Stress: Short-term and Long-term Effects

Whether you have insomnia or not, stress is a part of everyday life. However, as I mentioned in a past post (Daily Tip to Help Relieve Stress), having insomnia puts stress in hyperdrive. In this post, I want to explain why it is so important to find ways to relieve stress, rather than let it build up inside us.

Short-term Effects 

There are many ways that stress can impact your everyday life. Stress does not just limit itself to your mood, it also affects your behavior and your body.images.jpg

One of the mot common effects of stress on the body is headaches. If you are like me, you’ll get random pings of pain by the temple area. If you’re home, putting a warm compress is the best way to help relieve the pain. However, if you are out and about, I have found the quickest remedy is to put peppermint oil on the temples.

Caution: Wash hands after, or you’ll end up accidently crying for 30 mins due to rubbing your eye with mint, just from my personal experience.

Other effects on your body can be muscle or chest pain, upset stomach, and sleep problems (oh joy).

Your mood can be extremely impacted by stress if you do not have a way to handle it. You may get restless and at the same time lack motivation to do anything.

Personal story time: My first semester of my sophomore year, many family issues presented themselves. At the same time, I was working crazy hours being a tutor for around 40 people. Throughout the semester, I continually pushed down the stress and pretended it wasn’t an issue. After going home for break and starting fresh my spring semester, I found myself completely unmotivated to do anything, whether it was my job, school, or personal life. It took me three months to get out of the funk, with lots of damage to not only myself but those that depended on me…meaning more stress.

So, don’t push down stress and it will always come back up five times worse as you may be more angry, sad, or have anxiety.

Long-term Effects

I am putting behavior affects under long-term because these tendencies picked up for short spurts will eventually become a long-term vice. Some of the most common behaviors are unhealthy eating habits (whether it be overeating or undereating) or abuse of drugs/alcohol.

Eventually, unmanaged stress will lead to health problems such as heart disease, obesity, or diabetes.

Ways to Manage Stress

Personally, I am still struggling to find ways to battle stress head on. Some tactics that I have found helpful are keeping a planner (some use journals, but I failed at writing my feelings) and writing every single thing I could think of. After, I list the hours of the day I had left and prioritized what was actually possible to get done in the day.

Try it out and let me know if it helps!

 

Sleep Aids: Ones that Have Worked

With modern day medicine, it is reasonable to assume that there is something out there that will help you sleep. However, I have found it quite difficult to find a liquid or pill that makes me falls asleep AND stay asleep. There have been times where I fall asleep quickly, and in 3 hours I am wide awake again or where its taken me 5 hours to knock out for the rest of the night.

So, to help my fellow insomniacs or anyone who wants a good night’s rest out there, here is a list of what I have found to be the best over-the-counter sleep aids:

 

4. If you’re new to sleep aids, I would suggest starting off with a product called Berry Sleepy.

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Berry Sleepy is unique in that it contains naturally occurring melatonin. In the past, I have tried other brands of melatonin that have left me waking up with only a few hours of good rest. Berry Sleepy, on the other hand, is a great moderate sleeping aid.

*When I say moderate sleeping aid I am referring to the overall strength. These will not leave you groggy in the morning and help you fall asleep fairly quickly.

Click here for more details!

3. Another melatonin product that has worked for me is Natrol Melatonin.

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What’s nice about Natrol is that it comes in different types. Above is the fast dissolve, but they also have liquid drops (so it gets into your bloodstream quickly) and time release (so that you can slowly work your way to bed).

Click here for more details!

2. One of my personal favorites has been ZzzQuil.

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The reason why ZzzQuil is one of my favorites (okay favorite) is that it took my body about a year to get used to it. With other sleep aids, you build up a tolerance fairly quickly, but with ZzzQuil a minuscule increase in dosage about every other month got me a year of great sleep (*I DID NOT TAKE IT EVERY DAY, probably three times a week).

ZzzQuil has come out with a pill version, which gets you around the lovely taste (think Nyquil), but I would recommend the liquid as it is stronger and has better results.

Click here for more details!

1. The strongest nonprescription sleeping aid that I have found is Kirkland.

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Kirkland will knock you out and give you a solid 8 hours of sleep no problem. Caution: This pill is for a weekend night where you know you’ll be lazy in the morning as it leaves you slightly groggy.

Click here for more details!

I hope that this post has given you some help in determining the next sleep aid to try!

Stories From an Insomniac

Being an insomniac means that you get to experience events that a majority do not. Most of these are just trivial experiences, and rather dull. However, some nights hold the most humorous stories, mostly revolving around watching individuals struggle to stay awake.

One of these highlights was during midterms week my freshman year of college. My roommate and I were going on the end of the week with very little sleep and cramming loads of material we should have had down weeks prior (oops). Now, because I’m used to getting a little amount of sleep, I was not impacted nearly to the extent that my roommate was. We made a pact that if either of us falls asleep the other was to wake them up by doing whatever means necessary. Lucky for me, that meant I spent a few hours squirting her with a water bottle to get her to wake up. By the time it reached 2 a.m. my roommate was on a one-way train to sleepville, so I sent her to walk around in the hallway (we lived in an apartment) and go up and down the stairs. She protested, huffed, and then went on her way. Thirty minutes pass by, and she had yet to come back. Knowing her, I assumed she was sitting in a stairwell somewhere sleeping. I slipped on my shoes, opened the door to search for her and there she was: face down on the dirty carpet, in a plank position, passed out. I burst out in laughter and in her half out of it stage- she whined/giggled back. I dragged her inside and asked what in the world would prompt her to sleep in the hallway. She responded, “I knew you would be angry if I slept so I went out to sleep.” Not long after she ended up on the floor in the same position, this time on a cleanish carpet:

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Tips to the Insomniacs: When to Get Help

If you are a regular human being, odds are you struggle to ask for help. I, for one, definitely do. When an individual refuses to ask for help it is for one of the three reasons:

a) the belief that it can be pushed through and the person will become stronger for it

b) that somehow asking for help will give the appearance that the individual is weak

c) the belief that the problem is not big enough to worry/annoy other people about

With insomnia, help seems to be a wishful idea. How can someone help with another’s sleeping habits? It is not like they can strap the insomniac down and POOF the person is sleeping.

However, insomniacs can easily put themselves in harm’s way without really noticing until it is too late. I’d like to give an example to help illustrate how I practically give myself heart attacks.

A few days ago, I had two major assignments that I had to get done, but I could feel the exhaustion getting to me. Nights prior had consisted of maybe three and a half hours of sleep. Feeling as though I had no choice, I ended up drinking two Monsters and a 5 Hour Energy. Now I know that sounds terrible and you’re probably thinking “she’s going to kill herself” or “how can someone think that’s okay” as this is what my roommates yelled out and I completely agree…now. During the act, I really wasn’t aware of what I was doing. Yes, I knew that I was downing caffeine to stay awake, but the implications of the act did not come to mind. All I was focused on was getting my mind to be alert enough to finish the assignments.  Fast forward to the end of the day, and I felt like my heart was going to explode. I was shivering but was not cold. I felt ill, but I was not nauseous. As someone who hasn’t gone to the doctors in more years than I’d like to admit, I was ready to go to the hospital. BUT I DIDN’T. Why? Because I didn’t want to admit my actions were wrong and that I needed help.

Looking back, do I wish I would’ve gotten help? Yes. Will I do so in the future? I sincerely hope so. In our competitive society, it is important to remind ourselves that we need others to depend on. For those who love us, no issue is too small. We were made to flourish together and to do so we have to be transparent with one another.

My advice to all my fellow insomniacs out there is to find someone that you feel you comfortable talking to and make it a goal to telling them about the small stuff from day to day. This way, when something bigger happens, it will be your natural instinct to reach out to them.

My advice to all the loved ones of insomniacs is not to yell at them for their actions. Once you show judgment, it makes it more likely that they will hold out from getting help just so they don’t have to admit they were wrong.

 

Daily Tip to Help Relieve Stress

When you have insomnia, you do not JUST have insomnia. You have built up anxiety and bubbling stress. As you go about your life on the minimal amount of sleep that is humanly possible (or technically shouldn’t be), everyday tasks become five times harder. As I am trying to remember the thought that I had 30 mins ago that was too precious to forget but alas it has escaped your mind forever, my stress comes and takes its place.

 

Over the years I have tested many types of de-stress tactics:

Drink milk: tried and yuck

Drink tea: worse than the milk

Meditate as you lay down: too stressed to be that blessed

 

And the list goes on and on. . . However, while randomly scrolling through Facebook at 4 a.m., I found a video that actually helped and so I hope it helps you to.

 

Bear with me, it may sound weird but it does work. Here is what you do:

  1. Relax your right hand, palm facing up
  2. With your left hand, grab you thumb and gently pull up for 1-2 mins
  3. Continue to do #2 on your pointer finger, middle finger and so on
  4. Push your left thumb into your right palm for 1-2 mins

 

Boom. Stress has decreased and you can go about your business. Let me know if this worked for you!

Insomnia vs. Hypersomnia: Yes You Can Have Both

What is insomnia? Well for starters, there are two branches. First, there is Acute insomnia. When someone has Acute insomnia, they are only temporarily affected by the inability to sleep. The reason for the short sleep disruption is due to high levels of stress. An example could be that there is an exam coming up, job loss, or money problems.

First, there is Acute insomnia. When someone has Acute insomnia, they are only temporarily affected by the inability to sleep. The reason for the short sleep disruption is due to high levels of stress. An example could be that there is an exam coming up, job loss, or money problems.

Back when I only suffered from Acute insomnia, I found it extremely helpful to make lists. I would always carry around a pad of paper to scribble on, so whenever I got anxiety, I could make lists of what I had to do and how much time I needed to do it. Although the times were always off, it was nice to be able to see that the tasks ahead of me were doable. I recommend this planner by DayMinder as it is the one I used and still use to this day.

Second, there is Chronic insomnia. An individual has chronic insomnia when sleep disruption happens three or more times a week and goes on for three months or more. Chronic insomnia is difficult to treat, as it can be due to the environment, the individual’s own bad sleeping habits, or from other clinical disorders.

I currently suffer from Chronic insomnia and have yet to find a “cure.” I still make lists on the daily, but the lack of sleep is not longer just because of stress. This fact is the most difficult for people to understand. When I am going on a week of only 10 hours of sleep total, I am not lying awake at night due to anxiety (to clarify, there are some nights that I am a ball of anxiety), but rather it can be a numb feeling.Your body turns off, but your mind refuses to, and do to this, your body lays there in confusion.

 

So what is Hypersomnia? Hypersomnia is excessive daytime sleepiness where the person usually passes out for more than 10 hours. About once a month I have Hypersomnia. The first few times, I believe I scared my roommates half to death because these episodes could last days. The longest I have slept for is about 48 hours. However, during these times of extreme sleeping, it does not feel like you are sleeping long. For me, it is like your body has completely shut off. Not hibernation. Just off. You wake up and its like you didn’t even sleep as you’re still exhausted.

 

I hope this gave you some insight on the different degrees of sleep disorders, make sure to comment if you have tips or questions.

Sleep Deprivation: Effects on the Mind

In a few posts before (Oh, the Places We Go! and The Mind on E), I have discussed personal accounts of what sleep deprivation does to my mind. This post is going to focus more on the data collected and facts on sleep deprivation.

Like the effects on the body, sleep deprivation has grave consequences on one’s mind. For starters, lack of sleep slows down thought processes. As your thinking starts to slow, so does your decision making and judgment. Insomniacs are put at a severe disadvantage as they have trouble concentrating, but even more so go about their lives on a daily risk of not being alert enough to function in times of crises. Statistically speaking, this correlates to 20% of crashes being due to the driver fatigue as driving sleep deprived is like driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%.

Sleep deprivation also causes memory loss. As insomniacs are fighting to function properly during the day, the mind tends to not focus on the small details. Most days I cannot recall what I had for breakfast or even if I had breakfast.  The reason for this is that lack of sleep causes a decrease in blood flow and metabolism in some parts of the brain. Additionally, lack of sleep hinders the brain’s function of clearing out toxins, making insomniacs more susceptible to diseases like Alzheimer’s.

As someone who has insomnia, these facts are more than alarming, they are terrifying. The reason why they are terrifying is that there is nothing that we can do about it. To those without a sleep disorder, it may seem like a simple fix: get more sleep, have fewer problems. However, insomnia has a unique effect on the mind, where it feels that there are wires set up to jolt your brain when you try to sleep. So we can’t be scared into sleeping, only scared into seeing how the data and facts collected are connecting to our experiences. As I watch my grandfather slip further and further away from us (due to Alzheimer’s), I wonder when that statistic will intertwine with my life.

Sleep Deprivation: Effects on the Body

As if being forced to stay awake beyond your control wasn’t bad enough, insomniacs also have to deal with the repercussions of sleep deprivation. Our poor bodies get abused, and there is nothing that we can do to fix it. Sleep is our bodies way of recuperating from the day and rest up for the stressors of tomorrow. When someone does not sleep their body cannot reboot. For this reason, around 90% of people who suffer from insomnia have another health condition they deal with.  For example, as I type this post at 3:30 am, my heart randomly goes into fits where it flutters, and I struggle to catch my breath. The older I get, the worse this condition gets. 

To give you an idea of how serious sleep deprivation is, here are some of the most common conditions that result: 

Heart disease

Heart attack 

Heart failure 

Irregular heartbeat

Stroke

Diabetes 

But beyond health conditions that can form, there are daily implications of sleep deprivation on the body. The best way to describe it is to imagine you’re forced to walk in quicksand that gets deeper and deeper till you can no longer move. 

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via GIPHY

Your muscles tense up and get weak. Your stomach is in constant knots. You experience random sharp pains in your head as your brain revolts against you. And as you finally feel yourself falling asleep, you feel a jolt that keeps the process going.

 

Insomniac in the City

All an insomniac wants to do is fall asleep, but there are some nights where your body becomes just as restless as your mind. Luckily for me, I live in the “City That Never Sleeps” and can wander when I start to feel this way, whether it be at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. In this short video, I wanted to display how a night like this looks and feels. These walks are meant to be isolating as no thought process goes into them. The overall goal is to help clear the mind so that hopefully the restlessness fades away. In this clip, I take you on an average evening, reversed in the video from a little past midnight to around 5 p.m., of aimlessly walking on less than a handful of hours of sleep.

Shown are some of my favorite places to go to in the Financial District:

One World Trade Center

WTC Oculus

Brookfield Place

Staten Island Ferry

What Insomniacs Anonymous Is All About

Recently I have read 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, by Darren Rowse. The book promises to give 31 tools of knowledge to make a blog more concrete but more importantly he tells you how to implement the knowledge provided. Overall, I found Rowse’s tips to be helpful in how to make a blog unique and fruitful. While reading, I got the idea to state his thoughts and describe how I am implementing them so that my readers can get a better grasp on what my blog offers.

Rowse starts off with building an elevator pitch for your blog. For those who do not know, an elevator pitch is a few short and sharp sentences that wrap up what your blog is about to entice the person you are giving the pitch to.

My elevator pitch is simple:

Insomniacs Anonymous is a guide to help people understand an insomniac’s life. My goal is to provide you with a specialized insight on how an insomniac thinks and acts (myself) so that you can encourage and understand a loved one or yourself better.

The next task Rowse believes to be important is to write a list post. List posts allow bloggers to spread their information further by providing short excerpts of multiple posts in a neat and enticing fashion. I believe this to be important too as it allows readers to skim and see which posts will be most beneficial to them without being bogged down by irrelevant information. I have completed a list post here to help guide my readers through my first three blog posts.

Rowse’s third chapter covers how to promote a blog efficiently. I find his points insightful on how to go about promoting. Just as a business selects a product to promote to its audience, so should bloggers. The point is not to promote the entire blog, but specific posts so that the audience can visually see what the blog is about.

Chapter four tells the blogger to study a top blog that is like your topic. The reason is this important is that it allows the blogger to see what works with their competitor’s posts, what topics they find relevant, and most importantly what topics they are missing. Rowse mentions something that I find important, “maintain the focus on your own blog.” In a world of competition, it is easy to get trapped in the cycle of copying a competitor’s tactics to stay relevant, but the purpose of having your own blog is to be unique and separate yourself from others.

From my research, I have found that the online community for insomnia is small. There have been quite a few helpful blogs, but they have been neglected for years. My goal is to tie in the best aspects of the blogs long forgotten and build up a community for insomniacs and their loved ones.

Last, a blog needs to stay up to date on the latest news in their topic. With insomnia, this may include helpful tips to sleep. It is important for me to note that my goal for this blog is not to fix sleeping behavior, but to help understand it. I will use personal experience as well as information others have found to provide the latest understandings of insomnia.

I hope this post gives you a better understanding of my reasoning behind my posts and the overall blog.