Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Insomnia. Chronic Insomnia. I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's a lifesaver. I work so much and am involved in so many different things that the lack of sleep, or requirement there of, makes getting everything done doable. Other times, it's horrific.
I hear "I have insomnia" tossed around a lot nowadays. Let's get the facts straight first. There are 3 different kinds of insomnia. 1) Transient, 2) Acute, 3) Chronic.
Transient is short term. Usually caused by a change in your life or stress. Have a big decision to make or change jobs? Hard time getting to sleep for a week? That's Transient Insomnia (T.I.).
Acute is Transient taken to the next level. If the insomnia persists (usually because the stresser persists) then T.I. can turn to A.I.
Chronic is the mother of all Insomnia. When A.I. starts lasting for months, and you start re-evaluating what caused it in the first place, your A.I. has turned to C.I.
I have Apeirophobia. It's the fear of infinity. It sounds stupid, but to me it's anything but. The concept of infinite nothingness has kept me up, deep in thought, for 25 years. One fateful night, when I was 9 years old, the James Bond movie, "You Only Live Twice" triggered it. I know, I know… James Bond? There was one scene in particular that caused an entire summer of diagnosed A.I. The simple scene was of a black spaceship "swallowing" another craft. During this maneuver, there was an astronaut in the middle of a space-walk. When the ship "swallows" the other ship, the astronaut is cut free and floats away to his death. The implications of this caused a series of unanswered questions about our existence and the concept of infinite space. After 3 months of laying on the couch, watching European Soccer on ESPN throughout the night (this was long before the MLS or even professional soccer in the US), I was diagnosed with Acute Insomnia. It subsided, but the fears did not. What started out as a phase because a norm. My body's sleep requirements dropped to 3-4 hours per day. I was a high functioning insomniac throughout the rest of my childhood.
Once I went to college, the 3-4 hours per night became 8-10 hours per week. I would stay up for 40 - 60 hours at a time without question. I would power nap as required, mostly to keep from hurting myself behind the wheel or in the shop using power tools. Over 10 years, my body had begun to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep.
That's when the health problems started to kick in. First it was recurrent Walking Pneumonia, then it was the ulcers, then it was the bi-weekly flu. Being in college, I didn't have proper health care and insurance so I was forced to see campus clinics. Everything was treated as a one-shot deal and the issues persisted. It wasn't until my senior year that my ulcers got out of hand, and it came to screeching halt. It was then that my sleeping habits were brought into light when I went home to see my childhood Pediatrician.
Fast forward 10 years. The sleep hasn't changed. I refuse any and all forms of narcotics or drugs stronger than Advil so sleep aids are not even an option. I drink caffeine but not in excess. I exercise, run and take extremely good care of my body. I just don't sleep like a normal person. My average night consists of 2 hours of sleep. 3 hours if I'm lucky. Usually 1 or 2 nights a week, I forego sleeping all together. Sometimes it's a choice, sometimes it's not.
Biggest problem with this is the type of sleep I'm getting is a deep stage 4 sleep, without dreams, without enough physical recovery. I supplement with Protein, Vitamin C and Nitrogen Monoxide but sometimes it isn't enough.
What this means is eventually my body takes over when the mind is unable to do its job. This first comes by way of active functioning sleep dreaming. Insomniacs can go on about their activities in a state of stupor, then have no recollection of the events that have occurred. Have you ever driven a very long distance, reached your destination, then can't remember doing the drive? You kind of zone out? It's sort of like that. I can look at a clock and all of a sudden not remember any conversation or action I've performed for the last 30 minutes. Sometimes even the last few hours. Often times it involves monotonous activity or conversations with friends. People who know me, find it entertaining. People who don't, find it annoying as fuck.
When this stage occurs, I know it's my bodies way of sounding the warning siren. Sleep is coming whether I like it or not. Actually, "passing out" is a better description of what is about to occur. I've been known to sleep upward of 24 hours during this stage of recovery. It usually depends on my responsibilities and obligations. After the recovery sleep, the body continues with an all out evacuation of toxins. Usually in the form of a mild flu. Basically I feel like shit for the whole next day and throw up as soon as I get to my feet.
Is there a solution? I've been told that because of the nature of my fear and the near impossible task of meeting it head on (how do you "face the fear" of infinity?) the best course of action is to change my lifestyle, change jobs to a less stressful one and medicate heavily. I refuse medication, I love my job(s) and the lack of sleep lets me take advantage of a 22 hour day and actually accomplish things I wouldn't be able to otherwise. I am a smart guy, I know it's not the smartest course of action. It's going to lead to an early grave. BUT, the way I look at it, I'll have experienced more lucid time in my life by the time I'm 50 than most will if they live to be 80. Now I just need to make it to 50.
With that said, hold your personal opinions. I could give a flying fuck what any of you have to say in regards to your personal diagnosis and tips for falling asleep. I don't mean to sound like a dick, but after spending 25 years with something, it becomes your own personal friend, passenger and nightmare. It's my precious and I'm not sharing.
If you are one of the unlucky few who get to witness me when the warning sirens are sounding, I'm apologizing in advance. It's annoying and not pretty at all. Especially if I get belligerent when you try to get me to lay down. (Ever try to take the car keys away from a drunk? Yeah, it's like that).
No worries folks. I'll sleep when I'm dead.
Posted by FinallyHeSleeps