Weekly Reflection 11.20: On Sleep

Every week I will write a post to reflect on the previous week. Sometimes (like today) the post will focus on a specific topic that was of great consequence that week. Other times it’ll be a more free-form reflection on life.

When I first started seeing my most recent psychiatrist1 I went through a quick pitch about why I felt I needed a psychiatrist, and then she asked a series of canned (albeit interesting) questions on her part to determine her diagnosis and suggest a treatment. At the end of this session she told me that I had definitely been suffering from depression on and off for many years, likely since I was a pre-teen. Her treatment, for the time being, was talk therapy. In addition, she wanted us to focus on my quality and quantity of sleep.

She told me (and she has repeated this countless times since then) that if she were able to only give one medication to those suffering from depression, it would be melatonin rather than an anti-depressant.

Now, I had been taking melatonin pretty regularly for a few months at this point, but now I started taking the stuff religiously. I figured if I could solve my struggles so easily, with something I consider pretty innocuous, then I was going to completely commit myself to it. As I kept a closer eye on my melatonin intake, my sleep definitely regulated and my mood slowly improved with it. On the rare occasion I did hit a bump in the road (waking up in the middle of the night, decreased quality of sleep), I took it as an indication that there was an issue in my life that I needed to resolve. I would spend time (I was unemployed at this point) figuring out what was bothering me, I would talk to my family, friends and, of course, my psychiatrist about it and eventually I would succeed in resolving it, returning my sleep to its glorious state.  Still, pretty much every time I came to a session ready to talk about a problem that was troubling my sleep, at the end of the session my doc would recommend that I increase my melatonin intake. I always refrained. There is something that scares me about increasing a dosage that seemed to be working so well before. It makes me feel like I’ve built a resistance to it. And then if I just build a resistance to the new dose, what’s the point? I don’t want to end up taking ten pills of melatonin every night so I can sleep well!

About two weeks ago, I started having very odd dreams. It was clear to me that my brain was trying to push me to deal with something, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what. As far as I was concerned, everything seemed to be going well. Still, these dreams woke me up nightly right around three AM, hours before I had to be up for work! So I did what I always do, I tried working through it with my mom (she really is my go to person). Together we decided that I was probably just stressed because of all the changes (no matter how positive) that were happening in my life right now. I figured, now that I’m aware, my sleep will go back to its normal, peaceful self. Unfortunately, when this continued over a week later, I was at my wit’s end. I was waking up, regardless of the hour, with no desire to get out of bed. So I tried changing my work schedule in hopes that waking up with the sun will do its thing. But to be fair, I didn’t wake up much more alert (shocking given I slept for almost two more hours), and I did have one of my really obnoxious dreams2 . So, after realizing that neither did I want to deal with the traffic involved with waking up later, nor did my quality of sleep actually improve any, I decided it was time to up my melatonin intake.

 The first night on two melatonin, I still had a weird dream, but I didn’t wake up until 5:30 (just a few minutes before my new alarm of 5:33 was set). More importantly, I woke up feeling well-rested and refreshed. I was even chipper when I greeted my parents and even smiled most of the walk with Ozzie (until he started acting up in his puppy ways *smh*). It was a total 180 from the previous ten mornings, and I felt that whatever was going on with my life, I could actually face it head on and deal with it.

 And then I lived happily ever after…didn’t it feel like I was going there? Like yay! Two melatonins solved all my problems so everyone jump on board! Well, that wasn’t my point. Because honestly, the next night and morning were rocky again. But I do have a point. My point is, if you’re not sleeping well, do something about it. Because as my psychiatrist has been trying to tell me for months now, a good night’s sleep can make a world of difference. And this week, I noticed she was really right! One night of good sleep, just one, made me feel like a whole new person!

 Footnotes:

  1. She’s the fourth one, in case you were wondering. I also just decided to write another post about my experience with searching for and finding the right therapist. So keep an eye out for that!
  2. The ones where I’m sleeping with my face on the pillow, therefore my dream self can barely talk and when she can it makes no sense. Yes these happen frequently enough to get their own category. And they always upset me to the very core, regardless of what actually happens in the dream. Apparently being able to communicate is essential to my being.
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