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Ask Brandon: Sleep Triggers, Night Terrors & Waking Up Tired

Ask Brandon

Welcome back to our Q&A session this week about all things sleep! I hope I’ve gotten to your questions this week. Keep striving to sleep better and, thank you for allowing me to be of assistance!

Q: At one point in my life my sleeping pattern annoyingly changed. From then on I have been waking up early in the morning, but just for a few seconds then I fall asleep again. The waking up happens about 4 to 5 times after the first wake, periodically about 30 minutes to 1 hour apart. It’s quite a nuisance since I feel that it does make me feel a bit tired through the day. What do you think is wrong with me?

A: It sounds like a form of narcolepsy, do you mind me asking: Was this a traumatic event that occurred and after that this occurred? (No need to explain the event, just traumatic or no, if you don’t mind.) Do you have any physical symptoms that go along with it, such as a knee jerk or a physical movement? — Without answering those questions, the base level issue sounds like not being able to sleep through the night. You could help to tip the scale in your favor by making sure your sleep environment is as dark as possible, making sure no electronics are present in the room (TV, cell phone, computer, etc), by cutting off caffeine and sugary foods at 2PM and possibly by meditating or praying for up to 30 minutes before bedtime. However, if a form of narcolepsy or other serious sleep disorder is present, these may not fix the problem.  If those tips don’t help, please don’t hesitate to see a licensed physician for more recommendations.

Q: It is very rare that I wake up from sleeping (eight to ten hours) and actually feel refreshed. I have for the longest time woken up and felt groggy and tired. I naturally assumed this was how everyone felt when they slept and awoken, but past girlfriends have told me this is severely abnormal. In fact, a recent girlfriend has informed me that I could very well have sleep apnea (she often observes me when I am sleeping). My question is, what can I do to improve my sleep cycle? I workout five days a week, I eat healthy, and I have a pretty low stress lifestyle. I’m not sure what other methods I could use to help alleviate my problem.

A: To be honest, I highly advise going to a certified sleep clinic and talking to a medical professional about why you are waking up more tired than when you went to sleep. It is quite possible that you have sleep apnea. Please keep in mind, sleep apnea is not a sleep disorder which is limited to certain groups of people.

Q: I really hope you see this because I don’t have the insurance needed to afford a sleep study. I am a bit of a fitful sleeper. I think I have a bit of apnea, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that sometimes (at least once a month, sometimes days in a row) I will wake up from a nightmare with the most unspeakably excruciating head and neck pain. I can’t even lift my head. My heart will be going a million miles an hour and the back of my neck is nearly immobile with pain that radiates all over my head. This absolutely always accompanies a horrible nightmare, though the nightmare itself may just be a result of the pain while being asleep. When this happens I usually wake up with my neck jammed backward down off the pillow into my back. I tried getting a neck supporting memory pillow, but I slide right off that one too. Also, this is more likely to occur when I sleep in baggy clothes or loose bunched up sheets. What the heck is my problem?

A: That sounds like a very serious problem, and I cannot give you a definitive effort, but it sounds a lot like night terrors. What happens is that a nightmare can be so vivid that the body comes out of sleep paralysis and physically contorts, which may explain the neck and head pain. The problems you are suffering sound less like sleep related issues, and more of a habit or psychological problem. Nightmares can be triggered by any number of things including, medicines, environment, foods, and habits, but typically nightmares are a psychological stemming issue. The best advice I could give would be to see a sleep specialist. Your circumstances sounds severe and in need of attention. Best of luck and I hope your problems are resolved soon!

I genuinely love what I do and I’m glad you to be able to answer your question or point you in the right direction. Sleep affects every area of our lives. If you aren’t feeling well or performing your best, ask yourself, “Did I get enough sleep last night?”

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