Out of the Blue (or, my future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades)

For the past 18 months, I’ve been struggling with constant exhaustion.   I mean at any time in that 18 months, on 90% of the days, I think I could have crawled into bed and taken a nap at 2 or 3 pm.  Since I work from home, I have the luxury of sneaking out on my lunch break and catching 30 minutes of sleep occasionally, and that got me through. It’s likely due to the 9 months in 2012 where I was traveling every other week and working 70 to 80 hour weeks on top of that. I don’t know about you, but my body is not meant to take that, and I believe I sent my body into adrenal fatigue.

So, I met with my APRN, who is amazing, and she ran several tests.  That showed that my B12, iron,  and D3 levels were low, and so I went on sublingual B12 supplements, iron supplements and 2000 IU of D3 daily.  I was also recommended NaDH from another source. Fast forward to this year – STILL exhausted, and my levels are into the normal range.  She tested all the T3/T4 thyroid stuff, checked to make sure my kidneys were okay (they are), and a few other things that came through normal.  I’ve also tried melatonin, blue lights, you name it – still tired.

And thus, off I went to the neurologist who specializes in sleep issues.  I dreaded this, as I do not sleep well in new places; this makes traveling difficult as the first night in a hotel is restless.  I must have my earplugs, my sleep mask, and my comforter, even in the heat of summer, to sleep soundly.   Thus, the threat of a sleep study, in a strange place AND with wires and tubes in all sorts of places, was nothing I was looking forward to.

I was sent a giant packet of forms and a two week sleep chart, which was in and of itself quite confusing.  But I made a go at it, and brought everything into the doctor’s office, where a fellow and a med student asked me many questions before I even saw the doctor.  But it’s a teaching hospital, so it’s to be expected; I just imagined myself as part of a scene on Grey’s Anatomy.  The fellow, who I liked quite a bit, told me that when they look at people with sleep problems, they separate them into two categories: 1) people who are sleepy and 2) people who are not sleepy but are exhausted.   Because I don’t fall asleep randomly during the day (although I blame this on my sleep OCD – see above), but can sleep when I intentionally put myself to bed, and also don’t snore or wake myself up in the middle of the night – I fall into the latter category.

I’ve actually been pretty sure for a while that I have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, specifically delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), aka delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS).  When I was on (what I like to call) my paid sabbatical in 2008, I didn’t set an alarm for 4 months, and naturally went to bed about 2 am, and woke up at 10 am feeling wonderful, refreshed and ready to start the day.  Needless to say, that makes a 7:30 am – 5 pm work schedule quite difficult for my body.  I’ve adapted; I go to bed about 10, 10:30 every night and get up about 6 or 6:30 am every morning, even on the weekends.  Although, I did get chided by the fellow: “you never allow yourself to sleep in!”  Listen, after years of waking up early, the most I can sleep in these days is MAYBE 7:30, even if I don’t set an alarm.  I guess that is another gift of getting older.

So, the doctor came in and he agrees with my self diagnosis, and told me that we were going to trick my body into thinking I was on a 2 am to 10 am sleep schedule.  His rules to me:

  1. No sunlight before 8:30 am.  When I take the dogs out at 6 am, I am to wear sunglasses; if I can get blue blockers, all the better.
  2. No sunlight after 1 pm.  Same thing goes – sunglasses when I’m outside, blue blockers are even better. [I bought this inexpensive 2 pack on amazon, one that is tinted for outside, and one that is just a blue blocker for inside (and computer) use.  I’ll let you know how they work]
  3. Between 8:30 am and 1 pm, I need to blast my blue light as much as possible and get as much sunlight as possible [I have the Philips goLITE which is convenient for traveling, but this NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp is about half the cost and is highly rated]
  4. At 9 pm, take .5 mg or 1 mg of melatonin [NOT the 3 mg I was taking before – even though it was time released] I got mine at Trader Joe’s, but you can also get them on amazon here.

I’d also asked about monitor filters.  I use Twilight on my phone and my tablet, but that’s only for Android. Since I work in front of a big blue computer monitor for 9 hours or so a day, that’s a lot of artificial sunlight I need to avoid.  I did a little research, and there is a windows program called f.lux that will change the color temperature of your screen according to your location and time of day.  The only issue with this program is I can’t specify the hours of the day that I need light (8:30 am to 1 pm); it’s done only by location.  Unfortunately, the program won’t let me set my location to the south pole, which is the only place on earth that the sun currently rises at 8:30 am and sets at 1 pm.  But, I’ll drop them a note and see if they can help, as it’s really my only option.

So, I need to follow this for two weeks, track my sleep schedule, and go back to see the doctor (and the fellow, and the med student) in a couple weeks.  Meanwhile, my future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.


One Response

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