Sleep deprivation: Please help

I don’t normally ask for advice here; however, I’m sleep deprived, and my inhibitions are down. I have always been a very light sleeper, but it’s getting worse, and sometimes I feel like I’m waking up choking and desperate for air. I already sleep with an eye mask, ear plugs, and a light sleep aid; however, I have just pulled an unwilling all-nighter. I appear to be dealing with a cold, and the congestion kept me up. I never fell asleep last night, so I ended up getting out of bed at 7:00 and filing paperwork. I really am beginning to feel panicky: My sleep is getting more and more erratic, and my moods suffer badly when I’m hungry, tired, or both. I don’t want this burning my fuse…

Does anyone have any advice or any stories to share? I don’t have insurance (I’m one of the 50,000,000 who can’t get it. I was on mood stabilizers when I got depressed as a high school teacher back in 2002, and now all the insurance companies claim I’m a suicide risk and refuse to cover me). What can I do, aside from chamomille tea and an over-the-counter sleep aid? I feel that in addition to the other cascading negative effects, that I’m beginning to develop long term circles under my eyes – I fear I will never be able to catch up on all the rest I’ve lost over the months and years.

Author: Devon Hunter

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  1. Do you know anyone in that extensive network you have that is an internal medicine doc? Someone you can at least run your symptoms and potential causes past?

    Being married to a doctor I pick up a lot but this is IN NO WAY TO BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICAL ADVICE! But “sometimes I feel like Iā€™m waking up choking and desperate for air” sounds like sleep apnea.

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  2. You sound like you have the classic symptoms of sleep apnea. It usually affects overweight people, but others can develop it. Check to see if you can somehow get a sleep study at a nearby sleep center. I had the same problem and now that I use a C-Pap machine, I sleep like a baby and it has completely changed my life.

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  3. I use nose drops to keep my airways open…and a little ativan to release my obsessive thoughts….lol. This gets me at least 5 hours.

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  4. I’ve sent you an e-mail with questions, suggestions and a wee plan of action. Too long to write in here though : 0) Got some friends at the hospital whose advice I can ask too, so e-mail back ASAP and I’ll do my best to help xXx

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  5. Devon,
    I knew I had a problem when I would wake up in the morning more tired than when I went to bed. This lasted almost two years before I sought help. I had an expensive sleep test (~$4000 for two night sessions, I think) performed to confirm that I had sleep apnea. In short, I was holding my breath until my brain kicked in and would barely wake me enough to jolt me into breathing again. This could happen hundreds of times during the night. As a result, I was not getting quality REM sleep which is when your body repairs itself. If this is what you think you have, let me boil down what I learned works for me. I was prescribed a CPAP machine which helped, but I’ve learned it is NOT necessary (for me). I have not used it for years. Instead, I wedge a pillow behind me and a pillow (or my boyfriend) in front of me or vice versa šŸ˜‰ forcing me to be perpendicular to the bed on my side. This keeps air flowing through my throat to lungs allowing me to have REM sleep. If things get moved around and I end up on my back, I will know it the next morning because I wake up exhausted. My boyfriend usually hears me and turns me on my side if this happens (not often). My doctor also suggested sewing a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of a sleeping shirt so that when you are on your back it is uncomfortable and you’ll go back on your side.
    Good luck finding the resolution to your problem. I know what it is like to be at the end of your rope with a sleep issue, but let me encourage you that once you identify and fix what’s happening, you will get AMAZING sleep.

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  6. u dont want to hear it but you need to see a doctr…wonder if one of thse clinics inside a drug store could help. if prescriptions like ambien or lunesta dont wrk, ive had to take seroquel that helps me sleep – it has risks but otherwise im up for days at a time

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  7. Nasal strips helps with sleeping. Sounds like you might have mild sleep apnea like me. If you get a cold and you have all kinds of sinus congestion and pressure like I get a lot then I suggest using a neti pot to flush it all out. Yes I am serious. They are odd and it feels weird, takes some getting used to, but most of the time it works. There are walk-in clinics if things get worse. They cant do a lot, but anything is better than nothing. Hope you get better soon.

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  8. All of the above but try acupuncture (unlike sodomy it don’t hurt šŸ˜‰ – chinese medicine also helps.

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  9. If there isn’t a directly addressable cause like sleep apnea, something that has helped me sleep despite stress has been melatonin. Good luck!

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  10. Devon,

    The others are right. Its does sound like you need to see a doctor. In the meantime, I would spring for a very long through massage. Perhaps it would help.


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  11. u’re gettin there. i’m right here waiting

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  12. I agree with those who think it’s sleep apnea. (Snoring is an obvious sign; have you had any comments from clients on overnights?) I had it for years (both at ideal weight and when overweight) before I got the sleep study done; my breathing stopped (for more than a few seconds each time), on average, once a MINUTE for the entire night, the study showed. I was always dealing with being exhausted. Once I got on a C-PAP machine–and it took some time to get things adjusted right and get used to it–I became a different person, and felt 100% better and rested. Certainly you can find a questionnaire that helps with determining if you might be dealing with this, and assuming it says “yes,” then I would seriously consider going back into debt for a short while to get the study done.

    Among other things, if you do have sleep apnea, you will be more prone to eventually having a heart attack or a stroke at some point, and your brain never gets to completely rest, since it has to stay “on”–even at a low level–to make sure your throat muscles tighten so your windpipe will reopen, and your heart starts beating again when it stops with each “apnea experience,” as they’re called. (The nose strips don’t work with apnea, since it’s not your nose that’s the problem, it’s your throat.) I’ve got some ideas for you here that I want to think about; I’ll contact you if I can figure something out. The bottom line is that if you do have sleep apnea, you really do need to get it dealt with, even though you don’t have insurance right now. I am very sorry that the new insurance stuff hasn’t kicked in yet.

    By the way, why would they deny HEALTH insurance if they consider you a suicide risk? Sounds like why they would want to deny LIFE insurance, which is usually voided by suicide anyway. You know, if you–or anybody else–commits suicide, then it will save them LOTS of money, so you’d think they would WANT someone they think is a risk there. I would ask a lawyer about this matter, my friend, because it sounds suspicious to me.

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  13. Having had issues with sleeping myself, here are some things that help me. Minimize cafine during the day. A good easily absorbed Magnesium & Calcium sup. – they help with stress and insomnia. Melatonin works great to knock me out. Chloline and Inostitol have helped me with stress and mood. I learned about these and more from Earl Mindell’s “Vitamin Bible”.

    Concentrated deep breathing techniques help at times. A book that has helped me is “The Tao of Natural Breathing” by Dennis Lewis.

    On the Dr OZ show a few months ago he had a segment on home remedies and at the end of the segment was a technique to help snoring and sleep apnea using a Didgeridoos or like object. Link –

    Anyways, you might try these out and see if any are of help. I hope they are. Best of luck! šŸ™‚

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  14. Have you tried Bach remedies?

    In any case, a worsening of the cold when you’re going to bed and lie down is normal, perhaps you just need to take care of the cold (menthol aerosols could help) first, and see what happens.

    By the way, are you sure you’re not having panic attacks these days, for some reason?

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  15. Melatonin helps me out greatly. Of course if it is sleep apnea it won’t do anything to deal with that.

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