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My Mental Health With an Erratic Sleep Cycle and RLS

Last updated: April 2023

I have struggled with depression for most of my life. It isn’t any surprise to me that it is comorbid with my chronic migraine disease and fibromyalgia; pain isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Actually, last I checked, we sort of ran out of sunshine and rainbows. And, obviously, pervasive insomnia and sleep deprivation really don’t help with mood maintenance at all.

Pain and mental health need to be treated together

Like with anything, I know one thing about my major depressive disorder; you can’t treat it without treating the pain at the same time. They are too intertwined. It is both or neither. And that goes for restless legs syndrome (RLS) as well. For one thing, it is painful for me. For another, sleep is essential for pain management and also to help with mental health.

However, I was put on an extremely effective depression medication while in pain management, and I did therapy for some time. My depression settled down quite a bit — maybe a little finicky in these long, dark Canadian winters, but otherwise I have been doing fairly well.

Trying different medications to treat my RLS and insomnia

I have been on a bit of a journey with my RLS treatment. I was on a pain medication that really suppressed the RLS symptoms, and when I went off of that, well, WOW — insane symptoms and the pain level was intense. No one can sleep with that insanity. So I have been on various medications and trying various things, with some success.

For my entire life I had some severe delayed onset insomnia, and it just got worse with chronic pain. But then 4 or so years ago I got chronic vertigo and then, suddenly, now my brain shuts down at night like someone turned off a switch.

But I don’t stay asleep, and I also get up extremely early because I can’t get back to sleep. It is reverse insomnia — the same inability to stay asleep and still very little time actually sleeping. RLS doesn’t like that.

I have reached a tipping point with my erratic sleep cycle

Then I got COVID, and I developed more sleep problems I am being set to get tested on. These new problems have caused more issues with erratic RLS symptoms, making them severe early in the day and then again at night.

I was coping fine with erratic sleep patterns and lack of sleep; but over time, your body just starts to show a level of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. I guess I have started reaching a tipping point of some sort because I have noticed some depressive mood issues. I am keenly aware of my mood and when it is on a decline.

Being aware of my mood and maintaining self-care

It isn’t that I have stopped my passions or hobbies. Or social life, such as that is. It is more like very spontaneous mood drops — hard and fast and deep. You can also get this with migraine attacks, but these are not from that. I have days of just constant low moods, too, like a mental funk I can’t shake.

I know all the things to do to boost and maintain my mood. However, given my chronic pain and risk factors, I have to be very careful about monitoring that and being aware that if it declines too much and I can’t self-manage it, I need to go back on my medication.

This lack of sleep thing, man, it just gets to you after a bit. And you can’t play catchup either. The brain doesn’t work that way. I am aware of my mental health and my self-care for my well-being, but I am also aware of when it gets to the point where I need extra help with that.

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