Medical Questions > Mental Health > Sleep Disorders Forum

Student with terrible unknown insomnia.

This writing contains 1650 words, but please, hang tight.

So, I’ve been having this chronic sleeping disorder for a year now and I am starting to get really frustrated. It’s affecting every aspect of my life. I can’t plan a single day ahead because I have to rest, and feel that I am not able to make anything out of a day. I feel like I no longer can attend my classes or take part in a regular life.

I have been struggling with sleep ever since I was a child, and sort of been naturally anxious my whole life. I have always had some sort of difficulty not getting deep sleep, generally walking around being able to sleep at any time during the day. I slept for max 2-3 hours straight but suddenly on my calm, sunny vacation in Greece everything got even worse.

I am struggling with tensions. I have been to several doctors who claim I have to live with this because of their lack of knowledge, acupuncture, some sort of tension trigger method (can’t remember the name), magnesium, melatonin, somatomax and many other non-prescription drugs/vitamins/herbs. I have searched the web for hours and hours without finding a single person with similar symptoms as myself. I am certain it has something to do with my body physically and suspect it must be something blocking the flow of nerve/blood circulation in my upper back/neck. After one year with these worries I have started to map my symptoms. I shall explain this in greater depth.

To better describe my issues:

I am not able to fall asleep normally; if I’m lucky I fall into a light dreaming/thinking state where I am able to get a little rest. When this happens I am also slightly conscious so the lowest sound can “wake” me. I always remember the dreams quite vividly. I must point out that this in no way a normal or deep sleep. There is something keeping me from feeling drowsy. I can sort of feel tired in my head and body, but extremely rarely sleepy.

If I lay still long enough or in a comfy position I can feel certain muscles/tendons move, contract or wiggle. There is this certain part in my upper, left forearm where I can feel the tendons wiggle as some of my tensions decline/increase.

Before/during my issues I worked out regularly with varied exercises each week. From swimming, biking to strength training. ”Everyone” suggests that exercising is one of the best ways to treat insomnia. Well, not in this case. Hypothetically, I can run a marathon during the day and at bedtime I would be tired in my body, but not drowsy. I started working out when I was 16/17 and already at this stage I noticed that sleeping sometimes became more difficult after strength workouts, but didn’t give it much attention. Today I know that I am not able to restitute enough to keep this lifestyle going. Now I only feel that working out brings even more tensions to my back, cycling may be the gentlest method. Also, when these workouts take place during the day is irrelevant to me.

Often I feel pain/discomfort coming from the mid part of my upper back, my chiropractor which I’ve been visiting several times found two vertebras standing more in their opposite direction. However the treatment didn’t make things better, she mainly focused on my neck. Also treated my hip once and my upper back twice. She pointed out that my neck had a to stiff shape and that I constantly leaned slightly to the right to avoid the tensions from the left side of my body.
Because of this discomfort in my upper back, I constantly feel like I need to stretch or move it around to loosen the tensions up, which I never succeed in.

No breathing/relaxation technique makes a difference, although sometimes stretching the muscles running down my back can help slightly. Self massage does not help very much, have also tried foam roller/massage rubber balls.

As mentioned earlier, I have tried acupuncture, which turned out to just be a temporary relief. A spot between my eyebrows in combination with a spot on top of my head seemed to return me to my normal sleep for a week or so. After each treatment it usually took two days for my sleep to get ”good” again.

When I roll my shoulders, sometimes my left shoulder sort of clench/dislocate while it makes noises.
The tensions are inside my head as well, I can feel muscles contract/relax and tensions move to another location or come back. When I try to relax as hard as I can, I can’t simply get sleepy. I actually have problems recalling how it feels to be sleepy. One day last summer I slept the whole night through, which I very rarely experience. I can remember this particular day in better detail.
I have had migraines maybe 3-4 times before. I might have them right now, I am just so used to feeling discomfort in my head. Especially in the lower part at the back of my head/upper part of my neck.

Sometimes my neck is so tense I can’t put my shoulders all the way down and you can actually see the tendons in my neck better.

My neck pain reach up to the back of my head. I often feel some kind of pressure/discomfort. If I turn my neck it makes sounds.
I am totally unable to finish a yawn and I no longer feel the need to yawn. Jaw is tense and when I open my mouth as wide as I can, my jaw sort of dislocates as I am closing my mouth. On occasions I can even feel the tensions running through my teeth. At other times i can hear a ”click” noise when I open my mouth as well, and i have a feeling this sound comes from my neck.

What I am struggling most with when I am trying to relax, is I think to relax my eyes and head. My eyes become so “tense” that I need to focus on them to relax. I don’t know what causes this and I have to massage my forehead to relieve it.
I’ve had some issues with my hips/back before. Apparently my right foot is 0,5 cm shorter than my left, and I have been noticing this better over the past months. My lower back doesn’t feel right and I often seem to over stimulate certain muscles in both my hips and my back. If I lay down on my back bending my right side/foot 90 degrees to stretch over the left side of my body/hip, this distinct “bone breaking” noise can be heard loudly.

I have muscle knots everywhere running down my back, they are literally everywhere.
If I grab on to the two main muscles running up the neck and twist/massage them around a bit I feel some tension loosen up, bit this is only for a short while. I actually have some sort of muscle knot developing under my eyebrows, and by massaging them it sometimes get better. Massaging a tendon under my arm/shoulder also helps. Occasionally some of my body parts go numb, and start to get numb on left side of body. Can this have something to do with my nervous system? Anyway, loosening up one tension doesn’t mean I get drowsy and got to sleep, its just to relieve the current discomfort.

I have acne and eczema and it sort of gets worse when my sleep is bad. I have been treated for both for several years without success. My body seems to control the behavior of these two randomly.

Sometimes I feel discomfort/light pain on the left side of my lower abdomen. I can’t say if this has anything to do with my sleeping disorder.

Social performance/anxiety can vary greatly. It seems like during days I can’t sleep, I tend to ”just do things” without much thought. Sometimes I can perform better socially during these days. Although it’s hard to review my social skills from day to day, I feel I somehow happen to be more comfortable with myself and my surroundings during these days, though my physical state signal ”I’m tired”.
When I rarely sleep, I seem to have less, yes, less energy during certain days. When I can’t sleep I’m not drowsy during the day. Although, when i can sleep i feel comfortably in a different way, it’s really hard to explain. Therefore my state of mind/body varies greatly from day to day.

Since my mom has been depressed earlier, we thought depression could be my case as well. I tried something called Remeron two days in a row but it just numbed my body and didn’t make sleep better at all. I also hated the effects the following day(s). I don’t believe my difficulty sleeping come from depression. I can go to bed without a worry and still not sleep.
A prescription drug which have given me some relief is Zolpidem(Ambien), but I notice that I am not thinking quite as clear the morning after, so that’s no long term solution.

My question to you is, how can this control why I can’t sleep? I am almost certain it has something to do with my body physically; may something ergonomic be the cause? I don’t feel stress consumes my life. I suspect that it may all be coming from my upper back. When I stretch it I can feel some discomfort and it makes noises. Although i can’t exclude that something else are causing my problem. Maybe it has something to do with my nerves? I am desperate for input on how to treat this, but to be realistic, no possible common ”avoid computers before bed”-sleep advice is going to do it for me. Though, any input is appreciated. Thank you.

Man, 21 years old,.
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replied September 7th, 2014
Active User, very eHealthy
Hi, well the good news is you are in fact getting some sleep. And you are dreaming. If you are dreaming you can be assured you should be reaping the benefits of the more important SWS (slow wave sleep) that normally precedes REM or dream sleep. You should also be assured that we as human beings can't NOT sleep, so one way or another you're going to get what you need. The key is to manage the process best you can.

I think your best bet is to try and get a specific diagnosis for what you describe, and treat that. If you have a legitimate medical or psychiatric disorder underlying your insomnia, your sleep stands to improve when you treat those underlying disorders. Your description does sound like you may be in a hyperaroused state (if you don't feel drowsy after an active day), possibly due to a stress or anxiety disorder.

However ... don't be surprised if you have what's known as primary insomnia, or at least some overlap with that. Primary insomnia is usually caused by some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep that may not be legitimate medical or psychiatric issues. And so can't be helped directly by drug therapy.

CBT is the usual standard of care for primary insomnia. Try google searching something like CBT sleep training methods and you'll likely find many resources. CBT will enable you to address the nonmedical root causes for insomnia. Some combination of medical care and CBT may be what's needed, but you should probably decide that in conjunction with a healthcare professional who examines you and knows your medical history.
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replied September 21st, 2014
Thanks for your reply.

I might not have been clear enough about my dreaming. Dreaming doesn't necessarily mean deep REM sleep, at least not in my case. These dreams are more like thoughts floating away. I know the good feeling i get after waking up from a full blown dream, this feeling is nothing like it.

I am perfectly calm when going to bed, there is nothing psychological keeping me awake.
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replied October 23rd, 2014
Active User, very eHealthy
I want to get back, but for now: King David said this: Psalms 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
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