I’ve tried many things over the past 27 years to try and alleviate the symptoms of my illness, or minimise the impact they have on my life and work. I’ve tried different medications, therapy, supplements, self help books, exercise, crystals…. All sorts. I’m open minded and am prepared to give anything a try in finding coping mechanisms. Sometimes I find something that works for a while – and then stops, or I find I’ve forgotten to keep it up and suddenly I’m not well any more.
The bane of my recent years has been sleep. My sleep patterns are all out of whack. It started as a symptom of the depression, but then became accentuated as a side effect of my medication. I have real difficulty getting to sleep at night, and then find it near impossible to wake / get up in the morning. Not just, I’m tired and I can’t be bothered – but sometimes almost sleep paralysis, my eyes are open but there’s nobody home. I would sleep 13-15 hours solid if undisturbed. Not surprisingly, this caused a few problems at work (still does). More so than my untreated depression – so I came off the meds. But the sleep disturbance, while not as bad, remains.
I read about something called “Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder” – not saying that’s what I have, as it’s not consistent – but it seems to describe some of what is going on with me when my sleep is disrupted. Essentially, a “normal” sleep phase might see you getting tired about 10pm, falling asleep, and waking about 6am. However in some people this is delayed, and they can’t get to sleep until 2 in the morning, and might naturally wake at 10am. If their alarm clock tries to wake them at 6am, like a “normal” sleep phase person, then it is pulling them from the deepest phase of their sleep and their brain is not prepared. It hasn’t gone through the necessary processes, changes of wave patterns, release of chemicals, whatever – to bring us to an alert and refreshed state.
I got interested in the idea of brain waves – a very basic (and possibly incorrect) take on it being that Delta waves are produced in sleep / relaxation, Alpha waves help you wake up. I needed Alpha waves. I’d read about something called Binaural beats, which professed to “entrain” your brain by playing sound pulses which produced a particular frequency, which supposedly would encourage your brain to follow suit. I don’t know if there’s scientific evidence to back it up – I’d love to see it, but know there’s little interest out there in funding research which might give a free cure for illness.
Either way – I am prepared to try something for nothing, to see if it works for me, regardless of knowing why. And these days there seem to be plenty of options to try this for free.
So, I hopped over to YouTube and had a look what was there. My initial desire was for those wakey wakey alpha waves. I thought – if I can find something to listen to when I wake up feeling like a not very well re-animated corpse, perhaps it will kick start me, and make me ready and fit for the day. I found this – a ten minute taster thing aimed at “alpha wave restoration and concentration”. I stuck my headphones in, and gave it a listen. Took a little getting used to, but I actually felt myself start to feel more alert after a couple of minutes. Well, what do you know, I thought.
I tried it a couple more times, and at times during the day when I felt I was flagging. And it did seem to make me feel better.
However it wasn’t doing anything to solve my problems at the other end of the day. So – having now read a little more about the supposed properties of different frequencies, I thought I’d try something to help me sleep / relax. A perfect opportunity arose when staying at my parents preparing for my training course last week. I was full of anxiety, irritability, self-loathing and general distress. I knew the chances of me being able to get a decent night’s sleep were pretty low, and that added to my performance anxiety for the next day.
So, I took myself off, and tried this Delta wave session:
It’s an hour long, a bit like listening to someone play a really low note on the cello over and over and over. My mind tried its usual tricks of negative racing thoughts, but the pulsing drone helped me push them away. I managed to relax and enjoy the sensations that flooded my mind and body. And when the recording stopped, I rolled over and went to sleep. Just like that.
And even more amazingly, the next day, at 5.30am, I woke up. Just like that. I woke up, got out of bed, had a shower. Got dressed, went to work. Like a normal person. Didn’t need any alpha wave restoration at all.
I’ve done this most days this week. The day I didn’t listen to it at night, I slept till 9am. Some times I’ve fallen asleep in the middle of it. Sometimes it’s not been as easy to relax due to my other half rolling about or turning lights on. But it’s been a damn sight better than a usual week.
You could say it’s simply relaxing for an hour. But if I go to bed without it, I can’t chase those thoughts and feelings away and can spiral into a total blubbering mess by midnight. My biggest problem this week has been waking up too early and then ruining the good work by going back to sleep. Just need to force myself to get up even if it is 4.30. Do some housework!
Maybe my brainwaves are responding. Maybe it’s hypnosis. Who cares. It’s working. I hope it continues, as if it does it could change my life.