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Re: Sleep problems--anxiety-HELP!

Posted by Barbara Cat on August 15, 2003, at 13:53:31

In reply to Re: Sleep problems--anxiety-HELP! fluffy, posted by Ron Hill on August 7, 2003, at 13:12:50

Hi Everyone,
I'm back from my vacation. Went to Katia's neck of the woods, SF Bay Area where we used to live. While it was great fun to see old friends and hubby's family it SURE is wonderful to be back home. Everytime I go away, even for a short time, I suffer incredible anxieties that I'm going to return to a smoking heap of cinders for a house and all my cats flattened in the road (we have a fine cat/house sitter, the road in question is a quiet country one, so gimme a break). All kitties were purring and happy, house was fine. But Oh God, IT COULD HAPPEN!! When am I going to calm down, when am I going to learn to trust? My husband just 'puts light around them' and goes his merry way, trusting that all is well. This is unimaginable to me. Sometimes I think it's my anxiety and hypervigilance that keeps the universe from blowing up, but of course I'm wrong (aren't I?).

About sleeplessness, what is making more sense than anything else I've come across is that we of the mood impaired seem to be suffering from a reversed day/night adrenal hormonal response. Our adrenal cortisol which should be high in the morning (it eventually goes on to make norepineprine, dopamine) is high at night. Our adrenal DHEA which brings down cortisol is low at night. DHEA repairs which should be happening at night, and cortisol breaks down which should happen during the day. Having these cycles out of sync causes major problems. A theory is that adrenal stress is the major contributor. Our poor hyperalert selves perceive threat everywhere and the adrenals pump out adrenaline to run from those imaginary tigers. Eventually the adrenals can't handle the load and other systems have to take over, like our thyroid and reproductive hormonal systems. Continual cortisol produced by the adrenals eventually converts to a form that in high enough amounts, become toxic to the limbic brain area where our stress and hormonal regulating structures are found. Eventually these brain structures suffer damage and can't efficiently communicate with each other, are not able to regulate the very delicate hormonal balance entrusted to them (neurotransmitters and peptides are part of this hormonal biosphere). When this system gets disregulated, insomnia is only one of the signs. Even more unfortunate is that it becomes a self perpetuating loop, creating that very distinctive tired/wired feeling you can probably relate to. A major indicator is getting that second wind after 10pm, but feeling like a mack truck collision in the am.

Meds can knock us out, can interrupt the stress loop, but won't solve the problem. Certain natural substances help. About 6-10 grams Vitamin C divided daily is crucial. But even natural meds won't do the trick - it's more like taking away than adding more stuff. More important is to avoid any kind of concentrated sugar after 6pm, especially alcohol (waaaaah!!), sweets, anything stimulating like evening news, sitting in front of the computer monitor after 10pm, coffee after 4pm, reading murder mysteries before bed. Basically lights out by 11pm (light stimulates cortisol and reduces melatonin). Whatever exercise you can tolerate in the am, just get your butt moving. Terribly boring stuff, but so is insomnia. We know that stress is a killer, pure and simple, and our highly attuned nervous systems are warning us that we have to do whatever is in our power to reduce it. Interestingly, meditation raises DHEA naturally and lowers cortisol and so does exercise (in the morning). You don't have to be in your 50's to finally realize, jeeze, wish I'd made these lifestyle changes earlier! But take my wizened word as Gospel truth - you'll wish you had.

I am doing so much better, thank you so much one and all for helping me through my recent dark times. Isn't it true that every time we think that this is the BIG ONE we'll NEVER recover from, and we always do. Maybe somewhat scarred, but at least we weren't sucked into that black hole like we're sure we'll be every danged time. I even weaned off of Ambien (my refill didn't arrive in time before vacation so I didn't have much choice). After a few rough nights, but with the help of valium, I'm now sleeping naturally again. I even wonder if my improved mood has something to do with getting off Ambien. It was hard to follow the above suggestions of low stress/lights out by 11 while on a whirlwind vacation, but I mostly adhered to it and I do think it made a huge difference. Dear friends, hang in there (Katia, please, please, please try Depakote. If lithium makes you nervous, then there are others you can try. You can't imagine the relief you'll get when you're on a med that helps you find the eye of the storm. You can always go off it!). If it weren't for my Babble-Buds, and what I've learned on this board, I would be dead by now, and of that I have no doubts. So if I can gain a temporary respite, believe me, SO CAN YOU!! And from this vantage point, a temporary respite is a great gift and is enough to keep me going and growing. - Barbara




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