One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Posts tagged ‘sleep’

Lupus and the recurring visit of the sloth

sleepy sloth.htm

Return of the sloth

Waking up in the quiet of a Sunday morning with a deep relaxed sigh, stretching fingers brush the euro pillows that serve as a headboard. Suddenly realizing that there was no husband in the house, a foggy lupus mind rushes back a faint realization he was here, and dressed for church.  He had stood there at the foot of the bed, wearing a bold blue and yellow Jerry Garcia tie saying, “honey, I’m leaving.”  As he headed out to play piano for the early morning choir practice, Sunday morning sloth mode had overcome the sleeper, who didn’t wake up again until this very moment.  What time is it, anyway?

Oops!  A soprano spot in the choir was now standing empty, and a husband sat through the church service temporarily stood up by a “sloth” who still slept at home in bed.  With another resigned sigh was realization that the morning had been spent sleeping through church, succumbing to the overwhelming fatigue tugging on my body.  Grateful for the stolen extra sleep, the fatigue was lighter than earlier when I almost woke up, but there still was a measure of frustration over failure to be responsible and “in my place” on a Sunday morning.

Sleep/Rest Goals

The Question – sleep or laziness?

To an outsider looking in, it is no wonder the conclusion about this type of slothful behavior is a blatant proclamation of “laziness”, but the enlightened few who really understand autoimmune disease know it is something different.  Sloth mode overtakes most autoimmune patients with regularity, but after a Benlysta infusion, the effect for me is much greater than normal.  There are always a few days of overwhelming, consuming fatigue, sleepiness, and utter exhaustion that set in during weekends that follow monthly Benlysta infusions for my lupus.

Thankful that there are no other noticeable side effects from the Benlysta I receive every fourth Friday, I can live with the weariness that overtakes me afterward.  Many years before Benlysta was available for lupus, the only treatment that controlled by lupus was a combination of the cancer chemotherapy drug Methotrexate, a transplant drug Azathioprine, Plaquenil, prednisone, and a prescription NSAID.  Methotrexate caused nausea and extreme malaise for at least twelve to twenty four hours after each weekly dose, so a “little” slothful tiredness is a tolerable outcome, if not blessing, in comparison.

Return of humanness

Showering and letting the slothful sleep slide down the drain, the rest of the day was recovered and went on like normal.  Sunday dinner, out and about to play piano at a retirement center worship service, and then on to afternoon choir practice.  This evening, I joined my husband at church and filled this morning’s vacant spot with the other singers.  The sloth was left behind, at least until tomorrow, and the butterfly returned.  Although sometimes it reappears transforming me for another day into a Monday morning sloth, on Tuesday, it is certain full humanness (and butterfly-ness) should return and remain for the next four weeks.

 

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Managing Lupus While Managing Grief

Stress of loss

Stress of loss

The stress of loss

Losing a loved one is hard on everyone, and it seems we can never be ready for it.  Over fifteen years ago mom passed away unexpectedly, and now my dad has gone after a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s.  Although I thought I was adjusting to the idea, and in a way I was already grieving the loss of my father as I knew him before Alzheimer’s, it feels different than I thought it would.

It is just difficult any way you look at it.  When people you love are gone, it leaves a vacuum where a warm loving soul once was in your daily life, and it hurts.  With a deep ache beating in your chest, your heart sobs in silence.  Pain is stressful, whether the cause is physical or emotional, and that stress has predictable influences on health.  Stress can weaken us physically, weaken our immune system, or aggravate an auto-immune disease, such as lupus.  Sustained stresses like grief, stretch out their load on the normal endocrine balance, that is already somewhat out of whack when a person has auto-immune disease.

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

The part of our body chemistry that produces a surge of helpful chemicals to sustain us during a fight-or-flight situation or crisis, becomes very strained during periods of prolonged, sustained stress.  This crisis mode response can only continue for limited time, while glands pump out “emergency” help.  After a while, a body’s chemical response to continued stress becomes weaker and weaker, and the person experiencing sustained stress has a seriously reduced ability to cope in the face of continued pressure.  For someone with lupus, ongoing presence of stressful situations become the perfect environment for lupus to flare.  So, it becomes especially important to communicate well with our doctors about the major life events we are experiencing and about how these stressors are impacting physical health.

The storms of life

The storms of life

The storms of life

Over the years, many helpful articles about employees going through life’s most stressful events have passed over my desk in human resource magazines and legal management journals.  Usually they merit at least a few minutes of my attention, since employees routinely drop by my office, sit down with a sigh opposite me, and start to talk about the major events taking place in their personal lives.  Sometimes, employees have multiple stressful events raining down on them at one time, and some face virtual storms of stress, and even rarely an occasional emotional or spiritual hurricane!

My heart goes out to these burdened co-workers, and I privately pray earnestly for them, because I know personally how hard it can be to cope when flood waters of stress wreak havoc and bring unexpected mayhem.  It is no wonder these overwhelming events are commonly called “the storms of life.”

Stress affects people physically

The different responses people show to these events get my attention, and often I’m motivated to start a conversation about what they are experiencing.  Ever since reading an article years ago about how stress affects people physically, I have been especially focused on how it impacts employees, friends and others in my personal life when they go through unusually stressful circumstances.  What I see most often is employees who struggle with either the severe illness or death of a family member, face surgery, are moving, their spouse has lost their job or they are having turmoil or difficulty between members of their household.

I too, have had my share of these stressful situations, and some of these have triggered past lupus flares and at times some lasting escalation of lupus severity.

Measuring the stress of life’s events

Measuring Stress

Measuring Stress

A couple of research psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, studied over 5,000 people to understand better how stress affects health.  They developed a time-honored list of the most common stressful life events that people routinely face, assigning a “stress score” to each type of stressful event.  The total score falls into one of three basic ranges of impact.  People with lupus or any other auto-immune disease may easily find that their stress score indicates a moderate or high likelihood of illness.  The items on the list may seem obvious, but reviewing it was thought-provoking for me.

Striking up a conversation about the effects of stress on people who are going through rough times usually starts by mentioning that they are experiencing one or more of the major stressful life events on “the list:”

Life Event Stress Score
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Death of a close family member 63
Imprisonment 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Business readjustment 39
Gain a new family member 39
Sexual difficulties 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Beginning or end school 26
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in church activities 19
Change in recreation 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in eating habits 15
Change in number of family reunions 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11
TOTAL EVENT RELATED STRESS SCORE:

Add up the numbers of stressful events that apply to you in the past two years to get your own score: _____

th3SLP7QUMHow might the level of your life stress be likely to effect your health?  If you are a lupus patient with active disease (53), high medical costs (38) and have lupus affecting your ability to keep up with recreation (19), your social life (18), and pain keeping you from sleeping well (15), you could easily have a score over 140.  Add just one more event on the list, like moving (2) or getting pulled over for a traffic ticket (11) and you have a moderate risk of illness.

Score of 300+: At risk of illness.
Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).
Score <150: Only have a slight risk of illness.

Read More about the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale @ Wikipedia.

The speech about stress

Down-to-earth advice

As the manager of a government legal department, when an employee goes through these rough times, one of my roles is to approve sick leave, bereavement leave or vacation, or to encourage them to otherwise take care of themselves.  After pointing out that they are going through one of life’s most stressful experiences, the advice is usually down-to-earth and pretty simple: 1) breathe, 2) drink, 3) sleep, 4) rest and relax.

Why?  Breath deeply, because so often people seem to psychologically hold their breath during intense stress, and deep cleansing breaths help reduce the effects of stress.  Drink plenty of water because it helps the brain function, supports the immune system and flushing out toxins from the body (usually I am the one who goes around offering glasses of water to everyone.)  Get enough sleep and rest, because stress is exhausting and emotionally fatiguing, and lack of sleep just increases stress even more.  If proper to my relationship with the person, I also suggest prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing in the times when sleep just doesn’t come, because finding spiritual rest through these alternative activities can help in the absence of sleep.  Rest and relax, because they need to be reminded to give themselves some slack and to realize that what they are going through is a normal human response to stress, and to be expected.

thRTKMIR17Every new employee we hire gets a similar version of this speech as part of their orientation, along with explaining that almost every employee we have hired in the past 25 years (except one exceptional person who either listened especially well to my advice or was just an rare physical specimen) became sick within their first month on the job.  Every employee gets the speech again as a friendly reminder, every time they go through something on the top half of the list, or any combination of things from anywhere on the list.

This type of stress seriously affected my health many years ago.  Just one week after my mother died, my father and I both visited his doctor to treat our severe bronchitis.  Grief and bronchitis do not go well together!  During the year that followed, I was naturally still grieving deeply, and that normal process had its impacts on my body and my lupus.  Within a few weeks after losing my mother, I was hospitalized with a ruptured abdominal artery, infected appendix and ruptured ovary (a very close call!) and within six more months my spine destabilized around an old trauma (and required neck braces and neuro rehab) while my lupus escalated to organ (CNS) involvement.  Within just one year of mom’s death I had graduated from treatment with only plaquenil to requiring adding weekly methotrexate, daily high dose prednisone and Imuran (azathioprine).  For ten more years, my medications never could be rolled back to the earlier levels, and eventually even those would no longer control my lupus.

Four resolves in grief

So, it is time to follow my advice.  My hope is that as I now grieve my father’s death in the coming weeks and months, the advice repeatedly shared with others will ring in my own ears and hopefully may help me remember to grieve healthfully.  These are my four resolves…

breathe

Breathe, hydrate, sleep, rest and relax!

First, I will breathe!  Taking long draughts of air, in and out, deep and full, inhaling, cleansing, body-calming breaths.  I will take my asthma sprays on schedule, and listen for my body telling me when it is having trouble, and I will make a point to intentionally breathe.

Then, I will hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Easy to say and harder to do.  But now, there is no fluid better for me than the cleansing goodness of pure, refreshing water.  I will carry it with me in the Arizona heat as I drive around, at home or work pour another glass often, and even set a timer if necessary to remember to drink water.  Eight ounces every hour, would not be too much water!

Next, sleep is the hardest resolve to carry out right now, but I will keep working at getting the sleep I need.  Since lupus robs me of so much sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night with pain, this takes some extra effort.  Yet, I am promising myself to make the most of my opportunities to sleep.  This means I need to replace my broken c-pap machine as soon as possible, since I fall asleep faster, rest better and wake up less often at night when I am using it.  Using my c-pap for my sleep apnea helps reduce fatigue, and that’s a good idea, especially now.

Last, I know that prayer, Bible reading, singing hymns and playing them at the piano are forms of worship that can become a bridge to real rest.  When I simply cannot sleep, I will turn to these until I get exhausted enough to fall back asleep, and in the process find a different kind of peace and rest.

When emotional or physical pain robs me of sleep, there is no place like the shelter of the Most High to calm and comfort my weary soul!  In the shadow of His wings, I sing for joy!  Even in my grief, even in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.  These were some of the last words I read to my father from the Bible a few hours before he left us.

Now, they speak peace and health to my heart as I grieve and remember.

Lupus and seeking the simple blessing of good sleep

Sleep/Rest Goals

Seeking Sweet Sleep

Sleep should never be taken for granted, or pushed aside as a necessary interruption.  It’s merits are poorly underappreciated and pursuit of it can be elusive and frustrating.  Yet, when it arrives uncomplicated and complete, in enough depth to last the entire night, cherish it, be grateful for it, and thank God every time it blesses you with a night full of true rest.  Such was last night!

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Morning Arrived Sweeter

This morning arrived sweeter, fresher and with little morning fog than any recent morning in the past few weeks.  Night after night sleep was interrupted barely before it began, with pain and neuropathy burning in my legs, and even in my fingers, complicated with the remnants of pain from falling on my hip last year.  Nights in succession were spent moving back and forth between bed, kitchen, office and living room, trying in vain to find a comfortable spot, and hoping desperately for the relief of sleep.

biblical perspectives

Meeting a Deeper Need

Yet, as each evening wore on into the small hours of the still black morning, eventually sleep would come in sheer exhaustion and weariness.  There is no book compelling enough to trade for the precious rest I sought, except perhaps the precious pages of scripture.  They, in their own powerful way offer a type of rest that sleep cannot touch, a type needed even more than sleep, meeting a deeper, soulful, ancient need.  They provide truth, words of life and pure rest to my spirit, and stay dear in the dark of a long sleepless night.

But, my frail, fragile, imperfect body still needs the rest of simple physical sleep.  For this sleep I have prayed, and for days the answer did not did not come until now.  Waiting, hoping, that the siege of insomnia brought on by sleep interrupting lupus pain would break, I prayed on.  Finally, the answer to this prayer came in the form of long hours of deep, mindless, dream-filled sleep.  A precious ten hours, one stacked upon the next until the tower of time reached the morning.  At last, sleep!

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Extra Hours of Sleep

Awakened in a start by my husband’s urgency, I selfishly did not mind that he had unintentionally slept through his alarm.  That meant the assurance of a couple of extra hours of sleep recovery for me!  Today marks the end of five days of intense morning brain fog, and the welcome blessing of waking to a rested morning.  Although long hours of sleep come with increased lupus joint swelling and stiffness, mental processes are quickly clearing of fog and the day promises to be a good one.

Today, my prayer shifts to grateful thanksgiving for the not-so-simple blessing of good sleep.

Psalm 63 6-8 Yellow & Purple Pix

 

 

Lupus and the irony of sleeplessness

Exhaustion and sleeplessness

Exhaustion and sleeplessness – two contradictory problems that stem from lupus when it flares.  The irony is that lupus brings on neuropathy pain and deep bone and tendon aches to my body in the midst of those nights when I am already exhausted and desperately need sleep the most.  Sometimes, on nights like last night, I take pain medication in the hopes of quieting the pain enough to sleep, and knowing the medication should also help knock me out.  Last night, I was resting physically, laying still in my bed, but the mental rest of sleep eluded me entirely.

jealous of those who slept

Morning neared as I heard the grandfather clock strike five o’clock.  I quietly listened to the song birds begin to stir in the predawn darkness, rustling in the lemon tree outside our bedroom window.  I was motionless and sleepless next to my sometimes snoring, slumbering husband.  To be honest, I felt intensely jealous of his ability to fall deep into restful sleep, while I stared at the dark ceiling awaiting the first rays of light.  Soon, there was chirping and some short bursts of morning bird song and cheerful chatter.  Even the birds made me envious!  I knew that they, like my husband, had slept all night and were just now waking a few moments ahead of first light.  Their tiny avian body clocks were in good working order, but alas, mine was not!

slipped my toes into waiting slippers

As smoky first light began to slowly illuminate the room, my body began to respond to acknowledge it was morning.  I sat up, pushed back the covers and slipped my toes into the waiting purple slippers on the hardwood floor.  Scuffling out to the kitchen, I accepted my weary plight.  Morning had now broken and I was completely and utterly exhausted.  Slightly brain-dead and concerned about the tendency of my CNS lupus to flare in the wake of sleep deprivation.

No time left for sleeping

There was no time left for sleeping and slumber, since my day was going to march forward whether I was rested for it.  Soon, we would be breakfasting with our son, daughter-in-law and their four little ones.  Today, I am determined to stifle and rise above my exhaustion, counting on the adrenaline of joy to fill my precious moments with our visiting grandchildren.

the joy of the Lord is my strength

Thanksgiving week is set out before us, and we are blessed with our out-of-town loved ones visiting.  Today, although I would love to be fully rested to enjoy them with full energy and bounce, I will make do with what energy reserves are left over from yesterday mixed with a bit of “faking it.”  The irony of wanting and needing sleep, and not getting a drop is not going to erode the blessings of the day and week ahead.

My thought for the day comes from one of my favorite Bible verses, Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” and today God will have to be the sole source of my sustenance and power.  Sleep may have been lost to me, but this day it shall not take my joy with it!

Lupus neuropathy on the way to breakfast

Breakfast Feast

We had a wonderful time this morning hosting breakfast for the family clan, and celebrated three birthdays over a brunch feast.  Getting ready for company last night after working all week was a bit of a challenge.  Against better judgment, I ended up staying up after midnight putting the finishing touches on my house.  I really like to make sure guests in my home feel comfortable, and for me that means making sure things are orderly and clean.

Where’s the balance?  I’m really not sure, but I keep trying to find it.  I must admit, last night was not balance!  At midnight I got the fruit tray ready, washing the grapes, strawberries and pineapple chunks,  and set the rinsed bananas out for the morning, leaving just enough room on my fruit platter to pile up some halved bananas.  By the time I was sure everything was “done, it was a couple of hours after midnight. ”

Blame the dog?

After I finally found myself in bed in the dark, I realized I had stayed up late enough that peripheral neuropathy leg pain rapidly kicked into full gear.  Although I tried to fall asleep, it just wasn’t happening!

After laying awake the dark, I became annoyed as our little dog at the end of the bed kept sitting on my painful legs, shifting around and making continual noises.  Most nights we let him lay quietly on his blanket on the end of the bed. while we watch some TV and occasionally nibble on popcorn.  He usually attempts to be a good little dog, but is often beside himself with exuberance until we break down and toss him a piece of popcorn.  If he is quiet and we fall asleep, once in a while he gets the prize of sleeping on our bed all night.

However, after his prolonged and irritating antics during my slumber-less night, it wasn’t long before I ushered him swiftly to his kennel and crawled back in bed to try again.  Maybe I could blame the problem on the dog!

Soothing sound of waves

I picked up my Nook Tablet from the bedside table and found its “white noise” application. After sampling several noises of birds, wind and waves, I settled on surf rhythmically crashing into some unknown shore.  It was soothing, and if not for the neuropathy pain, I would have probably slipped away into pleasant slumber, dreaming of  driftwood on the make-believe surf.  In the long darkness, the white noise timer shut down an hour later, but still  I was sleepless and enduring painful surges of persistent neuropathy pain.

Calming sound of rain

Wary that taking strong medication for my pain would make waking up in time for 8:00 a.m. company difficult, I finally got out of bed a second time looking for an alternate solution.  A microwaved quick latte made with decaf tea, warm milk and honey actually helped increase my wish to sleep, but the neuropathy still was relentless.  As a last resort, I went out to my leather chair and reclined with my Nook in my lap playing white noise sounds, this time of a calming rain shower.  I finished my soothing latte and decided to sit out the night in my chair, since it was the most comfortable and close to sleep I had been in two hours.

Rested enough to enjoy breakfast

At last, sleep overtook me and brought three hours of precious sleep.  My husband found me asleep in the living room at 5:30 a.m. and woke me gently.  He encouraged me to finish  slumbering back in the comfort of bed.  Now I was finally sleepy enough to catch a few more serious winks on my pillow.  Morning came much too early for my tired lupus-challenged brain, but at least, I had enough sleep to thoroughly enjoy our early morning family gathering.

As for tonight, no midnight housework or cooking.  Instead, for me it is “early to bed” after such an “early to rise” morning!

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