Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
Everyone in the mental-defective-league (Cheers, Jack) have experienced insomnia at one point or another. If you have a monkey on your back that is shaped like an anxiety disorder, manic depression, unipolar depression or schizophrenia – you fall into one of two camps:
Firstly, as with everything else, it is important to expand your understanding beyond the sound-bite stereotype of what insomnia actually is. Insomnia doesn’t simply mean pulling an all-nighter, deliberately or otherwise.
From the National Sleep Foundation (http://sleepfoundation.org/) :
Acute insomnia is a brief episode of difficulty sleeping. Acute insomnia is usually caused by a life event, such as a stressful change in a person’s job, receiving bad news, or travel. Often acute insomnia resolves without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia is a long-term pattern of difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is usually considered chronic if a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer. Some people with chronic insomnia have a long-standing history of difficulty sleeping. Chronic insomnia has many causes.
Comorbid insomnia is insomnia that occurs with another condition. Psychiatric symptoms — such as anxiety and depression — are known to be associated with changes in sleep. Certain medical conditions can either cause insomnia or make a person uncomfortable at night (as in the case of arthritis or back pain, which may make it hard to sleep.
Onset insomnia is difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night.
Maintenance insomnia is the inability to stay asleep. People with maintenance insomnia wake up during the night and have difficulty returning to sleep.
I have experienced all of the above, individually and as delightful little cocktails. This is one of the symptoms of my illness that I can trace all the way back to my early teens. My family would say about me: “Oh, our ****? – He’s never needed much sleep. Five hours is the most he gets, if he gets any.”. This was true for the vast majority of my life. Perhaps you are the same?
Recent research, backed up by personal experience, has shown me that not getting the right amount of the right KIND of sleep leaves me very vulnerable to being overwhelmed. This is enough of a problem that I am setting myself the goal of fully understanding why I don’t sleep so that I can then correct whatever element of my sleep hygiene is counter-productive.
If you spend as long at the computer as I do and if you have enough mobile devices that you can reach out your hand at ANY point whilst conscious and be checking your e-mail within 8 seconds then perhaps the most damaging element to your sleeping patters will be the blue light emitted by the aforementioned devices. To paraphrase the research I’ve read – the blue spectrum light that these devices emit inhibit productions of melatonin from seratonin(a chemical that a lot of us are suspected of being deficient in to start with). Melatonin is a hormone that has the function of enabling you to enter the deep, restful sleep that you so sorely need. It is suspected of having anti-oxidant/anti-free radical properties but this hasn’t yet been proven in humans. (See: http://sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/melatonin.pdf)
Luckily for us there exists software which is purpose-built to reduce the exact spectrum of light which most inhibits the production of Melatonin. This software is called f.lux (https://justgetflux.com/). f.lux is available for MAC/Windows/Linux and I believe there are Android and iPad/iPhone app versions.
I’ve known about this technology for some time but I’m only beginning to use it today.
Do you suffer with insomnia? Have you found anything that helps? Are you acutely aware of what promotes and strengthens your insomnia? I’d like to hear from you. We are using the tag Learningtosleep #Learningtosleep for this discussion. I’d love it if you joined in.
All the best,