Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Never really asleep...never really awake

The first symptom of Asperger Syndrome (AS) that I ever remember having is insomnia. When it was my "bed time" I hated it cos I would never get off to sleep, instead it was like being consigned to jail. I'd be in my bedroom and having to amuse myself but not being able to do anything as my parents would hear and come to my room to remonstrate.

My insomnia really came to the fore when I was involved in a sleep-over with friends. Every single time the friend would just drop right off to sleep but I would remain awake for hours. When you are in someone else's house, what do you do? Nothing. All you can do is just lie awake for hours on end, swimming in unrelenting boredom.

As I got a bit older and stayed over with girls (yes…you can have AS and a girlfriend) at their homes I had all of the same issues. I remember with one girlfriend (I was still an early teen) I had to sleep in her brother's room and I would just be awake for hours and hours. It is bad enough in a normal room, but when your roommate snores (be they male or female) then sleeping becomes almost impossible.

When I'm in bed one of the reasons I can't ever sleep is because my mind just races and races with all these thoughts. Thoughts of what happened that day, thoughts of what I want to do tomorrow, and (the worst) memories of horrors from the past. As a child and young adult I guess I just dealt with it. Not well, but I dealt with it. As an adult I've started to use alcohol as a way of controlling my insomnia. Alcohol is freely available and it is the only thing that I've found works. A few drinks and I'm dropping off the second my head hits the pillow. There are downsides, of course, in a way it is being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can either not sleep much (I usually get to bed around 3 or 4am and absolute exhaustion usually gets me to sleep) or I can have a few drinks and get 6 or 7 hours sleep. The problem with the former is that I am exhausted the next day, the problem with the latter is that I feel like shit the next day. Take your pick.

I've tried the traditional thing of going to the doctor and been given sleeping tablets but they didn't work. I took the recommended dose but nothing. Next night I took double the dose and nothing. Next night I took double the dose washed down with a lot of alcohol and the next day I was incredibly anxious and jittery, and very depressed. So I went back to the doctor and handed the remaining pills over. And that was the end of that experiment.

The other side affect of (ab)using alcohol to control your sleep is that you start to tick some worrying boxes. Do you drink every night? Yes. Do you drink alone? Yes. Do you drink to cope? Yes. I'd always been seeking an answer to my insomnia but now I know I have AS it has brought a small bit of relief. I still don't have a solution, but I can now come to terms with the fact that I will never have a solution. I can now focus my attention on just coping. I now stay up till 3am most nights (unless I'm drinking), sometimes later. In the morning I just deal with it. To be honest I think I cope with being tired after not drinking much better than I cope with feeling like shit after drinking. But again it is another compromise…I can have a better night and worse morning, or a worse night but better morning. I have no option that satisfies me both evening and morning, I have to enjoy one and suffer the other.


Anonymous said...

I just came across this on Google...I think I have AS

Anonymous said...

For me alcohol didn't do the trick but sleeping pills did. I ended up being addicted to them, which caused my to lose my house, job and relationship. I searched professional help and am finally off the pills now. I was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder which could explain and the racing thoughts when I go to bed at night. Trying to find some order in the chaos of the day that passed or is to come. Quite a pointless exercise really, unless you write it down perhaps.
Anyway, good luck and stay off any addictive substances like pills and alcohol, that will just make things worse in the long run.
Take care and all the best!

vampires stories online said...

i've got asperger symdrome myslef and have a horrible time falling asleep, along with a very annoying ocd that stops me from sleeping...
if you train yourself, during the day, to relax your muscles and mind more and more with every breath you take, you'll get good practic and then can do that at night. hypnotherapy can work, too.

TheVisionGhost said...

I myself suffer insomnia, I find Piriton does work in so far as relaxing me and taking off the initial anxiety of trying to get to the land of nod; but like you describe here it's a helluva struggle, especially when the people who live above me are up all hours as well.