Sleep Blog

I recently attended a course about sleep… ‘Sleep in People with a Brain Injury’, presented by Dr David Lee. First off, why? Insomnia; a condition I have that may be linked to my ‘bigger condition’, it may not. MS being the bigger condition that is linked to the err, smaller one. Sleepy yet!!?

People with multiple sclerosis often have trouble sleeping soundly, but the problems may not be due to the disease itself. Stress, spasticity in arms or legs, inactivity, or depression that can come along with MS can interfere with a good night's rest

Google’s top answer. I just know I have been a chronic insomniac for over half my life. Yikes. First time I’ve written that!

So, the course. It started off – “about sleep” – generally how much people need and that everyone’s needs are different; age is a big factor in this as well! 8 hours? Common ‘requirement’ nonsense, but the average time is 8 and a quarter hours. People can be long or short sleepers at any age.

There were 12/13 people in attendance all with different needs; from some who only get 2,3,4 hours a night, some 12+ hours a day.

Dr Lee was (obviously) talking about sleep, in a ‘not too detailed fashion’ at the start, as an introduction to the group. Building a picture.

The presentation was done in conjunction with a slideshow showing what was being talked about. The interaction with that and us all was brilliant at all points.

As the presentation progressed I learned a lot more about the whole sleeping process than I thought I knew; I thought I had a good sleep hygiene knowledge. Yes, great insomnia experience hence my attendance. My brain injury? MS! I haven’t really slept ‘well’ for 20 years!

Anyway! There are 3 stages of consciousness – awake, REM, NREM (non-REM). I didn’t know that.

When we sleep some dream right? I do, but I hadn’t given any thought as to dream type/s. At all! However, they ‘exist’!

What are the types of dreams? Here are some! :

  • Daydreams.
  • False Awakening Dreams.
  • Lucid Dreams.
  • Nightmares.
  • Recurring Dreams.
  • Healing Dreams.
  • Prophetic Dreams.
  • Epic Dreams.
THE most common thread throughout (mentioned a lot) was that of the circadian rhythm. I was aware of the circadian rhythm through my many attempts to address my insomnia as best as I can/could, but had no idea of it in the way it was shown to us and discussed. Fascinating. To me anyway. What is it?

What are circadian rhythms?

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural changes that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness. They are not the same as our biological clock but somewhat related, in that they drive our circadian rhythms. Go figure! Whey, that’s where the brain gets involved - coordinates all the body clocks so that they are in synch (molecules and cell grouping obviously!). I say brain, it is actually a "master clock" in the brain.
“Master clock”? If I knew enough biology to try to explain clearly I would, other than it is a collection of about 20000 nerve cells, is in the hypothalamus just above where the optic nerves cross. Hmmm. An MS link? Also, a genetic link to the circadian rhythm too. MS link?

Circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors within the body, but they are also affected by signals from the environment. LIGHT is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms, turning on or turning off genes that control one’s internal clocks.
The other thing I noted and was the 90-minute cycle within the bigger cycle. Think about yawning. Yawning is a good sign at a circadian bottom/drop/dip and therefore time to sleep! Or wait through another cycle. If you yawn randomly at say, 7pm (too early for sleep), after another yawn or 3, you’ll be awake again(!). Next yawn time? Probably about 8:30pm and so on. So bed time could be 10, 11:30… Or wait through another ‘cycle’ It seems true, to me…

So, what effects does it have on us? As the circadian rhythm can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions (good and bad), they have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Makes sense, right?! A great deal of other possible baddies can be linked too, for example obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder. What a thing then!
Sunlight makes us tired! Serotonin, the wakey-wakey feel-good molecule production as a result of sunlight. Melatonin is made from serotonin. I picked up to get outdoors for morning walks when the sun is in the blue spectrum light and/or a ‘lightbox’ for the same effect, brings out the melatonin action in the evening! In the evening, infrared light, we see a lesser effect. Here’s the bedtime light negatives for some. TVs, Smartphones, tablets etc, emit BLUE light suppressing melatonin production and therefore going AGAINST sleep. Damn.
MS and melatonin. Do we not get out as much due to MS? Very possibly.

Anyway, the second half looked at and into types of insomnia with possible causes etc. I thought the course was brilliant. Massive thanks to Dr David Lee for his expertise in this matter.

What keeps me awake? Thinking about thinking; thoughts of everything and nothing! Have to laugh really. It does affect my MS symptoms if the ‘sleepometer’ goes down too low a well. Used to it now though!

As always, I invite any comments and look forward to the next blog!


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