It’s Not Insomnia, It’s DSPS

I don’t have insomnia, I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.

Over the past decade, I consulted with various sleep specialists, none of whom ever mentioned DSPS as a diagnosis. I finally had to diagnose myself. All of them told me that I, indeed, had a sleep disorder and provided various suggestions, all of which I tried and documented here. The last sleep study I endured, several months ago, required two Ambien to even get me to sleep on their schedule. Then they woke me up after 4 hours (5 am) because I had to leave, and I was barely able to walk out of the lab and find a place to sit and wait for my daughter to pick me up. I have found that few doctors do the investigations necessary to actually find an accurate diagnosis. It has become cookie-cutter medicine. One size fits most.

Three months ago, I had a serious emotional meltdown, which prompted me to find someone to prescribe more effective anti-depressants, since there would be days I would only get out of bed to eat and go to the bathroom. Struggling to change my circadian rhythm — and failing over and over — finally sent me on an internet search to see if my 3 or 4 am to noon or later sleep schedule was something others were experiencing. And they are. Many. All of the world. Almost all just learned to live with it because nothing worked when they tried to change it. One woman who lived on the east coast took a job on the west coast because she figured that would put her bedtime at midnight, and she could live with that. But it didn’t take long for her body to relapse back to a 3 am bedtime, even on the west coast.

This household shuts down around 11 pm each night. That leaves me with a good four hours to find something to do that won’t wake them up. It’s so easy to just sit, watch tv or read, and eat. I wish I could use that time to write poetry.

Anti-depressants, at the potency at which I am now consuming them, dull the sensibilities that I need to be inspired to create poetry. Even my prose becomes drab and spiritless. But now that I have a diagnosis and an actual official name for what I am experiencing, I will try to ease off some of what I began taking to climb out of the Major Depressive Disorder that I fell into because of all of my failed efforts to change my circadian rhythm.

What I wonder is, why now, since most folks with DSPS are adolescents or young adults. I think there’s a connection to the 5 year trauma I lived through taking care of my increasingly demented mother while dealing with the constant harassment and abuse heaped upon me by my brother. During that time I had no set sleep schedule and often had to resort to sleeping pills to get any rest at all. While enduring my recent meltdown, I realized that I really do have PTSD as a result. Knowing is always better than not knowing.

I’m back writing on this blog to fill up some of that time until 3 or 4 am, when my sleep switch activates. That’s really what it feels like. While I feel relaxed and tired during those wee morning hours, there comes a time when I simply fall asleep, as though a switch is flicked. There is nothing I can do to make that happen. When my brain is ready, it shuts off. And then I sleep deeply for 8 or 9 hours and wake up rested.

So, this is my life now, at age 81. It could be worse, and I try to be grateful that I can still see and hear (with help) and drive (but not at night) and I don’t have any serious medical conditions. I can live with that.

2 thoughts on “It’s Not Insomnia, It’s DSPS

  1. Awesome! So glad to see you writing again! And that you have discovered what is going on. So makes sense. I am glad that you are out (of bed, of the house) again.

    Clearly you gave so much, too much, to your mom. And why oh why was the brother so abusive. We just don’t know how to deal with that stuff naturally, well at least most of us don’t.

    Be well, stay well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gee, without the depression, that sounds like me. My sleep totally messed up again this week. Mine started when I began using an old desk top computer my son gave me and I was learning to use it, also trouble-shoot it with many occasions when I ended up talking to India into the wee hours. So, while learning to use computer, I came across TGB, was working part time, husband still alive, plus I have tended to be a night owl. Then he unexpectedly died and I went a little hyper thinking I was adjusting quite well. Yeah!! I didn’t have the problems then I have now as I’ve totally screwed up my circadian rhythms. This week was a mess for a variety of reasons so I ended up drowsing too much during daytime but couldn’t avoid it as I was sleepy, so could’t sleep last night. I’ll keep working at it without pills and other, but can understand why some use them. Do hope you get your sleep squared around. Patience!

    Incidentally, as a retired health care worker I want to add my concern is that the administration of health care could evolve to a cookie cutter approach — tests and numbers, one size fits all.

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