Tag Archives: Sleep disorder

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, I Pray the Soul My Body and Mind to Keep

Last Tuesday I awoke to the beginning of the most bizarre and cathartic healing process I’ve ever experienced. And because I am still recuperating, my ability to effectively research and write is limited. So, this was going to be the sorry I’m out sick un-post, but then I reconsidered. It dawned on me that though the meat of this blog has become nutritional healing, the greater point is still wellness. So, I’d like to share a little of my experience. It might come in handy for someone, someday.

As I said, when I woke last Tuesday morning something was terribly wrong. The first indication was an easily disregarded one. I felt really tired, like I had a few more hours of sleep in me, but that is a very normal Tuesday experience given my Monday work schedule. However the next sign was impossible to ignore-uncontrollable, non-stop shivering. This was disconcerting to say the least, but it was a really cold day here in NYC and the heat in my building was just starting to crank in, or so I rationalized. But the shivering continued even through a hot shower. ??Now the next clue was a symptom I loathe-vomiting. God I hate it! And I told myself if it happened more than that one time, I’d have to call out from work because I likely wouldn’t be able to make the train ride down without another incident. Well boy oh boy did “it” happen again; and not only it, but also “its” opposite end buddy. And then they commenced to toss me back and forth for a few rounds. Yep, it was time to call the job. I’d barely been awake for one hour, rough morning to say the least.

Between my bathroom breaks, I tried to backtrack and figure out what the hell I’d had or did to cause this and, equally important, what “this” was and needed to go bye-bye. Based on the weekend’s events and a Sun/Mon sneezathon, I determined my ailment to be the flu and started thinking about how I could get some medicine. By then I was weak, in crazy pain, and unable to stand upright; and going out in the cold to get the medicine could make it worse. Drug store delivery? No. Close by friend? Yes.

God love her because in the short time it took her to arrive with the day and night flu pack I’d gone a few more rounds with the V & S crew and could barely stand upright for more than moments at a time. I’m sure that leaving me there seemed the worst resort but I assured her that I simply didn’t do sick well, just needed sleep and medicine, and would call her and emergency assistance if things got out of hand. Ha! Because they were clearly under control at that moment. I tell you I marvel at my stupidity sometimes. Anyhow…

My plan was to start with the nighttime meds first and sleep off the pain, let the body heal, and reserve the daytime meds for the following workday.  A couple hours later I woke up feeling better. And the following day still better but with an oddly achey right shoulder, like I’d strained it or something. Nothing during my sleep, like a sharp pain or numbness, stood-out. And my life, and therefore work, had to go on. So I did what I was previously committed to that Wednesday -work at the store, train my client, and sub a dance class. I definitely at times felt and admittedly overtaxed my shoulder with that day’s line-up, but never did I think any of it would lead to the agony of the following day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Early a.m.-Hell, Fire and Damnation! What the fcuk have I done to myself?!!?

Mid a.m.-Oh my gypsies, the pain is excruciating! I can’t move my right side from the waist up.

Late a.m.-The pain is still throbbing, it really hurts to inhale fully but there doesn’t seem to be any dislocation. God I hope I didn’t tear the rotator cuff.

Early afternoon-Ok, less throbbing but I can’t really bend over without a lot of pain. Making the bed took 25 minutes. And I can’t pick anything up from the floor. Even cradling my right arm doesn’t help with that one. I bet this is one way people start learning to cook and drive with their feet. I can only pick up chords and small round things with my toes.

Mid afternoon– I still can’t put any weight on it, but I can lift the right arm to almost shoulder level, either straight or bent. I can rotate it out to the side and back in. The left arm still has full range of motion but when I reach above head with it, the right side hurts. I’ll give it rest. I’ll give it heat then cold.

Evening– The heat feels great, but the cold is damn near debilitating. Now the pain seems to start just right of my sternum and pierce through the same point of my back. Like a stake through my chest. I can’t breathe past that point and God help me if I sneeze.

Bedtime-What if I sit down and swing my legs onto the bed-ouch, nope. Or maybe I can slowly lower onto my left side and roll onto my back, let my legs follow and then scoot over to the middle of the bed? Then I just have to find a position and angle to place my head and arm in…

That hurt but I finally made it. I can’t move from this position though so hopefully I’ll dose off soon.

Wee morning hours– I wonder how long it took me to get into bed. Who cares? At least you made it without your legs seizing up again. If that happened I honestly couldn’t handle it. I think I would die from all the pain. Last time it happened I could at least move my upper body, but this time. I, I…no I wouldn’t survive.

I feel like something is stuck, locked and waiting for release. Maybe this is a job for a chiropractor. Lying like this and staring straight up is like lying in a box. A coffin. Can you imagine the horror of being buried alive? If I do die, and you know I don’t want that, but if it were simply my time, as much I haven’t seen, I could accept it. I have much. Thank you. Honestly the whole mouse in the house episode doesn’t seem like much now. Thanks for that too. Oh! Please not the spasms, please! Ok, wiggle the toes. Bounce the legs. Pull in the navel. And breathe; try to breathe deep, past the pain, the sharp point. Keep your head aligned your ribcage down and breathe into your legs, all the way to your toes. Use your left hand to punch the thighs a little. It’s gonna be ok. But my head is tingling. Girl, that’s probably all that breathing. Don’t make me laugh.

When I woke Friday, I had to get ready for work as efficiently as possible. I tried to recall the methods I’d used before to get out of bed, bathe and dress myself. Every small task became deliberate in nature. Choreographed. But that only got me through my rituals. Navigating my environment required constant presence of mind, observation, anticipation of possible obstacles, and instantaneous problem solving. These are all skills employed outside of the home; but keeping those guards up inside was exhausting and when I slipped up, intensely painful.

Still, I took no meds because I didn’t want to unknowingly make my situation worse. Pain was my only barometer and it was localizing a little every day. I still didn’t know what I’d done to set the whole thing off, but the existing symptoms weren’t getting worse and new ones weren’t emerging. And even better, sometime during Saturday’s semi sleepless night I broke through my breathing barrier! As annoying as my allergies were, I swear I could’ve French kissed the pollen right then because finally I could sniff, blow my nose, clear my throat and even yawn without feeling serious pain. God bless the little things!

So, against my friends’ advice I opted not to go to the ER feeling confident that the issue was not with an internal organ but something muscular. However, as a customer stated and I would soon start to ponder, “…self diagnosis is the road to hell”.

On Tuesday, exactly one week after waking with what I thought was the flu, I went back to a full schedule. And the early part of the day went relatively well. I thought I made all of the necessary adjustments at work, but by the time I got to my client things were bad. During our session I started feeling pressure radiating up the thoracic and cervical parts of my spine into the back of my head and clogging my ears. It felt like a two ton truck sitting on me and I was terrified. This was a completely new symptom and I wasn’t taking any chances on possible neurological damage. Now I was going to the ER. And by the time I arrived, I was in tears and couldn’t even write with my right hand. The hospital’s admitting staff was working their job like an assembly line; so they ignored this response to their demand that I complete the admittance questionnaire. Another patient took notice and he wrote the necessary info down for me. I guess this caught the staff’s attention and they brought me in to take BP, heart rate and temperature. These were relatively ok and so I was instructed to wait. Naturally I became less anxious at the prospect of finally getting some clarity on the whole thing, even as the pressure persisted. At least I was under professional care.

By the time I got to see the actual doctor I’d be working with, I’d been asked four times by four different nurses and/or interns to recount from the beginning how the symptoms all began. I was exhausted by the redundancy, their sighs of boredom and their rolling eyes, especially given it was only at their request that I was retelling every little detail. They weren’t narrowing the process by asking specific questions and I didn’t know how I’d injured myself to give them the short version. I had to tell the doc my concern of spinal damage and paralysis for her to go beyond the strength and range of motion assessments to those testing for sensory response and nerve damage. Afterward, in a dry and slightly condescending tone, she informed me that I was having a muscle spasm. Thankfully, her assistant/ intern had osteopathic experience and offered to try and locate the center of the tension for me. She felt for and found a lot of hardness in the muscles of my upper right back. She asked the doc to feel. But the doctor couldn’t tell any difference. Never the mind, my greatest fears had been ruled out and poor bedside manner was a tiny price to pay.

I was given a shot to bring down any inflammation and a muscle relaxer for the pain. I was given prescriptions for Motrin and Codeine, advised to take some time off and instructed to follow up with my primary physician in a week. By the time I was released I felt a bazillion times better. And I actually got some real sleep. So, was it all worth it?

Though I would never advocate this approach for any of my clients or customers, for me it was necessary. It allowed me to conquer some long held fears and self imposed limitations, feel my body’s inherent healing power, gain a deeper faith in my higher self and/or the divine’s (however you call it) protection, and let go of the delusions that certain aspects of my lifestyle were still practical and working.

As I said before, I juggle a few different hats to make ends meet; and when they’re all up and moving, things are good. But if one of them or I fall, the whole house comes down. Regardless of what actually caused this, and I still don’t know, having to work through it and not having the means to take off and fully recover absolutely caused the deeper damage. I am fortunate that the “culprit” was ultimately what I figured it to be, and I am fortunate to walk away with more insight into how to navigate a healing process while living alone. The things most worthy of reconsideration:

  1. Know which of your friends and/or family members can get to you most quickly. Consider the distance between you and take into account your daily schedules. Have conversations and determine if and how you can help one another in cases of emergency.
  2.  Have a stocked first aid kit that includes basic medications for things like fever, inflammation or pain.
  3. Determine with whom you’d feel most comfortable making emergency medical decisions on your behalf. Again, have the necessary conversations and make the necessary agreements and arrangements (i.e. living wills, powers of attorney, etc.)
  4. For the partially or noninsured and those without sick pay, start saving at least one week’s earnings to allow room to take off from work and heal or recuperate when necessary.

Tomorrow marks two weeks since this ordeal started and the symptoms are steadily, albeit slowly, improving. There is still discomfort and sharp surges of pain, but it is much less intense and they are much less frequent. I decided against filling the prescription and just take Aleve as needed.  And since my pain free range of motion is still limited, I try to do simple head, neck and arm stretches throughout the day. I also massage the area to help loosen the tension and can even get in and out of bed with less drama and pain. And oh yes, I’ll be following up with my own doctor in a few days.

I have to thank my friends for their patience and faith in me. I know I narrowly escaped a group staged intervention, abduction and hospital drop off. And I also thank you for your support and reading of this post as I know it was no quickie. Though the hope is to never be in a position to need any of the above info, the reality of current times is that we at some point probably will. Better to be prepared and thus truly BeWell.

Until next week…

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Sweet Dreams

Sleep deprived?

For the last couple years, it seems that my need for sleep has grown. I’ve never been a fan of early rising, but I do know that in my younger years I could function on 3-5 hours, even sans caffeine, without
feeling on the brink of a crash. That is absolutely not the case now. Perhaps it is the stress and craze of life at the moment. The work days and weeks are longer and that does require more energy. And let’s be real, most of us don’t have the freedom and luxury to fight for our right to sleep. Life demands, we
rise to the occasion, sleep takes to the back burner and we make the often empty or half full promise to make it up later in the week. And we can make up the lost hours, sleep in a day or two if we’re lucky and feel more rested. But rest is only one of the many advantages of sleep. What cannot be made up as
easily are the other crucial processes that occur while we sleep: cellular repair, regeneration, protein production, stress hormone reduction, and growth hormone production to name a few.

Ultimately, it is up to each of us to make room in our daily lives for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. But on those days that adequate rest seems unattainable, a natural aid can help enhance the quality of our sleep and allow for more biological benefit during the abbreviated time. Please note however that these natural alternatives are still sleep aids and, as such, capable of disrupting our natural cycles when overused.  Best bet is to resort to them only when necessary and for no more than 7 consecutive days at a time. Your physician can provide more specific guidelines based on your individual needs. Most importantly, never combine even a natural sleep aid with alcohol or other pharmaceutical aids and consult with a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from a chronic sleep disorder. As for those of us experiencing the occasional lack of sleep:

Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body, is available as an over the counter
supplement in potencies ranging 1 to 5 milligrams. Unique benefits are attributed to each the 1mg, 3mg and 5mg doses. Recent research and study indicates that Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, halts tumor growth and therefore may be a cancer preventative. Supplemental Melatonin circulates the hormone prior to its natural release in our system, thereby altering our own natural sleep rhythm. 1-2mgs can be used to fall asleep more quickly, 3mg to sleep more soundly through the night, and 5mg is known to be helpful in regulating sleep cycles.  Jet lagged travelers supplement in 3 – 5mg doses for this purpose. Because the brain’s pineal gland secretes Melatonin at night and in darkness, people working the “grave yard” shifts are often deficient and more in need of supplementation than others. There are no foods known to increase the body’s Melatonin levels, but sleeping in total darkness will boost your production without supplementation.

Valerian Root, considered a sedative herb, has a very strong calming effect  on the nervous system and has been used for centuries to fight insomnia. Supplemented by itself or alongside other calming substances, it is available in tablets, capsules, teas and tinctures. Despite its centuries’ old use, or maybe because of it, Valerian’s reputation has been mixed and to date the science community deems the available research inconclusive. Though there are no known toxicity issues, some clinical study participants have reported side effects with excessive and prolonged use. Increase sleepiness, grogginess, upset stomach, dizziness and headaches are the most commonly reported; yet it should be noted that those effects have also been experienced and reported by study participants who received a placebo instead of Valerian Root. Additionally, studies have been conducted to gauge the safe and appropriate potency of the herb; and when unpleasant side effects have occurred, the dose used has usually been equal to or greater than 900mg.Taking doses between 450 and 600mg has shown some positive impacts on sleep quality -decreasing the time elapse before falling asleep and reducing the number of times users wake during sleep without stunting alertness or concentration the morning after. Caution should be exercised when taking Valerian for extended periods of time due to some reports of emotional numbness and agitation after prolonged use.

The tincture extractions of Valerian Root are thought to be the most effective for sleep promotion. Perhaps because some of the herb’s active oils are sensitive to high temperatures and may be stripped by the boiling water often used to prepare teas. Many of us enjoy a nice cup of tea before bed, and if this is your preferred method of supplementation keep the water temperature out of the boiling range.

L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from tea leaves and isolated from the Boletus Badius mushroom.
It can be supplemented alone, but it is often used in conjunction with other nutrients for stress relief, mood enhancement and insomnia. It increases Dopamine and GABA levels in the brain and consequently helps to balance emotions and inhibit over activity of the nervous system. L-Theanine seems to work synergistically with both calming and energizing herbs enhancing the other nutrients’ primary
action. Additionally, it acts as an immune booster by increasing the ability of the body’s T-Cells to fight disease. Because it is relatively new to the science community’s attention, research and study are somewhat limited, but its popularity and consequent use as a supplement are growing. An effective dose
for stress reduction has not been firmly established, but to date there are no known toxicity issues with higher doses and few reported adverse reactions. Headache, dizziness and stomach upset are among them. The doses used to treat anxiety range 200-250mg and sleep formulas may contain between 20 and 50mg of L-Theanine. The FDA recommends limiting our daily intake to no more than 1200mg /day.

Currently, my favorite sleep supplement is Beauty Sleep by ResVitále.The full two capsule serving combines 3mg of Melatonin with 50 mg of L-Theanine. It also features a detoxifying Liver blend of Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Artichoke as well as Organic French Red Wine extract for added antioxidant
protection.  My experience with this product is a deeper more restful sleep even when the duration is shortened. I do wake feeling more refreshed and I haven’t experienced any grogginess, headaches or lack of focus the following day. Vegetarians and those more sensitive to allergens can also use this product as it contains no gelatin, corn, soy, wheat, yeast or lactose!

Once again use the natural alternatives as directed by their makers, with care and respect for their potency.

Sweet Dreams and BeWell