Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Rest For the Weary

Insomnia is a serious problem that so many of us over look. For more than 10 years I've worked for a couple of closed head injury rehabilitation centers. Most off my clients lived in the center because of a TBI they received in a car accident. Alot accidents were caused because of a someone driving under the influence but a few of my clients fell asleep at the wheel. One client admitted to having over 5 accidents before the big one that left him paralyzed. Now this very independent and ambitious man needed to be fed, clothed and diapered by a staff of workers. This did not seem to slow him down. Although he had very limited use of his hand and arms he  become an advocate for the disabled. Yes he was an incredibly inspiring man; still that doesn't erase the numerous and daily challeneges he faced just to fuction physically and emotionally. He was upbeat for the most part but this was not the life he choose for himself, but his choices in life lead him to this life and he found that difficult to forgive. He'd gotten into an accident that totaled his beloved sports car but walked away without a scratch. His family pleaded for him to slow down, to stop working 80 hour a week but he thought he was invincible and had to learn the hard way. A week later he was in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

When he told me that story I was humbled. At the time I was working two full time jobs with a daily 3 hour commute. On top of that I've struggled with insomnia since I was a teenager so even when I was at home there was no guarantee that I would be able to fall asleep. If that wasn't enough I've had numerous roommates throughout the years; working midnights and having 3-4 roommates made it difficult to maintain and environment conducive to sleeping during the day. In a weird way my insomnia paid off, my body never wanted to sleep and so it was easy to push myself. For almost 15 years I slept on average 10-15 hours a week. It was great: I could work a lot of over time, workout 2 or more hours a day, socialize with friends when I wasn't working and take as many credits in school as possible. My life seemed balanced and full of fun… at least for a while.

Then my grades started to suffer. Work become more demanding and I had less time to study and go to the library as I entered into my junior year in college. Later that year I was academically dismissed and I lost my eligibility to financial aid. So I registered in a community college and went from working 60 hours to 80 hours a week. Eventually I quit school altogether. Still I was a  young and energetic workaholic. I loved my clients even if they did not love me. A lot of people with closed head injuries suffer a number behavioral problems so it was not unusual for me to be threatened, hit, or spit on. In fact I almost considered it a good day if I only got cussed out. My job was challenging but I loved it; there were more heartwarming and inspiring moments then there were negative ones. Most of my clients worked really hard to regain the control that they'd lost so even if they had a bad day it could not cover up their brilliance.

After 8 years of an insane schedule I was starting to get a little burned out. My body was letting me know that sleep was no longer an option, it was a requirement. Being tired all the time was starting to affect every area of your life. Now I recognize that when I'm tired I over react easily, have trouble concentrating or retaining info, my grammar and math skills go out the window, I feel depressed or act goofy, and I have trouble making dicerning or quick decisions. I could go on but to be honest it is not fun to talk about. I have since left my job. Hubby hated hearing about my dangerous encounters at work and worrying about my commute; studies show that a fatigues person is just as bad as a drunk driver. I become aware of that fact when I'd started dosing off at the wheel. Can you imagine working with people whose lives were permanently altered because of a car accident and later that day catching yourself speeding with my eyes closed? I can't  express the intensity of the guilt and fear I was felt at that time.

Now that I'm at home fulltime I sleep everyday but still have difficulty getting more than 6 hours. I am grateful for the change of pace but believe permenanet damage has been done. I'm not the same sharp, energetic, or fun loving person I use to be. My grammar skills, my ability focus and my health have all suffered. Even now I still feel like I'm in a constant fog with moments of clarity.

The moral of the story is it's not okay to sleep 5 or less a day? I know that there are a lot of important things that must be done, but one of the first things on your list should be to attend to your needs. So many people struggle with sleep disorders and just accept it instead of making a commitment to make changes in their life to fix it. Not everything works for everybody, but you must try and try again until you find what works for you. Getting enough sleep everyday will not only improve your health but it might also save someone's life.

Lupe Performs With Jill Scott on David Letterman

Does anyone else struggle with sleep deprivation? What helps you to catch some  ZZZZZZZZs?



Thank you for this great post. I'll try to have more sleep.
For me, if I have a lot of things to do I cant sleep well but if I have nothing to do I can sleep for 9 or 10h.


I hope I'll save someone life ;) That must be very rewarding for the self-esteem


Fortunately, I've never had trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. However, my current work schedule doesn't really allow me to get the amount of sleep that I need or want without going to bed really early. But (and your post was very timely for me!), I'm starting to think that I really need to make a better effort to get more sleep. Like you mentioned - I regularly feel "foggy" during the week when I would love to feel sharp and clear. Thanks!!

C.G. the Foodie

Keeping a notebook or place where I can write down everything on my mind helps me get to sleep!

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