Hey there! I am still working on the “tips for partners of people with autism” bit (I know, it’s been a while… did you expect anything less? Sidenote: I found a great post about ADHD time and our cycles of productivity that are so mind-blowingly accurate I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me before. But I’ll post that on my other blog and link to it whenever the heck it’s done.)
But first: a review of sorts on the Oura Ring, which I finally bought after eyeing it up for months. I’ve had it for a couple weeks now, and the short answer is that I definitely like it for the way it keeps me motivated. But before I get into that: I’m not endorsing it, there’s no affiliate thing or any of that jazz. I’m talking about it because I only hear about it from “normal” or normal(ish) people, and looking at it from my scattered, fly-like compound-lens perspective kind of fascinates me. Maybe someone out there will find it useful.
So. With all this ADHD knowledge over the last couple of years and then the pandemic, I’ve finally started to take a look at my sleep habits (or lack of). I have never, ever, ever been a good sleeper. You know those people that announce they got “such good sleep last night” or wake up feeling refreshed? I’m not that person. In my 45+ years of living, I can recall feeling that way ONCE… and that was when I woke up from anesthesia after my breast reduction surgery. (Still one of the best things I’ve ever done.) Have you hear about my paradoxical reactions? I can generally drink coffee late at night, no problem. In the summer, when I get iced coffee and drink it really quickly, I usually get hit with a wave of tiredness shortly after—I could, theoretically, just take a nap. (But in reality, I couldn’t, because I hate naps and my brain goes on high alert and won’t let me, anyway.) Alcohol is a depressant, but my husband always knows if I’ve had so much as a sip of anything because maaaaaaaaaan, it’s like high octane fuel for me. I move faster, I talk faster, and I forget to monitor myself as I usually do in social situations. (I’ve been prone to apologizing the next day for “taking over and talking the entire time,” but fortunately these days, I’m surrounded by the right people and they usually think it’s funny.) I cannot take Tylenol PM or Benadryl or the like for sleeping, because they JACK ME UP. (I found out that antihistamines are an ingredient in most OTC and traditional prescription sleep aids, so I don’t touch those.)
After my reduction surgery, however—I wasn’t allowed to move around, had to avoid exercise and moving my arms around too much for a couple weeks, and they’d warned me immediately after surgery I’d be groggy and should just sleep the rest of the day. Well. I was not. Before surgery, I’d been feeling run down and thought I was coming down with something. After surgery, once my blood pressure stabilized, I was WIDE AWAKE and actually said, “is this how normal people feel when they say they feel ‘refreshed’ after a good night of sleep?” That was the best I can remember feeling in a long time—and mind you, that was after a major surgery that last a few hours. (I also didn’t take pain killers afterwards. I have a freakishly high pain tolerance, which I now understand better. But more on that later, too.)
So I’ve decided that I’d like to finally find something to help me get a solid night of sleep maybe just once a week or so. I’ve had a plethora of various sleep issues over the years—night terrors, trouble falling asleep, straight up insomnia, waking several times, etc.—but the issue that plagues me most these days is sleep inertia. Getting up in the morning is really, really, really, really hard. Annoyingly hard. I often lay there waiting to fully wake up, because physically, my body is completely leaden and hard to move. I’ve often suspected that I need less sleep, as I noticed that when I’d wake up at say, 5 or 6am, I’d be alert and able to move. But when I stay in bed longer (as in “ew, it’s 5 am I’m going back to bed” or “it’s chilly out, and I want stay cozy”), I’d be completely out of it later. In short, I wondered if I was getting “too much” sleep sometimes. Then, when this pandemic hit, I was going to bed later and later, and found that I felt BETTER for a while. (But I was also making myself get up early.) These days, I’m going to bed a little too late but then also not on a real wake up schedule.
WTF does this have to do with the Oura ring? I’m getting there!
A couple other things: my therapist, myself, and my psychiatric nurse practitioner (who prescribes my ADHD meds*) have suggested I really do need less sleep. My nurse practitioner also mentioned offhand that a gene was discovered that’s linked to needing less sleep. A “short sleep” gene. OH, REEEEEEEEEALLY? I got my ancestry thing done a long time ago (curiosity won out over my fears of privacy concerns), and I uploaded my data to a thing called Promethease, which analyzes and builds a report on your DNA data and genotypes. I saw a few things I already knew, such as that I have the Factor V Leiden gene mutation/thrombophilia—it’s a gene mutation that puts you at a higher risk for blood clots, which I inherited from my Dad. There are several people on that side of my family who have been hospitalized for or even died from clot-related things. Pulmonary embolisms, stroke, etc. I also already knew about the higher risk of heart disease on that side of the family (and several people also having heart attacks at a very young age, although my Dad seemed to have a really strong, healthy heart). I’m more active and more aware of my health, in general—also, ADHD plays a huge part in anxiety and health—so I’m probably ok. But I think about these things A LOT. I’ve noticed some odd things with my heart over the years, including a couple of straight up panic attacks. So between that and the sleep thing, I’ve started paying more attention.
AAAAAAANYWAY. Short sleep gene! I have access to my genetic data, so you know what I did, right? I took another look at it. I also looked at some scientific journals and found that yes, there was a “sort sleep gene” discovered a few years ago (DEC2). But there was a second gene discovered, ADRB1, and I have it. I HAVE THE “FNSS” GENE! (“familial natural short sleep”) Those who have it only need anywhere from 4.5-6.6 hours of sleep without any adverse health effects of sleep deprivation. There’s some other funny little characteristics related to it that are definitely me (like being optimistic, energetic during the day, and good multi-taskers). My eternal, brightly burning optimism is somewhat legendary. It’s a thing. (And here I thought it was just the ADHD.)
I also do have several genes linked to ADHD (so all you “ADHD isn’t real” naysayers can suck it) and the gene for Restless Leg Syndrome. Did I mention I have issues with RLS? I’ve always had occasional issues with it, but it didn’t occur to me that it’s RLS until a few months ago when I was sitting here working and being driven mad by my legs and hands. Then I also remembered… my Dad was always plagued by HORRIBLE sleep issues, and he was diagnosed with RLS. RLS is genetic.
If you’re having a hard time following along, I have: Restless Leg Syndrome, ADHD, thrombosis/Factor V Leiden, and the ADRB1 “familial natural short sleeper” gene. FOR THE WIN!
Jesus, get on with it, Nikki, right?
I’ve been spending a lot of time just sitting still and working these days. I’ve had weird symptoms that concern me, so I have an oximeter (measures blood O2 saturation), a blood pressure cuff, and even have a glucometer (measuring blood glucose). Everything seemed… normal? I wanted something that was going to help me figure all this out and make sure my heart health was ok. So I purchased the Oura Ring.
I’ve seen reviews where people complain about the activity monitoring—it has that data listed, but it only tracks your hand movement. So I’m not sure how accurate it is, but that’s really not what this ring is for. This ring, from what I read, is really for tracking sleep and resting health—by which I mean what is the resting state of your health? (And hey, do you rest enough?)
I had thought that my resting heart rate was too high and was concerned about my HRV (heart rate variability). Turns out my resting heart rate is… kind of phenomenal? I was only measuring it during the day and after I fully woke up, at which time I was already thinking 5 million thoughts about all the 5 million things I need to do during the day. I never really get to measure myself at rest. This ring does that. Seeing my sleep data has also been really helpful. I had been using edibles, more frequently than I’ll admit, to help me get to sleep, but over time, that hasn’t been working so well. I was able to see that edibles not only are detrimental to my resting heart rate and HRV (we’re talking resting heart rate of mid-70s overnight on edibles versus around 58-64 without). So by using this ring, I’ve quit using edibles for sleep altogether. My heart rate variability was concerning, at first. My HRV the first few nights was around that of someone ten years older—but one, the edibles didn’t help (cutting edibles out HAS helped) and two, it needed time to gather data to get the bigger picture. My HRV has been slowly increasing, but still not quite where I want to see it.
So with this data and information, I’ve basically been scared into being healthier. My obsessive and anxious nature (yes, I am optimistic AND anxious all at once—that basically means I’m anxious, so I’m always looking for solutions and answers and confident I can find them. I always do!) motivates me to do better. I have not skipped a single day of yoga since I got this ring (even if it’s just 10-20 minute “shots”), I’m slowly working on adjusting my sleep schedule, I don’t skip days of walking (even if that means I can *only* do a 2-mile walk instead of my usual 5-miles)… and though I only drink water and usually drink a lot of water, when I’m hyperfocused on working or whatever project, I sometimes forget and get dehydrated. So I’ve set reminders to chug chug chug.
My nurse practitioner has been having me try different sleep medications to help me find that “once in a while restful sleep” miracle, and viewing my sleep data on the Oura app with each medication has been eye opening. I’ve ruled out a couple just based on my heart rate data alone! Honestly, all the data is just kind of fun for a nerd like me.
But most of all… it’s helped me to realize just how much my anxiety impacts me occasionally. I’m unaware of my anxiety… because I’m an optimist. I’m not kidding—I have this, “anxious? me?” mentality because I’m so forward-thinking and relentlessly resilient. (That should be my new tagline: relentlessly resilient. Done.)
But you know what? That’s another whole post in and of itself. So I’ll let you catch up to this first.