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Autism: Insomnia

01 Feb

Though I am not able to take most prescription medications, especially anti-depressants for the side effects they cause me (and the fact they backfire and make me worse) I do happen to be pretty addicted to some OTC medications.

The number one reason for this is that I suffer with insomnia – and I cannot function without sleep. Not even one day. Now I know, after trying it last summer, that my struggles with sleep significantly improve when I eliminate gluten from my diet – but I don’t handle change well, and for me that has proven quite impossible long-term (especially when my husband tends to bring home so much breaded foods; since I can’t often get out shopping, I am left with what he buys.)

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So while during the day I can sometimes make it through, I almost always take something to help me sleep at night.

When I first went to my psychiatrist, she prescribed a sleeping pill that actually did help to begin with. I would take it, and be asleep in 5 minutes. But that 5 minutes turned into 10, then 15, then… she increased the dosage, and it worked for a while – until it didn’t. When she started me on this, it was 1/4 of a tablet. By the time I got to the full (lowest) dose, I was having bad side effects, and it had stopped working.

She tried other things, but none worked – and then there was the $10 pharmacist dispensing fee I would have had to pay before the cost of the medication. Having no drug coverage, I gave up trying, and went back to what I was used to.

For much of the year, I have pretty bad allergies. The scratch test done about 10 years ago confirmed my known allergies to eggs and feathers, with a reaction also to dust and moulds. The most surprising was my grass allergy, which left a large welt along the length of my arm, as I had a severe reaction to every grass they tested. (For reference, my egg allergy, which leaves me wheezing and gasping for breath left a 2mm hive, and the grass allergy was 11mm-14mm for each one.)

Since I can’t avoid grass (the neighbours will grow and mow it) I pretty much live of antihistamines from April through September (or in the case of this year I am still having to take them in January – I must have developed a new, unknown allergy.) So I take a 24 hour non-drowsy pill, which doesn’t quite ‘fix’ everything, and then I take another at night to give it a boost. Benedryl is great for putting me to sleep, and works really well on my allergies as well.

Then there are my stomach issues, which I have had since I was a kid. No matter how I try to change my diet to avoid those things that I know cause me issues, I tend to feel nauseous most of the time. It is very rare that I actually throw up – but I do come very close most days. It is a horrible feeling, and one that will keep me up at night (for it gets worse when I lie down, as many of my issues do) and Gravol has me asleep in 45 minutes (pretty good when my best days without medication take upwards of 2 hours.)

My psychiatrist was very much against me using Gravol at all – she had her reasons which she was going to share with me one day, but I have yet to hear. Apparently she thinks it will make my anxiety worse. That is possible, but I have not noticed that, and I keep a journal every day – I should have seen the pattern by now. Besides, my brother’s doctor told him he should take Gravol to help him sleep. Who do I believe? Well, I try to avoid it, but when my stomach is really upset, I have found nothing better (and probably 90% of the time when I use it, I have a great sleep!)

And then there is the body aches and pains. Since my doctor, with the x-rays, CT scans, blood tests, and more that he has had done, has not been able to figure out why I am always in such pain (aside from a mild amount of arthritis in my back) I am guessing that, as my therapists says, it is because I have an extremely sensitive/raw central nervous system. Regardless of the cause, I am in pain a lot of the time.

My feet ache often, and always if I have been standing/walking/cleaning for any amount of time. That thanks to the club foot I was born with (both feet.) Above that, I am plagued with back aches, and side pain that get really bad at night. I struggle often with headaches, and (TMI, sorry) I have cramps that get really bad for nearly 2 weeks every month.

I have fears about taking too many medications, or mixing medications, so I try to think of what is the most pressing issue of the evening, and choose my ‘sleeping pill’ based on that.

And then there are the nights where I try to be ‘good’ and not take any medications at all – which causes nights like the last in which I got less than 6 hours of sleep. That might work for some people, but I have been a zombie all day. I can’t think. I can’t function. I barely know what I am doing. I have been sitting for so long that I feel numb. I have been staring at the computer screen for so long that my eyes are stinging. I have spent all day researching. “What?” you might ask – cat litter boxes. 8 hours of my life reading and looking at pictures on line of cat litter boxes. A wonderful use of my time!

So there you have another thing that a lack of sleep causes – fixations which I cannot break.

I think tonight I will choose the medication (likely Gravol, for I feel so sick after not getting enough sleep.) Being ‘good’ isn’t always worth it.

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