink or two before going to bed but it hasn’t helped much either.
The more you research on insomnia, the more it scares you, the more paranoid you become. You read that it will cause you depression, unexplainable irritation and mental illness. You read that soon you will have trouble concentrating and experience memory loss. You also learn that your socializing life is almost over and you will die alone. Even digestion problems. You slowly become delusional and begin to see faults. Is my concentration at its peak? I think am loosing memory. Could it be am loosing weight because am depressed?
While researching, you come across a movie by the name Insomnia. It stars Al Pacino and is directed by award winning Christopher Nolan. It won’t make you feel better either. To quote from the movie, “day never ends, nightmares are real.”
By now you will want to get checked. I found a doctor who doubles up as a physiatrist. He has a wall of credentials. His education and experience might have cost part of his humaneness. He was excited to have an insomnia patient and use him as a guinea pig of sorts.
The shrink had the longest questionnaire ever. He wanted to know if I use any illegal drugs or if I have snoring sleeping partner. He wanted to know if I smoke and if I leave above a night club. He was curious to know if there are any mental health cases in our extended family and if I have ever volunteered for any medical research. No to all. He didn’t end there, ever worked night shifts? No. do you have an overactive mind? Maybe. Have you been on any serious medication lately? No. Are you anxious or depressed about anything? Not that I know of. Are you cursed? Ok I lie.
The good doctor also wanted to know how many cups of coffee I down in a day, and many other personal stuff including my bowel movement and childhood. He also demanded that I have a thorough medical checkup.
I was given a two week sleeping diary and instructed to cut down on the coffee and no more energy drinks. A sleeping diary is used to record sleeping patterns. Every morning I filled in; what time I went to bed, how many hours of sleep I had, if I fell back asleep and if or not I felt refreshed in the morning. On the fifteenth day I submitted my diary for inspection. More questions followed. Then treatment began.
According to the doctor, my insomnia was chronic, dangerous and sleeping pills could not be prescribed. Pills would leave behind worse side effects and over-reliance. I was however given some pills to enhance production of a hormone called melatonin. The process would take time, too much time, patience and discipline is required. He talked of learning sleep hygiene and being put through a behavioural therapy.
With sleep hygiene I was to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning but leave the bed when I cannot fall asleep in fifteen minutes. No day time naps. I was also to stay away from coffee, energy drinks and alcohol from noon. Sleep hygiene includes early dinner to ensure you are not too full when going to bed. My bed should be comfortable I should avoid too much artificial light unless am scared of ghosts. The good doctor recommended I carry a book to bed and a warm shower before bedtime.
The therapy was the hard part. It requires discipline and lots of self assurance. The therapy’s purpose is to suppress negative thoughts and worry about sleeping problems. It involves meditation, relaxation and several posters on the wall for reassurance. The behavioural therapy was also to ensure I stick to proper sleep hygiene and develop and practice better patterns. I still submit my diary for inspection every month.
Three months of “treatment” and nine more to go, change is slow, I manage between four to four and a half hours of sleep. On a good day, five hours. The days are ending albeit slowly and nightmares are only part real.
Soundtrack: New Kid In Town – Eagles.