Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sleep Re-ordered, Part 1

Amazingly, I seem to have kicked my sleep meds, and it happened in a most unexpected way. I ran out of Ambien CR last weekend and couldn't immediately refill my prescription, so I first tried to take large doses of over-the-counter meds (which had little effect), and then I simply decided to stop taking all meds just to see what would happen. (My sleep doctor had scared me off the idea of quitting sleep meds cold-turkey, warning me that it would make me feel suicidal after a couple of sleepless nights; moreover, I believed him, because the one time last spring that I'd tried to go a night without taking meds resulted in my lying awake all night and feeling terrible the next day.) Anyway, I had a few bad nights last week, as I slept only two or three hours each of those nights; however, in the end I didn't have to take even one day off work, and by the weekend I was falling asleep fairly easily and sleeping six or six-and-a-half hours during the night. I haven't yet noticed a tremendous increase in energy during the day, but I don't have to tell anyone how much better I feel psychologically about sleeping without chemical assistance, and I think enhanced quantity/quality of sleep will come. I'm still using the "VPAP Adapt SV" breathing machine, and it helps that I've found a position in which I can sleep on my stomach with the mask on.

I've noticed two principal drawbacks to going off sleep meds cold-turkey. One, I do think I've suffered some actual, physical withdrawal symptoms, which have contributed heavily to my not feeling quite as well as I would otherwise feel at this stage. (The good news is that those symptoms, which I can't even describe in concrete terms, have already diminished noticeably.) And two, I've found that I have less ability to bear a number of aspects of my sleep routine when I go to bed in a non-medicated state: (a) the air that the VPAP machine causes me to swallow at night has made me feel slightly nauseated (which, needless to say, tends to impede sleep); (2) the mask, which I have to strap down tightly to get a seal against my face, has felt more uncomfortable; (3) I feel a little more frustrated by the limited movement allowed by the mask and the hose feeding from the VPAP machine; and (4) the earplugs I wear at night seem much more uncomfortable now. However, I view all of these things as short-term obstacles that I will overcome.

To what can I attribute this unexpected and dramatic success? I chalk it up to divine intervention and the answering of prayers -- somebody up there likes me, or at least doesn't dislike me! Stay tuned....