Insomnia and Hypersomnia

The insomnia monster is visiting me regularly these days, or nights rather. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my sleep issues, so what better time to write about it than in the middle of the night?

Since my mid-teenage years, I’ve had such irregular sleep patterns. Or “poor sleep hygiene” as a sleep specialist would label it. I vacillate between insomnia to hypersomnia, particularly excessive daytime sleepiness. Despite my desire for a useful and restful 8 hours at night, it’s extremely rare. I’m frustrated with the insomnia to the point that it keeps me up even more. Days are unpredictable and often doze into microsleeps. If I lost my access to Provigil and caffeine, I don’t know where I’d be.

I had my first overnight sleep study in 2004. I was diagnosed with upper airway resistance syndrome, which is a precursor to obstructive sleep apnea. I tried using CPAP therapy for 6 months, and it honestly hindered my ability to sleep. My doctor advised weight reduction, which has been my constant struggle since my early teen years. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to lose weight when you are getting inadequate sleep. Over the next several years, I’ve moved from state to state, never having continuous care with a single sleep specialist.

Through 2008 and 2009, my symptoms worsened and I accepted that I have sleep apnea. Despite my hatred of the CPAP mask, I have accepted it as a part of my life.

I have tried a variety of CPAP masks over the years…full face, nasal pillows, comfort gel. And honestly?  NONE OF THEM ARE TRULY COMFORTABLE. It comes down to what you can tolerate enough to actually fall asleep. I’m certain hundreds of hours of sleep have been lost, directly due to the fact that I was stressing about the ugly and awkward mask on my face. I joke that my bedside table is a “graveyard of rejected CPAP masks.” I cannot even begin to fathom the cost of all the medical equipment, polysomnography testing, and doctors visits.

I’ve been actively working towards weight loss the past 6 months. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m making negligible progress. I’ve had 6 doctors in 4 states urge me to seriously consider bariatric surgery. All of them are certain that if I drop 80+ pounds, the chest and throat obstruction that cause my sleep apnea will practically disappear. I’m wondering how many more conservative means I need to exhaust before I can go under the knife knowing that I’ve done all I can do? I started going to Curves Fitness, and hope so deeply it could be the answer I’ve sought for successful weight loss. Unfortunately, I go into every weigh loss attempt with that attitude, and usually give up after months of effort that don’t yield results.

I would love to be healthier, leaner, and could sleep without the restraint of a CPAP mask on my face (and to travel without lugging around the CPAP machine!) I just need to keep trying so I can make it happen, and it might be with the help of a surgeon at this point.

  • Hey there Nicole,

    I’ve been reading a book called eat right for your type, which is basically a blood type diet that hypothesises that different blood types have digestive intolerances and ‘allergies’ to completely different food groups than their counterpart blood types. My blood group B for example is not supposed to eat tomatoes (as we cannot digest them), also wheat, chicken (because of certain aggulating lectins in chicken blood that attach themselves to the lecting in B group blood types, though unusually, turkey is ok)… Whilst other blood groups are ok with those foods…

    One of the major advocated side effects of the digestion issues is excessive tiredness. I was very sceptical, but there are thousands of testemonials on the web, where people say that having started out sceptical, they are now strict devotees of the diet…

    It’s not intended as a weight loss diet necessarily, though it does suggest that if you follow the diet-you will naturally reach your optimum weight… It is a lifestyle, long-term living plan. A lot of celebrities follow the diet plan apparently.

    I will find it hard to eliminate some of the foods, especially since I do eat wheat products, tomatoes and chicken pretty regularly, but I think it is worth it if that daily ‘sleepy fog’ is banished.

  • Have you looked into P90X? It requires about 1-2 hours a day 6 days a week, but it’s a 3 month program and comes with an eating guide, too. The workouts are hard, but I’ve seen people get great results. A guy at my work dropped a bunch of weight with it.

  • PofaP- I’ll have to look into that again. I tried it for a while when I was married to my ex-husband, but didn’t have any noticable results after 2 months.

    Misty- I know all about P90X, and I made it about 2 minutes into a workout before passing out. I know what my limitations are, and with lung problems and 150+ pounds to lose, it’s just too intense. I’ll probably try it if I’m closer to my goal weight and I’m trying to tone up.

  • Oh my, I’m even more nervous now. I’m having a sleep study done on Tuesday. I may be sporting one of those sexy masks soon too.

    I see a lot of women on health and fitness boards using Jillian Michael’s 30-Day shred to get into an exercie routine.

  • I’ve got the Jillian DVD too, but it’s killer on my hip. After months and months of physical therapy to be able to walk again, I have to be pretty conservative with my movement. I know two people who blew out their knees with Jillian!

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  • I’ve never tried 30DS myself, but know it does involve a lot of lunges and squats. Curves sounds like a great place to get started.

  • Good luck Nicole! I know you must get disheartened sometimes, but I’m glad that you’re still willing to work hard and keep trying to get better. I’m not good at the patience and perserverence sometimes required to find healing. Results are what’s motivating, so hopefully you find what works soon!


    P.S. I hate to just make random suggestions, so feel free to ignore, but I know some people who have had success on the Ideal Protein diet. My only concern is that it is a little extreme (and therefore supposed to be done with a doc. supervision). The basic idea is to “retrain” the pancreas. Anyway. Just a thought.

  • I hear ya about P90X-At the end of the 3 months I still couldn’tt do all the workouts “full out!”

  • Dr. Mark Hyman (seriously) has a book called Ultra Metabolism that looked very enlightening as I was flipping through and reading some of it. 80% of losing weight is food choices. But muscle growth should be the next step. Always have protein within a half hour after lifting weights. There’s also MCT oil which helps with having energy and weight loss. Healthy oils such as medium chain triglycerides are very useful.

    A tough vicious circle you are in. I’m sorry to hear.

  • Bless your heart! I feel your pain. I have insomnia too.

  • T

    whatever you decide to do – can I recommend that you do it sooner than later. My mother was you (30+ years ago) and still hasn’t taken off the weight. She’s toting an O2 tank everywhere she goes, her knees are now as bad as her lungs, and the darn CPAP masks haven’t gotten any more comfortable…

    you can do it – it’s worth it. Really – as the child of somebody who I worry daily about – it’s SO worth it!

    Be careful with things like P90X etc… work with somebody who can recommend a starting point from where you are now… and stick with it (says the girl who needs to get back on track!)

  • I’ve lost 30 pounds since Oct. 2009 (I’m done — just need to get more muscular and firm now). In my opinion, and there are studies on this as well — your welcome to email me and I’ll find them for you, places like Curves do not supply the intensity that you need in order to lose weight. Of course diet is about 80% of the equation though. I wish you luck…I post my workouts on Wednesdays if you want to see what I do. Of course, don’t do anything without talking to your doctor.

    I hope you find a solution to your problems soon…oh, and get some good sleep!

  • Intensity is something I struggle with. Between chronic hip pain that is exacerbated by vigorous activity, as well as chronic lung conditions (well-controlled COPD,) my doctor and I always have regular communication on what activity I can tolerate. Curves is just about all I can handle in my current condition.

  • Lisa S

    I, too, have sleep apnea and sleep with a c-pap machine and mask. I use the nose pillow. When I brought home my machine, I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep with it on my face. I usually lay there and relax and let myself get sleepy, then I put it on and get comfortable. I also go to Curve’s. Don’t give up on it. It took me just about two years before I started feeling the effects from going 3-4 times a week. Good luck to you.

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  • Ugh, I HEAR YOU! I have insomnia, and I feel like I’m a zombie half the time, and if you don’t take the meds by this time, then you can’t take them at all, and ALL THAT JAZZ. {hugs}

    P.S. love your sexy mask.

  • I messaged you what I did, but I will repeat it here. I lost 100 pounds. It took a year and a half. All I did was walk for 1 hour a day or more EVERY day. Thats it.

  • I can hardly ever snooze during the night and found this really useful. Thank you for posting, I must say i enjoy reading your blog.

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  • Anonymous

    I stumbled on your blog by way of researching something entirely different. But I was intrigued by your CPAP photo … and then inspired by your post enough to read it. I empathized with your story and was moved by your positive attitude enough to stop my work and even fill out your registration to comment … which i never do.  I just want to share with you that the answer to your problem (weight reduction) … as is mine with my own sleep apnea, is not a membership to “Curves” … but is something deeper inside us all.

    Check out this link from the great Bob Proctor for insight into what im talking about. This man has it down.


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