Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday Scribblings #39 - Sleep

What kind of a relationship do I have with sleep?
Here's the story...

I am living with a drug-induced sleep disorder. An anti-depressant I'm taking to manage my bipolar disorder has the lovely side effect of inducing Periodic Limb Movement Disorder or PLMD in sleep-ology language.

Although it sounds all pathological and everything, it's actually quite an amusing problem to have. As the name suggests, during the night I experience what everyone commonly knows as "twitches". Whereas it is normal to have approximately 5 of these twitches per hour, I experience up to 20 per hour. This frequency of movement was painstakingly recorded by a poor sleep lab technician who had to watch a full 8 hours of me sleeping while monitoring my neurological activity, my O2 saturation levels and my heart-rate (can you imagine a more dull job?!)

Actually, it's not me who experiences these shudders of physical activity. I myself am not aware of them, for I am sleeping! However, my husband is acutely aware of them. He tells me that, at times, it's as if he is is sleeping in a vibrating bed. You know those old beds in dirty motel rooms where you put 25 or 50 cents in and you feel like you are in the middle of an earthquake? The ones that are oddly disturbing yet fascinating? That make you question whether you are having a seizure or not? Like that. At that rate, I figure I must be ramping up to a pretty tight frequency of vibration during those times - like maybe in the 1000-1500 Hz range? My body would make a pretty fine tuning fork if I could harness that buzzing at will!

It's odd, isn't it, that I would not know that this is happening to me? Essentially these jolting movements are shocking me out of deep sleep, and so I don't really ever wake up feeling refreshed. I guess, then, that the daytime sleepiness is what's the most bothersome.

What is rather interesting, though, is that, while I'm sleeping, I find myself incorporating these spastic movements into whatever physical activity I'm currently practicing. This translates (in my mind) into a kind of physically active dream. Yet it's more than a dream, because I know I am moving, and seem to be consciously creating the movements. Hard to accurately verbalize, but that's the experience.

So, for example:

~ When I studied Speech-Language Pathology, we studied an oral-motor stimulation technique. It involved me (the therapist) to use my hands to guide the movements of a person's lips, tongue or jaw. Many a night I twitched my way closer to my husband who was the recipient of some pro bono oral-motor therapy!

~ More recently, as I immersed myself in the study of Nia, my jerk-y movements were transformed (in my mind) into beautiful sequences of cha-cha-chas, blocks, chops and jazz squares.

~ And this week, while I study at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center in beautiful Arambol, Goa, India, I feel those convulsive-like movements charging my toes to become straight, my toe mounds and heels to push down and my spine to align!

So does it surprise you that my husband and I can no longer sleep in the same bed?! Since we decided this was the route to go, he has enjoyed a greatly improved quality of sleep and has greatly reduced his chance of injury (an inadvertant kick, or punch) while sleeping!

Sleep...a strange and wonderful phenomenon!


  1. Interesting! Glad you came up with a solution so you can both get a good night's sleep. ;o) I once dreamed I was playing soccer and gave my hubby a swift kick in the shin he was still feeling the next day. Fortunately, that was a one-time occurrance! lol

  2. Your husband loves you very much! :)

  3. Have you ever thought of teaching a Nia class to a group of PLMD sufferers that takes place entirely during a nap?! LOL

  4. Easy for me to say, but this was very interesting to read but that doesn't mean I don't empathize with you. I do. And I can personally attest that these miracle drugs we take just to be able to meet the day (me and my daugher) have such odd side effects. You are brave and articulate, I wish you all the best.