Sleep deprivation

My husband called last night and told me he had just watched 60 Minutes. Two segments on sleep deprivation. He speculated that all my problems could conceivably be caused by my problems sleeping—especially lately. I’ve been extremely emotionally reactive which as the second study in the 60 minute piece shows, is a marker of sleep deprivation. In other words my poor little amygdala is tired.

My husband told me about the 60 minute show and I was somewhat non-responsive because I was very tired. He kept repeating how important it was and that we should concentrate on helping me sleep. Yes, yes, I said. That is all I ever think about is how to sleep. I’ve never not been aware of how important this issue is.

Last night when he told me about it my cable was so slow I couldn’t watch the program online. When I went to bed last night, while I usually fall asleep in 20 minutes, I was so worked up from a bad day and anxious to get good sleep that I never fell into a deep sleep and was up at 4 am after going to bed at midnight. I usually fall asleep right away and sleep about 6 hours which as the program shows is not enough and I think it’s a double whammy for me because I’m on drugs.

Well I’m awake now thanks to being paranoid about sleep and I watched the program. Here are part one and part two of The Science of Sleep on 60 minutes. Unfortunately they offer no solution to the problem. Just report on all the disastrous results of sleeping poorly.

For me the thing that is most notable are fatigue, cognitive problems and emotional reactivity. And I never feel safe driving anymore. Yes, it’s possible those are caused by drug withdrawal, but it’s pretty clear the sleep deprivation is playing a role too and I’m in a compromised state so we can imagine it’s worse than it would be otherwise.

Now I hope I can get back to sleep. Goodnight—or actually good morning—hope to be alert again around 11 am or noon.

15 thoughts on “Sleep deprivation

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  1. We saw that episode also. The notion that sleep is an essential human activity and that doing with out sleep has profound consequences for physiological and psychological well being has strong scientific support. Despite the fact that the mechanisms which link sleep to these other processes are poorly understood.

    Maybe, if we really understand sleep and how it works, we could properly design treatments that would enable the natural rhythms of sleep to take hold.

    Both my wife and son have had sleep studies – my son’s study is famously referred to as the “I can’t sleep study” – he was awake at 3 am shooting his finger guns at the camera above the bed! But the outcome was that he had his huge tonsils and adenoids removed. Both his sleep patterns AND overall behavior improved remarkably.

    My wife’s situation is more complicated, but one outcome was that she now uses a CPAP, which has resulted in some improvement, but she still suffers from lack of deep sleep.

  2. I’m glad to know I am not alone in my lack of sleep. Even with the Seroquel (which I’ve considered asking my physician to change) I often have bouts of insomnia … which really mess one up when there is a sedative mucking about in your system.

  3. Hi Gabriel,
    they did mention the diabetes link. and lack of sleep has long been associated with obesity as well, yes.

    Seroquel was a nasty nasty drug for me. Nothing was ever blissful about it. Made me nasty as hell and knocked me out for 12 -14 hours at a time. And it felt more like being passed out than actually good quality sleep. Never woke up during the day.

    People seem to either love or hate Seroquel.

  4. There’s also this study, I know they touched on ‘hunger’ in the 60 Minutes thing, but this Japanese study goes further: here.

    “Men who sleep fewer than five hours a night run greater risks of becoming obese and of having high levels of blood sugar that could lead to diabetes…”

    “Short-sleepers were also 1.27 times more likely to have high blood-sugar levels.”

    Sleep is vital to recovery from bipolar or alcohol or anything to do with the brain, if nothing else we need a clear mind and healthy body to figure this stuff out. Weird how we seem to be just coming around to proving that… PET/CAT scans and fMRI’s are proving all sorts of things about the brain.

    I’ve tried the meditation, drinking a lot of alcohol, listening to quiet music and the rest of it but until three years ago when I started taking a low dose of seroquel I considered myself lucky to get more than four hours of sleep. Now it’s seven to eight hours of bliss. Of course, keeping a regular schedule is still something I’m working on… it’s coming up on 3.30am and I should be in bed but I’m waiting for pretty much every song recorded between 1989 and 1994 to finish downloading…

  5. Gianna,

    Don’t shoot me (I only play the piano)….

    But, I found something a while back – pointing toward a gene (I get very frightened over this ‘genetic’ stuff – too much of it is a simple ‘chemical imbalance’ theory – leading to psych drugs….)

    Anyway, UTSW here in Dallas found a genetic link to sleep disturbances –

    I have often thought that the manic state is simply sleep deprivation run amuck – the ‘delusions’ are the body’s way of staying alive – a dream with the eyes wide-open.

    That’s my theory (for now), and I’m stickin to it……
    Until I find out more……


  6. I agree 100% with Jim S. With the additional advice, if ones mind is racing/ turning, write down your thoughts to expunge them, but obviously don’t write for 3 hours. Secondly listen to calming music with no lyrics or “safe” lyrics that will not stimulate while resting relaxed in bed.

  7. Definitely no noise or computer before bed. The chamomile tea helps me in the calming effect of just sitting and being I guess. I’ve been sleeping better since cutting out caffeine, wine and reducing xanax. I also attempt to read a complex book if I cannot sleep and that seems to knock me out. It is awful when insomnia hits, I’ve been there for sure, and it just makes the day hard to manage. I hope you get some good sleep soon Gianna.

  8. Exercise and getting morning/afternoon sunlight is the most important thing that helps me sleep. When I get desperate for sleep, I will smoke a little weed.

    Other things that help are having a bedroom that is set up in an asethetically pleasing way…a comfortable bed, good sheets and pillows. Rituals that help are taking a hour or so to prepare for bedtime: Hot bath and tea, a good book, fiction is best..trying to get in a peaceful state of mind…not watching movies, particularly violent or disturbing ones, or surfing the internet.

  9. i saw the 60 minutes segments and it was interesting. i was tested in a sleep lab many years back and the result said i was sleeping at 32% efficiency! well i could have told them that but then i had the documentation to prove it.

    i always got very freaked out about my ability to fall asleep. having been a alcoholic for 20 years i was used to “passing out” every night and depended on that. but that kind of sleeping avails one nothing for quality. it used to take me up to 28 beers to pass out and i did it ritualisticly for almost the full 20 years of my career. when i got sober i dreaded bead time for so long. it did get better when i was in graduate school and my daily schedule was shifted and geared more towards being a night owl. it seems my natural sleep habits lean more towards sleeping from about mid-night to eight but any other schedule throws me off! when i have to get up and work a regular 8-5 the panic attacks hit me again. i get performance anxiety about sleeping! i eventually fall apart on the job. i had been a student and freelance designer for so many years that my body is just synchronized to a different pattern. they’ve found this true of adolescents and there is a state (i can’t remember) that starts highschool later in the day…9:00 i think and the kids are doing so much better.

    and i agree about a manic personality getting up and doing something until you get tired. not a likely resolution there. i found that when i was doing well i had a routine of exercise in the morning. i worked out with a light box nearby. i read a lot of daily meditation books, journaled and actively meditated at bedtime. the meditation helped me get my mind off of the pressure of falling asleep and i could blissfully cuddle up with good thoughts and do much better…

  10. We know what is best if we pay attention to our bodies. I find for myself getting up for a while can help a lot. If I lay in bed I get more and more agitated.

    I also don’t call myself bipolar anymore….not sure if this makes us different or not.

    Getting up and distracting myself from my usually panicked desire for sleep is much better than laying in bed.

    Of course I lay there for a little while first to see what happens. Sometimes I go back to sleep, but if I don’t it’s better that I get up and go to sleep later.

    And really it’s not black and white—on occasion laying there quietly does seem to be the right thing.

  11. Jim said “Many experts advise us to get up and do something if we can’t sleep. I believe this is the worse thing for someone with bipolar to do because one thing will lead to another.”

    Ditto Jim,

    The most important thing is to lay in bed all night. We are special people….we don’t to get up and stimulate or brains even more.

  12. Jim,
    I hear you. The reason I slept so poorly last night was indeed because I was worried about my ongoing sleep problems and slept worse for it.

    I’ve also had the phenomena happen that if I get ONE poor night sleep during a depressed period I feel great—and yes they have noticed this is studies.

    Still overall I think doing all you can to maximize sleep without getting over anxious about it is important. Very important. I feel much better if I’m sleeping regularly.

    One thing I know I need to still be better with is exercising every day which helps one sleep. I’m getting much better about doing something but I still miss a couple of days a week, sometimes 3 days and I’m still doing very light exercise because that is all I can handle. I hope that as I continue moving I will be able to rest better….

    and as I said…I hoped to be out until noon–I slept from 9 am to 12 noon. Still not enough sleep but I’m feeling better than I was.

  13. I watched with great interest the piece on 60 Minutes about sleep deprivation. I have mixed ideas about it. All my life, I have had trouble sleeping. Right before my first bipolar event, I would stay up for days working on various “projects.” Research has shown a clear link between relapse in people with bipolar disorder and not sleeping. However, I’ve been pretty good for a long time, even though I still have trouble sleeping. Some of my best, most productive days occur when I have had little sleep the night before. It’s a fact that not sleeping will wipe away all symptoms of depression for a day (until one has a good night’s sleep). When scientists study antidepressants, they have to make sure that everyone is getting the same amount of sleep.

    What I do is force myself to lie in bed for at least 8 hours. That way I will get some rest, and I will probably get little bits of sleep. Sometimes I think I’ve been up all night, when in fact I was sound asleep for part of the night. Some nights I do not think I slept at all, but I do not hear the fire siren go off. I live just 100 feet from the fire department.

    Many experts advise us to get up and do something if we can’t sleep. I believe this is the worse thing for someone with bipolar to do because one thing will lead to another. Soon I would be thinking of new “projects” to do. My mind will get more awake, then start racing with ideas and plans. Today, I do not worry about not sleeping. Being worried and angry about not sleeping may be worse then not sleeping.
    Jim S

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