Saturday, October 29, 2005

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder: Slumberland to the Rescue

A nice reprieve came to an end yesterday. If you follow this blog you know that I'm a raving insomniac. Well, one of my goals this year was to master my sleep. Although it has taken me all year (it was a twenty year habit), I finally managed to flip my sleep schedule around. Instead of panicking at 11pm and rushing to make something of my day and working into the early morning, I retrained myself to want to go to bed at night. The side effect of this was that I stopped ticking severely. I would have the occasional daily vocal tic and shaking hand, but the fits of palsy had passed and I was exercizing and feeling pretty good about myself. Until this week.

Seems my wife and kids conspired to undo all that hard work and forced me up into the wee hours several nights in a row. It was a mixture of sickness, podcasts, Reflections entries, sleepless kids, my daughter's performance, homework, family, family, and family, etc. I'm back to where I was before: 5am-10am. And I began severely ticking again yesterday. Today was the worst. And I blame it on my lack of sleep.

Aside from anecdotal evidence to show a relationship between sleep deprivation and Chronic Motor Tic Disorder, I have a brother who suffers from epilepsy and he sleeps full nights religiously because otherwise he experiences seizure activity, namely halos and other precursors to petite or grand mals. He hasn't had a grand mal in years and he attributes that to his medication, his healthy living, and his sleep regimen.

Sleep deprivation's affect on epilepsy is well documented. It is also has a well documented affect on Tourette's Syndrome, something my tic disorder is related to. (See the Severity subsection of the linked article). Sleep also exacerbates AD/HD.

If I can take anything away from these articles it is NOT that sleep deprivation causes these issues, though for some people ADHD symptoms can be experienced by the foggy-headed brain suffering from a poor night or week's sleep, but that these neurological issues are extremely sensitive to sleep deprivation. My habit of working into the early AM to force productivity into my life also made my attempts at productivity fleeting. The more tired I was, the less functional I was. This is obvious for every human being, neurologically disabled or not. The human mind requires sleep to recharge and function at its optimum. However, when we are in the thick of panic or focus, when we believe that the only way to get anything done is to keep working through our sleep, we become disconnected from the effects of sleeplessness and see sleep as the enemy. I would look upon fatigue as a weakness that could be whipped out of me. I would drive myself on so little sleep I was like the walking dead. And yet, as long as I had something new finished each night I continued to feed the lie that this was PRODUCTIVITY. Intellectually, I knew it was false, but emotionally I could not let go.

Finally overcoming my foolishness to take command of my sleep was the best thing that I have done for myself in many years. I worked hard to turn my schedule around and now I find I want it back1. So I come to the end of my blog for the night and will force myself off to bed. This may seem like child's play to some of you, but it does not come so easy for me - or others like myself. If you are like me, I recommend you read the articles I linked to and see for yourself that maybe you, too, would be better off turning your life around and recharging your batteries to attack the day right-side up for a change.

Coping Strategies:

  1. Train yourself to want sleep and to believe that sleep is vital for productivity. This means...
  2. Overcoming the urge to work through the night. Learn to let the project go so you can attack it better the next day. This seems counterintuitive to many with ADHD because putting a project off to the next day could mean never picking it up again.
  3. Avoid using medications to regulate your sleep. Most sleep medications, including herbal melatonin, cause grogginess during the next day. You will find this is an adverse effect that will get in the way of your efforts in the long run.

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