It isn’t any wonder that I start a ‘mind rave’ every time I feel myself lacking in the sleep department, Faithless are headlining and the song on repeat is one that I am sure many of you know all too well. Behind the drooping eyelids and sleep-deprived thoughts, I am the DJ of this party and “I (yet again) can’t get no sleep”.
I am at a point with my non existent sleep cycles that I would like to be a bat, 18-20 hours of sleep a day is sounding more and more appealing. The curse of sleeplessness came over me approximately 7 months ago, shortly after my operation and the start of my hormone replacement therapy. I was told that it could be a side effect of the hormones, personally I felt that my insomnia was largely in part to being in such pain that the body would not let me sleep for an extended period of time. Whatever the reason, it decided to stick around – Yay me.
There is a common misconception that insomnia is the inability to sleep at all – This is not correct. I do manage to fall asleep, quite quickly in fact and usually at the start of a movie that I have been dying to watch for an age. Insomnia presents itself as a sleep disorder, disallowing its sufferers from getting enough sleep during the night to wake up feeling refreshed and revitalised without copious amounts of caffeine. It means waking up multiple times throughout the night (for me, this is hourly), it can also mean waking up earlier than sparrow’s fart and not being able to get to sleep again until the witching hour. So, that’s an hour of sleep a night then?
For someone who used to go to bed by 9 or 10pm and sleep right through until 7am, this is absolute self-torture. Some would argue that perhaps I was getting too much sleep but after experiencing both sides of this sword, I would opt for too much over too little any day of the week.
While I don’t condone animal testing, extensive research has been done into sleep depravity in animals and the physical effects thereof to better understand the effects of sleeplessness in humans. In one particular study carried out by Allan Rechtschaffen and his team in the 80’s, it took only 32 days for all of the experimental rats to die after being subjected to sleep deprivation. Though there is still some disagreement into the final causes of death ranging from hypothermia to bacteria and ultimately brain damage, the end result is still very much clear, for these rats the lack of sleep was fatal. So why is this important? Because there is nothing that says the same would not happen to a human after a prolonged period of sleep depravity, the problem with humans is that the psychological repercussions kick in long before the physical ones do.
In a world where human testing is considered unethical, we will never completely know the full effects of sleep depravity in humans after a prolonged period of time. That said; there is a reason that depriving people of sleep is used as a method of interrogation and torture. It is a living nightmare when you cannot do one of the very basic things that your body is designed to do, catch some Zzzzz’s. In fact, people with insomnia are 4 times more likely to suffer major depression than those without insomnia and similarly this can be said for anxiety disorder and substance abuse. An inability to sleep is also a key sign of mental illness; this to me means that insomnia can bring on depression but depression can also bring on insomnia… vicious mental health circle right there. I may be too tired for this.
This week, I have been bed bound thanks to the DVT I have been diagnosed with (You can read more in Human pincushion). Unfortunately, along with a blood clot comes excruciating pain. Not only have I been relegated to a piece of furniture that my body has forgotten how to use, I am now also in worse pain for it. Sleep is coming to me in short bursts, 20 minutes to an hour at a time throughout the day and night however nothing that is long enough to sate this sleeplessness.
There is comfort, albeit a sad one, in knowing that I am not alone. According to Wikipedia (And if it is on Wikipedia, it must be true right?), between 10 and 30% of adults have insomnia at any given point in time. That is at the very least, 750 million people who are feeling as fed up, run down, tired and grumpy as I do right now. While I would not wish lack of sleep on anyone, it is nice to know that I am not dealing with this as a lone ranger.
What of those that don’t suffer with insomnia but their sleep is impacted as a direct result of this disorder? Take my husband for example. He could sleep through an earthquake if given half the chance, that said, if I am tossing and turning next to him or waking multiple times through the night, he too will waken and so I am affecting his sleep as well as disallowing my own.
I feel my psyche taking a beating daily and this lack of sleep forces me to ask myself the question, ‘Have I gone mad’? My response (to myself) is a quoted one…
I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
Once my leg heals, I am totally taking up Yoga.
Side note: Moonsomnia, the name of this blog space, was inspired by many nights of insomnia and my obsession with the moon. I may or may not always suffer from insomnia but someone else out there will; therefore it will always be relevant.