Anxiety problems

I survived my first week as a “real” teacher! The main battle that I’m fighting? Myself.

I’ve been having a lot of anxiety, always at night, to the point where I’ve been considering seeing a doctor for help and insight.

I either can’t fall asleep for hours after getting into bed or I fall asleep and wake up at all hours of the night/morning and then can’t get back to sleep before work. During these “episodes”, I have trouble breathing, my chest feels tight, my heart feels like it’s racing (although Tom felt it and said it felt normal at the time), my stomach feels knotted, and my mind is racing.

And I don’t know why!

I am always prepared for the next day’s classes, I haven’t had any overly negative run-ins with students, I get along great with all of my coworkers, and I’m completely exhausted! I remind myself of this while I’m laying in bed, but I only end up stressing more because of how little sleep I’ll be getting (yet again). It’s a vicious cycle.

This weekend was great because I got to catch up on sleep that I had lost last week. But I felt pretty groggy and “off” all weekend as well. I think part of it was because Tom was upstate speaking at WordCamp Buffalo, so I was alone (and admittedly had a slight breakdown the day before he left…more anxiety), and the other part was because my body and mind were recuperating.

I worked out after work yesterday, hoping that it would help alleviate some stress and also make my body even more tired so it had no choice but to fall asleep at night. Oh, and also because I need to get back in the gym because I have been enjoying way too many Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Candy Explosion cookies. Win-win-win situation, right?

To make things even better, last night Tom and I tried Headspace, a meditation app, while laying in bed trying to fall asleep. I felt the exhaustion and was hopeful that I would get sleep I was trying to keep my mind on my breathing and not on work or my sleeping problem but I still felt the anxiety creeping in every time I closed my eyes. So we started up the app.

The guy had a very soothing, calming British accent, and one of his first instructions was to have our eyes open. I tried, but my eyelids were just too heavy – a good sign! And then I started noticing that while he paused in between instructions, I was spacing out, like sleep was on its way!

I actually fell asleep within about 4 or 5 minutes of the app (it’s only 10 minutes long)…but then I woke up shortly after.

Noooooo!!!!

Tom was still awake, which was nice because the anxious feelings came back with a vengeance, and talking to him makes me feel better. He told me how quickly I had fallen asleep and how he was happy for me because he knows that this has been a real struggle lately. And then he told me about the very loud truck that roared past our apartment that was responsible for waking me up.

So we started the app again, but to no avail did I fall asleep this time. I eventually got to sleep, but I’m just so frustrated at myself for not being able to contain or even pinpoint these feelings. And I’m tired. Plus, I’m worried that this will spark a flare-up with my Crohns – extreme stress is what exacerbates the disease for me. I don’t want to take any chances and have another flare-up.

Tonight’s efforts included a cup of night calm tea, so I’m hoping that helps…and that I don’t end up having to pee 37 times tonight.

Anyone have similar issues/problems? How did you get over them and how do you deal with stress? Thoughts on meditation vs. medication? Any help would be appreciated!

Sleep deprivation is making me stoopid.

Seriously, I feel dumb. Like, all the time. It wasn’t always this way (I’m pretty sure), but in the past 2 months, I think my IQ has dropped below the level of possible IQs. Yeah, that happened. Didn’t think it was possible? Well, I have set a new low. So now everyone in the world can feel super intelligent!

My memory has plummeted – I used to remember anything and everything, but lately I can’t even remember basic math. Oh, did I mention that I have a Bachelors in Mathematics from SUNY Geneseo and a Masters in Mathematics Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Mhm, great.

I constantly forget words that I want to use in order to finish my complete sentences. And it’s not even like “oh, it’s at the tip of my tongue” or “it sounds like this” or “another word for this.” I don’t even think a quick game of charades would help my plight. My mind just stops and turns into a big black hole of ideas and words. And then I start panicking because I should know this! Why the heck can’t I think of what I’m trying to say or do? So those complete sentences get completely butchered and most of the time I can’t even salvage them with a synonym or parallel idea.Frustration meme

So then the people I’m talking to get frustrated, and then I get frustrated. We all get a whole lot of frustrated because I can’t freaking finish what I was trying to convey to them. Or I’m completely wrong about something because I simply didn’t think my idea all the way through, usually because I panicked from the lack of remembering, and now my credibility starts to be whittled down.

Tom has noticed it too. There have been many times where we’ll be talking and I’ll say something so dumb and he’ll call me out on it. And then I’ll realize just how stupid it sounded or how ridiculously wrong it was and recoil in embarrassment. He started by calling them dumb blonde moments, but then they began to be too frequent to be dumb blonde moments. And it wasn’t just me trying to be silly or act dumb; they were honestly lapses in my brain and train of thought.

What is happening to me? How can I be 24 years old and having this much of a difficult time remembering basic facts? Why have my math skills plummeted when I just finished school 2 months ago?

I’ve wondered if I’m developing some sort of early onsetting Alzheimer’s. My mom has Multiple Sclerosis, and I know that ‘thinking problems’ is a symptom of that; could I be showing early signs of MS?

I figured I’d go to WebMD (super reliable, right?) just to see what kinds of conditions they might suggest I have with my given symptoms. I put in:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory problems (some of these are quite redundant)
  • Poor concentration
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty learning new things

Side note: When I put in that I was having difficulty concentrating, the following question popped up on the screen:Concentration WebMD question

Maybe it has something to do with too much or too little oxygen while diving that might screw someone up? Just thought the question was quite random when it popped up.

Anyways, my results came up as follows:

  1. Depression (adult)
  2. ADHD
  3. Postconcussive syndrome
  4. Alcohol withdrawal
  5. Head injury
  6. Medication reaction or side-effect
  7. Sleep apnea
  8. Sleep deprivation
  9. Depression (postpartum)
  10. Intoxication
  11. Asperger syndrome

…and they just continued to be less and less likely, so I’ll stop at Asperger syndrome. After the main possibilities, they just ended up being listed in alphabetical order. MS did make it on the list, after Marijuana use. Goodnes gracious.

So the first plausible cause (unless I am depressed and don’t know it) would be sleep deprivation. Hm, that would make sense…sleep deprivation

See, I live in Long Island and work at a school in Brooklyn. Every weekday, I wake up at 5 a.m., get on a train at 5:54, arrive at work around 7:45, leave work at 3:30 p.m., hop on the 4:19 train from Penn Station, and don’t usually get home until around 6:30 p.m. After I get home, I shower, eat dinner, watch TV, and hang out with Tom and his parents. My typical bed time ends up being around 10:30 since showering and eating dinner kind of perk me up and then I want to hang out and talk with everyone before doing it all over again the next day.

I have a Fitbit, so I’ve been able to keep track of how many hours of sleep I get per night, as well as how many times I’m restless during the night. It’s actually really interesting and I usually spend more time paying attention to the sleep log than of how many steps I’ve taken throughout the day.Fitbit sleep log

According to my Fitbit log, I barely get more than 6 hours of sleep each night during the week. Sometimes I might catch some shut-eye on the trains, but it’s not enough to say so, and it never gets to REM sleep, the most important kind of sleep that gives your body the rest it needs.

Interesting enough, this past week I read an article from BBC about how sleep deprivation affects students’ performance in school. It focused on the fact that the lower performing schools tended to have more students that suffered from lack of sleep than those countries who performed better.

The findings are not cut-and-dried; just looking at the first bar graph in the article (shown below), it is clear that not all high-performing countries’ students are getting enough sleep. And the lowest performing countries are not all suffering from sleep deprived zombie children, either. For example, Finland has been at the top of the charts for math and science performance for years now (although, surprisingly, this past December, a report came out that their scores dropped, bringing them down to 12th in the rankings), but they are nowhere near the countries whose students are getting the most sleep.

Sleep deprivation by country

Fun education facts for you all out there!

So the BBC article points to technology as a possible culprit for lack of sleep. According to Dr. Karrie Fitzpatrick, the light from computer, tablet, or phone screens, “…can reset the whole circadian rhythm system and say, ‘Wait a minute, it’s not time to go to bed’.”.

Coincidentally, I am one who has always fallen asleep with TV or Netflix running next to me. Sometimes, if I just try laying down in bed and going straight to sleep, my mind starts racing and concentrating on the things I need to do the next day, causing me to become anxious and more awake than I was when I laid down. So Netflix allows me to concentrate on something else, and I usually fall asleep within about 10 minutes of laying down while watching a show or movie.

Tom had told me about the light screwing with circadian rhythms before, scolding me for having my computer on while trying to fall asleep at night. He mostly did this because when I get tired I get cranky. And when I get cranky, he usually receives the brunt of my terror. I apologize Tom. And anyone else who has endured my overtired wrath.

He told me there’s an app that is meant for using screens at night, and I actually found it in another article from Business Insider. It’s called f.lux and reduces the bluish light that LCD screens emit and screw with our sleep.Phone with and without f.lux

Luckily for me (and everyone else!), the effects of sleep deprivation can be reversed with a return to sleeping 7 to 9 hours regularly. So this week I’m going to try to fall asleep without a screen in front of my face. If I find my anxious thoughts make it too difficult to fall asleep normally, I will use the f.lux software to turn the brightness down and hopefully still reap full benefits of sleep.

And if I’m still dumb after getting more sleep, then I guess it’ll be wise to go to a doctor and get it checked out.

I just really hate how this has affected me, so I’m determined to get back to a normal state of intelligence. Sure, I’ll definitely have dumb blonde moments, but they’ll just be a silly, infrequent occurrence as opposed to all day, everyday. Happy snoozing everyone!

A Sleep Aid Review…After 4 Hours Of Sleep

I am currently running on about 4 hours of sleep.

And this is a review of the Slumberland Snacks Sleep Squares.

So get ready.

I received a sample of these sleep squares in my June Conscious Box. I wrote about my Conscious Box experience in a post you can find here.

Reading some reviews, apparently people swear by these things. I don’t have a sleep disorder, so I have never really taken sleep aids or anything like that, prescription or otherwise. I’m a pretty light sleeper, so I wake up (and then stay awake) pretty easily. I took an anti-anxiety pill for a bit last year, but the anxiety was due to my Crohn’s, which was not diagnosed until a bit later. And when I’m stressed, it can take a toll on my sleep patterns. But nothing as bad as last night…

So these sleep squares are said to be “deliciously simple treats that help you get a better night’s rest.” The sample I received contained two squares, and since they are supposedly very healthy (100% natural, sugar and gluten free, etc.) they actually have an expiration date. Mine were due to expire in 2 weeks, and since I have to work and go to school the next 4 days, I figured last night would be good a time as any to test them out. Be prepared, get a good night’s sleep to tackle these next few days. Right?

The directions suggest taking the sleep square(s) about 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep, so I took one at 12 midnight. It didn’t taste bad (they come in many flavors, but mine were just plain chocolate) and I made sure to chew completely before swallowing, as was directed.

After about 30 minutes, I had been dozing on and off, but when I would come back to consciousness, it felt as though my heart was racing. I had that really anxious feeling like when you’re nervous or feel like you’re forgetting something. Or when you doze in public and realize it only after you jolt awake in an embarrassing way. Why was I feeling like this?

I did my homework.

I didn’t have to be up early.

I hadn’t eaten in over 4 hours.

I hadn’t had any tiffs with friends or anyone, causing me to stress.

Heck, I had even done some extra independent studying of Statistics AND worked out at the gym!

What gives?!

So around 12:45, I took the second square, drank some water, and climbed back into bed. This second one would do the trick, it had to. I just needed that extra push.

I read the box, making sure that these squares were actually to help you sleep and not give you energy. It does mention that you should discontinue use if you have feelings of anxiety and insomnia (check and check), along with a heap load of other negative reactions.

And then, around 5:30 a.m., having been awake the entire night, I got out of bed and jumped around my room to try to release a bunch of the pent up energy, ate a banana, and noted that the sun was starting to come up. Wonderful.

I climbed back into bed (by now I had already had a few meltdowns…”everyone else is asleep, what is wrong with me?!”), read for a bit, and around 6 a.m., I was finally able to kick that anxious, super-awake feeling enough to catch some zzzs. And then I woke up at 9:30 and laid there until my alarm went off at 10.

I’m sure this is how I’ll look coming home after work tonight. Needless to say, I personally do not recommend these things.