Monday, August 16, 2010

I Had a New Duck

Time for the first of three health-related blog posts.

The most interesting recent health news was an attempt to help me get more sleep.  Lack of sound sleep is my biggest health problem, with far more impact on my daily life than my allergies.  I have two problems that contribute to not getting enough sleep.

First, falling asleep usually takes more than half an hour, and fairly often two or three times that long, because my brain does not turn off well.  I get stuck in a state where I am too tired to direct my thoughts but not tired enough to fall asleep.  I'm not worried or making to-do lists.  My brain just tries to tell me stupid, brief stories.  (Last night one was about the rotor problems with the world's most environmentally friendly transport helicopter.)

Second, I wake up easily.  This is good because my wife can sleep through all but the very loudest of Smiley's night noises.  But most nights I wake up two or more times only to use the restroom, which seems a needless interruption.

My doctor decided to try prescribing 10mg daily of imipramine.  This drug is seldom used any more, but it is usually safe (although it can have some scary side-effects).  It increases the duration of N2 and decreases the duration of REM sleep, which for some people helps with falling staying asleep.

I tried it for a week, with interesting results.  The first two nights it did completely solve my first problem: I would lie down to go to sleep and my brain would shut up.  That dramatic effect did not last, although it did continue to help me fall asleep faster.  However, it also caused me to wake up early and be unable to fall asleep again; this happened earlier and earlier as the week progressed.  It also did nothing to help me sleep through the night without interruption.  Finally, I got cranky and a bit depressed, either from repeatedly getting six or less hours of sleep, or as a medication side-effect, or both.

I stopped taking imipramine two nights ago, and the last two days have been great days sleep-wise.  I have been energetic, happy, and patient.  The residual constant headache left over from this year's month-long grass pollen season is finally gone.  The drug clearly was not a good match for me, but at least going off it seems to have been kind to my body chemistry.

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