It may surprise some people to learn that many of our employees have had their own, personal journeys with mental health. So when one of our program consultants heard that March was Sleep Awareness Month, she wanted to share her story.
Katy Sandison has worked at our corporate office for about a year and a half. She does a lot of behind-the-scenes work ranging from phone consultations, scheduling, and helping with insurance and billing. She’s also struggled with sleep issues since she was a kid and has learned a lot during her search for answers.
When did your sleep issues begin? And in what ways did they first start displaying?
As a child I was never a good sleeper, but my symptoms became more severe when I was in middle school. I had a difficult time winding down to go to bed, and it would take several hours for me to fall asleep. I would also wake up multiple times during the night, and my sleep quality was very poor.
How did these issues impact your daily life?
Because I was up so late I was missing school, and in my adult life I was constantly oversleeping and running late. I often felt embarrassed and ashamed because I attributed my oversleeping to laziness. I saw other adults who were able to get up on time, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t be like them.
When did you decide it was time to seek help? Was there a particular moment when things got to be too much to handle?
My parents were concerned about me missing so much school, so I first sought help in middle school when my mom took me to see my pediatrician. She recommended an over-the-counter sleep aid, which helped me fall asleep, but I would wake up feeling groggy. As I got older, my symptoms became more severe and the over-the-counter medicine was no longer effective. There were times during college when added stress exacerbated my sleep problem, and I would be awake for multiple days in a row. At that point, I knew I needed to take additional steps to get my sleep back on track because other aspects of my health were in jeopardy.
How did you go about treatment? What did you try? What worked and what didn’t?
Over the course of 15 years, I have tried multiple prescription medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for sleep, and had a sleep study done. While I was doing CBT, I was also tracking my sleep patterns and working with a physician who would analyze what was going on.
What I learned from that experience is that while I do suffer from insomnia, I also have a delayed sleep phase. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome occurs when the body naturally falls asleep and wakes up later than what is typical. It’s more common in adolescents and teenagers, but mine has persisted into adulthood. Understanding what was causing my sleep issues was a huge relief, and I continued to work with my doctor to find solutions.
A few years later when I started working at Neurocore, I completed our neurofeedback program so that I would be familiar with the experience each of our clients goes through. What surprised me were the improvements that I saw in my sleep quality. Although neurofeedback could not fix my delayed sleep phase, it did decrease associated stress and anxiety that tended to make my symptoms worse. I was able to decrease my sleep medication too!
Do you still struggle with these issues today? Have you found a treatment plan that helps you?
I definitely still struggle with these issues, but I have found treatment that helps me manage. I am very mindful of my sleep routine and keeping good sleep hygiene. I repeat the same actions each night while getting ready for bed so that my body realizes that it’s time to wind down. I try my best to keep my bedtime and wake-up times consistent. I also take medication, and see my doctor at the sleep clinic regularly.
How has your quality of life improved since starting this treatment plan?
My quality of life has improved immensely since getting my sleep problem under control. The frequency of my oversleeping has significantly decreased, and I have much more energy during the day. I no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed because of my sleep problems!
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for someone struggling with a similar issue?
I know how frustrating sleep issues can be, especially because they can negatively impact other areas of life. Oftentimes sleep quality is not a priority, so my advice would be to make it one! Do some research, find out what treatment options are available, and talk to your doctor to find a good fit.
While there may be information on the Neurocore website relating to certain conditions, should a medical condition exist, promptly see your own physician or health provider. Neurocore does not offer medical diagnosis or treatment advice. Neurocore makes no claims that it can cure any conditions, including any conditions referenced on its website or in print materials, including ADHD, anxiety, autism, depression, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, headaches, stress, sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you take prescription medications for any of these conditions, you should consult with your physician before discontinuing use of such medications.