Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pain blocks for the brainbox

I try to correct my sleeping schedule so that it resembles something nearing normal every once in a while. It never lasts. Within a week I'm back to staying up way too late, getting up too late, and still managing to not get enough sleep in-between. I've been taking 3mg of melatonin before bed for many months now, and it's worked wonders. (If it's a placebo, it's a kickass placebo.) I'm able to fall asleep pretty naturally within about 90 minutes of taking the pill, compared to lying in bed restless sometimes for hours before I started taking it. It's a definite improvement in my mind.

But physically is only one aspect of the problem. I never have time to go to sleep. I have so many things to do every day that even when I try to make sleep a priority, there are more than enough things to still push sleep to the back burner.

I've been making a conscious effort to get things done recently. I've got something concrete and cool to work on at work, and at home, I'm cleaning things, making it through email, organizing stuff, and the like. I've been doing a better job at not postponing things, even if they really probably could be postponed. All of this has somehow translated into a better sense of time that's allowing me to prepare for bed at a more reasonable hour. I'm remembering to take the melatonin at around 11:00 (instead of 1:00 or later), and that also gives me a cue that it's almost time to start getting ready to sleep. After getting things done during the day, I feel like there's less to think about at the end of it, and that's my best guess as to the reason for my newfound ability to get to sleep. When I lie down, normally my mind is still going a million miles a minute (no jokes, please—well, okay), and it just takes so long to clear my mind and put it off for another day. "Being complete," as my boss's boss's boss calls it, helps.

So, I've been sleeping more. I'd say that over the past week, I've averaged 7.5 hours, which is excellent for me. I'm feeling more energetic, even though it's weird to be pretty much fully awake at 9:30 and not feeling like death.

But that hasn't solved the problem that I was hoping it would, at least yet. A problem I've been strangely silent about for the past couple years is that I've had a mostly constant headache for that time. It's pretty irritating, really. I haven't talked to a doctor about it yet, because I'm stupid for one, and for two, I haven't made scheduling an appointment a high enough priority to ever manage to get to it.

So, for the past couple years, I've been pretty doped up on ibuprofen. It's worked for my mom, who experiences the exact same problem. She's seen all sorts of doctors about it, and nothing has been able to treat it except being doped up on ibuprofen all the time herself. Sucks to be her. And, maybe sucks to be me too.

I suppose it's about time to see a doctor about it myself. One reason—an honest reason—that I haven't done it is that I didn't want to go there, and have the first question be about my sleep habits, and then have to sheepishly reply, "well, um..." This reason (or excuse) has stopped me a couple times. But, recently I've been managing to do that whole sleep thing, so as long as World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (Tuesday!) doesn't ruin it (it will), I'll make that appointment. I make my living mostly diagnosing complex problems, so it would be unbecoming of me to call upon the services of an expert and not at least try to simplify the problem space myself.

Anyway, I have a bunch of theories as to what's going on.
  • I've already mentioned that I think it might be sleep-related. The problem doesn't go away when I actually sleep a reasonable amount of time for a full week, but maybe a week isn't enough to undo the damage that's been done. This seems like a logical possibility to me.
  • My best guess is that it's an allergy. I haven't been tested for allergies in ages, but I was found to be allergic to pretty much everything when I was young, and this started half a year to a year after uprooting myself and moving to a very different part of the country.
  • A less exciting possibility is that I have the same undiagnosable thing that my mom does. I don't know; maybe our brains are cubic and the vertices are pressing against the insides of our skulls. She's been trying to get rid of her headaches for decades now, and nobody has come up with anything that has worked. I don't really want to deal with this for the next half a century until the time when my body has stopped working to such a degree that my entire existence is defined only by misery, suffering, and overly dramatic phrasing.
I guess the short version is "I should really see a doctor about these headaches, especially since I have great health insurance that I never use for anything." The first step to overcoming any problem, after all, is admitting that you have had the problem for years now and have been too dumb to do anything in all that time.

Currently listening: Enya—Paint the Sky with Stars, Bond—Explosive


Anonymous said...

I would submit that, based on the sampling of "things to do" I see on this blog, a better strategy than taking drugs would be to reevaluate your definition of "things to do".

Travis said...

Yeeeahhrr, "cleaning things, making it through email, organizing stuff, and the like" was a pretty terrible example.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not trying to nag or anything, but seriously, you NEED to see a doctor! The sleep issue may be feeding into the headaches, but that is no reason not to see a doctor. I have a lot more to say on this, but I think it would be better if we talk in person (or at least off your blog!)

Larry said...

I seem to have the same problem you do with settling down and actually getting to sleep, largely because I tend to have the same "million miles a minute" issue. I can't tell you how often I find myself not even trying to sleep until 5am (Eastern time) or later, and then not waking until well past noon. (I keep Eastern time as I criss-cross the country, regardless of what time zone I'm actually in, and just convert all the local times to Eastern.)

Thankfully, though, I don't have the same constant headaches you have. Actually, the bigger head-related problem I have is about four inches below my forehead, namely my nose/sinuses and all the trouble they cause me.

Anonymous said...

a few things to consider:

1. are you hydrated enough?

2. are you SURE? nothing hydrates like real 100% water... and a lot of it.

3. watch what you eat. the industrial food process puts chemicals in food that our bodies aren't necessarily capable of taking care of. remember, our bodies are the product of millions of years of evolution, but the american diet is only a few generations old.

Your body wants to be healthy. It can guide you if you listen to it.

Travis said...

Yeah, that's another possibility that I had forgotten about when I posted. I don't drink much water here, because the water here is awful, and I don't like bottled watter much better. I drink less water than I should.