Insomnia And Anxiety In My Life

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Throughout my college life I have had a struggle with my sleep pattern. I have noticed the past two years have been its worse with having insomnia. I didn’t know what why I was having a hard time sleeping, the more research I did the more I noticed I had insomnia. In the beginning it started when I was eighteen and graduating high school. I would be in bed by ten but wouldn’t go to be bed till five in the morning and be up at seven in the morning. I knew pretty soon something was wrong with my sleep. The more sleep I lost the more anxious I started to feel. A few months later I started going to bed at a normal time but suffered from vivid nightmares. The nightmare were always vivid and morbid, they honestly didn’t make sense. After I would wake up I wouldn’t go back to sleep. I had become so anxious about the nightmares that I had stopped sleeping completely. I realized I was having anxiety over nightmares that were obviously scaring me. This went on for almost a year and a half. I was having nightmares almost every night, so I just stopped sleeping.

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After that had past I started sleeping normally again. I believe a huge factor was I was in school and working. I would go home exhausted and I would sleep the whole night. My anxiety had become lower but it still lingered before bed. I had done more research because I no longer wanted to feel anxiety before bed. I would talk to people and get personal advice but no one really knew what I was feeling. So I went to the internet and searched sleep anxiety. The number effect of sleep anxiety was of course insomnia. I started reflecting on the dreams I was having and all of them involved me dying in different ways. Dying is actually one of my biggest fears, especially dying in my sleep. Because of this fear I would have such anxiety about the fact of death, that I would give myself stress dreams. I decided to stop overthinking about this fear and change my mind on the topic. It’s been about two years since I had stress nightmares and I don’t think about it as much. I still a small anxiety before bed but I revert myself to something else, like a book or even watching an interesting Youtube video. I have insomniac moments late but it doesn’t involve my anxiety, more of a high energy spert.

Doing research about insomnia was quite overwhelming due to it being such a common sleep disturbance. In a research case done by the American Psychological Association at University of Iowa’s Psychology department, students and psychiatric patients were analyzed on their sleep after doing a questionnaire packet and a two hour interview. Reviewing that made me think about being a college student full time when I was out of high school. I was doing about ten hour days at school working on school work. “Participants completed the ISD, which is a true/false measure with 11 scales representing specific sleep dimensions…”. Throughout the hypothesis, there were three factors that correlated with the study. First being lassitude, second insomnia, and third being unusual. “On the basis of previous research, the Lassitude factor would be specific to dysphoria compared with other symptoms dimensions, whereas the insomnia factor would show weaker, nonspecific relations with most symptom dimension”. “It was also hypothesized that the Unusual Sleep Experience factor would show specificity to symptoms of dissociation, schizotypy, and PTSD”. Over 219 students from ages 18-30, most being 161 women, were being studied. Over 200 outpatient psychiatric patients ranging in ages 18-67, most being 150 women, were studied on. I personally was curious to as why so many women were tested throughout this research case. It is never specified on why more women were in the study then men but if I had to guess it could possibly be cause of women having more hormones than men, or maybe upon request for people to be in the study, more women were interested than men. The other aspects of this study were things like PTSD checklist civilian version, dissociative processes scales, and schizotypal personality questionnaire. The PTSD checklist civilian version or PCL-C, “. . . scores for Intrusions and Dysphoria were calculated after removing items related to nightmares and insomnia”.

Dissociative Processes Scales or DPS, was a questionnaire that measured obliviousness, detachment, and imagination. Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire or SPQ, was used to measure five other symptoms like unusual beliefs and experiences, mistrust, social anhedonia, social anxiety and eccentricity/oddity. The interview process of this study asked very specific questions some asking the patients about if they have recurring bad dreams or even asking if their nightmares give them a hard time trying to sleep. The interviewers then determined on two things that were the key to their study, first if the symptoms were noticeable, and lastly did it affect their function and that it did not occur because of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Scales were also given to patients on a 3 point system, them being, one absent, two subthreshold, and three present. Interviewers would then determine if the patient had symptoms that were either present or in the last two weeks before the interview. The interviews were also taped to ensure relatability. The results that were determined in the study were quite fascinating. Students and patients were most likely to have sleep paralysis. In a separate scale, students experienced mostly insomnia, anxiety at night, fragmented sleep, light sleep and fatigue. I personally was surprised about these because I didn’t know that anxiety could become a problem from lack of sleep.

Another “unusual” thing to happen was sleep paralysis, nightmares and sensations/movements in sleep. For Psychiatric patients, they experienced more insomnia, fatigue, and sleep hallucinations. Upon research people with sleep paralysis are more likely to experience sleep hallucinations, this can also be proven by a table that was made for this specific study. Because of this research, the scores that were accumulated through the study have show great validity for the side effects of insomnia. “The three-factor structure clearly replicated well across samples and supports previous findings that psychiatric patients and students do not have qualitatively different sleep. ” An interesting thing that was mentioned at the end to the research as that it has become necessary to expand these tests especially with drug and alcohol use and even anti-social disorder. In a separate study, done in the United Kingdom, at the Oxford University Department of Experimental Psychology, “Patients with insomnia report that the main reason they can’t get to sleep and stay asleep is due to excessive presleep cognitive activity”. This to me was validating due to my insomnia being caused by “over thinking” about my nightmares and being afraid they would keep coming back. I would think about the one I had the night before and then think of the one before that, leading to the fact that I had such terrible nightmares I couldn’t sleep nor stay asleep.

In relevance to both of these studies, their finds helped prove what they researched. In the second study, done at a later year had also great findings that were proven to be associated with somniac activation. The similarities to the different studies are very interesting to me because who would have thought that something like insomnia could have such an impact on someone’s mental health. Anxiety and stress are associated with many things but the correlation it has to insomnia is absolutely fascinating.

A huge part of my life has been affected by insomnia. Even currently I still have insomnia, but I only seem to have it when I’m either stressed or have high anxiety. I recently have experienced some insomnia moments. First was being stressed with school work due to it being finals time. College students with low GPAs are most likely to have symptoms of insomnia. In a study done in 2001 over 73% of college students had occasional sleep issues. I have had many friends, coworkers, and classmates tell throughout my three years at Chaffey that they experience sleep problems during finals time. Another aspect of my insomnia lately is because I’m starting a new job. Starting a new job can cause a little bit of anxiety and stress because you want to achieve and not mess something up no matter what the job is. Thinking about finishing a project, or even just trying to remember all the codes you need to know at a new job, you have to realize that sleep is a very important thing. I even had my first stress dream in over two years the night before. I woke this morning and remembered it’s just dream. And I plan to sleep all night.

10 October 2020

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