Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is overrated.

As far as I can remember, I have always been always been a light sleeper, but never suffered from an inability to sleep.  That is until my heart surgery.  I always sleep on my sides, however, when I had the surgery, because my breast bone had been cut open, I was forced to lay on my back, which was a struggle enough to get into bed.  I could never have been more uncomfortable, and with Wendy’s help, and several pillows and positions, I finally found comfort.

But the day came that I was able to roll over onto my side.  Unsure and nervous how my rib cage would take this effort, I rolled over onto my right side first.  It went without incident.  But when I rolled over onto my left side, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest, or at least that was what it felt like.  Even though prior to checking out of the hospital, I was told that I was so much better cardiac-wise than before, I would have sworn I was having a heart attack anytime that I rolled onto my left side.  Thus I went from being a light sleeper, to a no-sleeper.  I would never get into a deep enough sleep, called REM sleep I believe.

Until recently.  Several things in my life have been occurring, simultaneously or pyramiding, but it is alot.  The strange thing is that I do not really acknowledge them necessarily as stressful.  At least not consciously.  But I do know that my sleeping has been dramatically effected to the point where I average two to three hours a night, and on at least three occasions in the last month, including this past weekend, I had zero sleep.

Here is what a normal and healthy person can expect without a decent amount of sleep.  Memory and cognitive functioning can be affected.  Logic can be thrown out the window.  Stress and irritability increase.  Lack of sleep can affect our job performance as well as safety.  One other activity that comes to mind when the mind is abused like this, consuming alchohol.  Do not even get me started on fatigue.  The body needs rest to recover from the day’s activities.

And what do you suppose will happen to a body that has been extremely compromised from cancer treatments and surgeries that have changed the physiology of the body?  But before I get to that point, I need to find out what happens when the brain just will not shut down?

It is pure coincidence I am certain, that the escalated insomnia occurred when I stopped drinking the large amount of Coca-Cola (up to three liters a day).  I keep a very busy and tight schedule, often missing meals.  I had no issue with this because I traded calories for soda.  I want to believe that perhaps my body reacted to the lack of sugar and caffeine by shifting into its own natural adrenaline gear.  The only problem with it, unlike the “down” that goes with the “up” of soda, I do not seem to have a “down” for this.

To complicate this matter even further, one of my late effect issues, which I believe has still not been narrowed down exactly, though procedures have definitely defined symptoms, involves a nightly battle with reflux.  It is frustrating to me, because I have made all of the changes that the doctors thought would resolve this issue (which is actually complicated with a difficulty of swallowing issue).  The head of my bed has been raised.  I have doubled the amount of PPI (a prescription to reduce acid production).  I have eliminated most foods that contain or produce acid, especially carbonated beverages.  And I certainly do not eat anything after seven o’clock in general (unless I have gotten home late from some event).

One thing that I have learned I can count on, it is in the early morning hours, I will begin to cough.  And that coughing will result in some production of reflux.  If I am lucky, I can go back to sleep.  If I am not, on at least two out of three occasions, I have landed in the emergency room diagnosed with pneumonia (one accompanied with sepsis, the other double pneumonia).  The causes of the pneumonias went undiagnosed, but one test that had been done on me, found an issue in my esophagus, called a diverticulum.  It was explained to me, that this fault had the potential to trap bacteria in my esophagus, which could then lead to what is called aspiration pneumonia.

Of course, I understand without looking in a dictionary, the word aspiration to be related to choking or loss of air, unable to breathe.  And that is what the two ER visits began with.  So, nearly every night, I wonder, is this going to be the night that finally gets me.  Am I paranoid or afraid to go to sleep?  Am I just too keyed up to turn my mind off?  With everything on my plate, whether willing to admit it or not, is my body under too much stress.

One thing I do know, I need to get a grip on this.  The most notable victim/patient of insomnia was Michael Jackson.

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2 thoughts on “Sleep Deprivation

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