Bipolar Disorder · mental health · sleep

Sleep and I have a Love/Hate Relationship

I wish this was my bedroom. I’d like to tell myself that I would probably sleep like a dream in this room but that is probably not true. I actually really love my bedroom. I feel like a princess in it. I don’t have a canopy bed but I really love the bed I have. Truth is, it probably doesn’t matter what bed I have, I will never sleep well in it. This is actually how I found out that I have bipolar. My generalized anxiety disorder was diagnosed in 2003 shortly after I gave birth to my youngest daughter. But before my sleeping problem, the doctor just diagnosed me with depression. It was around November 2005. I could not sleep. I tried everything. By everything I mean, chamomile tea, warm lavender baths, melatonin, and sleep masks.  You name it, I probably tried it. This lasted about a week before I went to my doctor. He gave me a sleep aid and sent me on my way. And it worked. I slept great. I took it for a while and then didn’t need it anymore. Then in the spring of 2006, it happened again. I stopped sleeping. I still had refills of my sleep aid so I started taking it again. This time it didn’t work. I tried it several night, nothing. So back to my doctor I went. He thought it was strange that I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t tired and the medicine wasn’t working. He gave me a short survey and then determined that I probably have bipolar disorder. He gave me some medication to start off and told me I needed to see a psychiatrist for a complete diagnosis. He wasn’t going to be able to treat me for this illness. I felt like he hit me with a brick. I was in total shock. I was like most people, bipolar disorder was something to be afraid of. I made my appointment with a psychiatrist. I was terrified, but it actually was good. She confirmed the diagnoses and tweaked some of the medications my doctor gave me. I have been very lucky, my psychiatrist is amazing. I don’t know how many times I’ve called her crying and she gets me in within a couple of days. But that is for another blog, back to sleeping. She gave me some great sleeping medication. I am not going to disclose what she prescribes to me because medication is tricky. I’ll just tell you that I am on a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, an anti-psychotic, and a benzodiazepine as needed. It is the anti-psychotic that helps with my sleep. As far as dosage I am on a fairly low dose that helps maintain my sleep and my mood but my psychiatrist said I can take up to twice my prescribed dose if I need sleep. To give you an idea just how potent this stuff is my husband accidentally took one instead of his blood pressure medication. He went to the gym, came home and passed out for 6 hours! He said, “I can’t imagine taking 2 of those, I probably wouldn’t wake up!”  It is SO important to get proper sleep with this disorder. You need a set bedtime and stick to it as much as possible and also it’s a good idea to have a bedtime routine.  This is mine:

9:00 – Put pajamas on and relax. Drink Chamomile tea (if I have it, I don’t always do this)

10:00 – Take night medication, wash face, apply essential oils (I use these for mood & arthritis)

10:30 – Lights out

I have to stick to my schedule as much as possible or my sleep will be effected. When I travel, sleep is almost impossible. I usually bring my own pillow and stick to my routine. I also don’t usually drink any alcohol after 8:00 pm. Now many people and professionals (including my own) do not encourage alcohol consumption because of the medications don’t mix well and it is a depressant. I absolutely do not drink when I am depressed. I also don’t mix alcohol with my benzodiazepine. My doctor does not mind if I have alcohol in moderation and don’t over do it. I fully disclose to her my alcohol consumption. You need to do what your doctor recommends. My psychiatrist described sleep to me as a reset button. Without it, your brain will only escalate into a hypomanic episode. It has been my personal experience that after a hypomanic episode usually comes a depressive episode shortly around the bend. I try to avoid those, as much as I have control over, like the plague.

Some other tips for a good nights rest:

Cool temperatures. I have a comforter and a down blanket because I like to snuggle. I also have a ceiling fan and a box fan (that’s for my husband. He likes the noise.)

Clean bedding. I love crawling into bed right after my sheets have been washed.

No TV. No electronics. I haven’t had a television in my room since I got divorced in 2009. I don’t miss it. I am bad about bringing my cellphone to bed. I have read that you just need to turn it preferable an hour before bed, I am working toward this goal with baby steps. I do have “do not disturb” enabled on my phone where no one can call, text, facebook message, etc from 10:30pm -6:00am. It only allows calls from my favorites to come through if called more than once.

Blackout. Unless you are afraid of the dark, you need it black in your bedroom. Close the shade, get a darkening curtain if you need to.

I hope you have sweet dreams!

This is where my dreams are made (Copper doesn’t sleep with me!):

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