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The Power of Sleep

The last 2 years have been exceptionally difficult without a solid reason. I just can't seem to cope with the smallest things and I am beyond tired. It began at work during my instrumentation learnership (and it is possible it began long before this). I suffered indescribable migraines and lunch times I needed to lay my head down. Not the "I feel like a nap" kind of post lunch feeling. This was extreme exhaustion that even if I was walking around I needed to get back to sit down. I couldn't cope anymore. Doctors visits and blood tests later and there was nothing to say there is something wrong. But something was wrong and finally after an explosive migraine episode at work I left and never returned. I suffered migraines and what I can only describe as a post migraine recovery for a week. A doctor said my optic nerve was swollen. I began getting pains in my shoulders, down my arms to my wrists. Pins and needles in my hands and legs. My physical activity crashed and I went from successfully completing 10km races to becoming extraordinarily breathless just walking to the shop. I would become pale and have to ask my fiancé to cut the shopping short as I needed to lay down immediately.

For someone who had always had a physical job, climbing up scaffolding, to be brought to this point caused something darker that addled my foggy brain. Depression. I began seeing a psychiatrist. I was given medication which assisted in pain relief and support my low mood. The medication helped combat my body which seemed to be waging war against itself.

Slowly I have been winning my fitness back. I started Parkruns and I recently began pilates which is something they recommend for fibromyalgia (which was my diagnosis for the time being).

And then my Psychiatrist recommended I have a sleep study done. I laughed it off. I thought he's barking up the wrong tree. I just have regular "motherhood" exhaustion. It comes with the territory. Right? Another test they're going to perform and the results are going to come back perfect and I am going to be exactly where I am with less money.

Yesterday I received the news. I have sleep apnea. What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain -- and the rest of the body -- may not get enough oxygen. Thanks Webmd. 

The neurologist who conducted the test began explaining what happens to me and the symptoms there of. To break it down simply there are 4 stages of sleep. Stage 1 is fatigue or that moment before you fall asleep. Stage 2 is a light sleep. Stage 3 is a deep sleep and Stage 4 is REM cycle. I never enter Stage 3. I spend most of my night in Stage 2 and skip to Stage 4. Interestingly, something very important happens in Stage 3. It is a phase where hormones are produced specifically those related to mood and weight. My happiness may very well lie in a good nights rest. And the fact that I have been steadily packing on the pounds. 

Symptoms included short term memory loss, weight gain, tiredness, gastric reflux, dry mouth, sore throat, slow metabolism, inability to lose weight, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. 

I still shake my head in disbelief as I do more research about how important quality sleep is.
Next week I am going for a trial treatment run. This involves another night in hospital, attached to a cpap (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. You got that? It gently blows air into the wind pipe when it threatens to close. I'm nervous and a bit excited. This might be the beginning of fabulous sleep (after getting used to the mask and not ripping it off in the middle of the night). 

Continue to The Power of Sleep Part 2


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