Keeping a Regular Sleep Cycle with Schizoaffective Disorder
Thursday, September 20 2018 Elizabeth Caudy
Having a regular sleep cycle is important, but for years after I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and then schizoaffective disorder, my sleep cycle became completely reversed. I was up all night and asleep all day. It wasn't until a little over four years ago--just before I started writing for HealthyPlace--that I got a regular sleep cycle back in place so that I'm awake during the day and asleep at night. What a relief. Here's how I did it.
Schizoaffective Disorder and Reversal of a Regular Sleep Cycle
First of all, how did my regular sleep cycle become reversed to begin with? Part of it was the antipsychotic medication I was taking for my schizoaffective disorder. But a big part of it was that I was depressed over my diagnosis and I was depressed that I was leaving the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) because I felt that, what with my diagnosis, I needed to be closer to my home in the Chicago suburbs.
Let me briefly explain my decision to leave RISD even though doing so made me depressed. I had my first psychotic break at RISD. I was scaring people there by talking back to the radio as if the radio was communicating with me personally. I constantly thought people were following me. Even though it was exciting there as a student, it became scary. And it was scary being so far from home when I was so vulnerable.
Once I realized I'd been delusional and was hearing voices, I transferred to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). I felt safer there, and even though it didn't seem as glamorous as RISD, it was a much better fit for me and just as fine an art school. But I didn't realize that yet when I started sleeping all day.
However, as I mentioned, another major component to me sleeping all day was the antipsychotic medication I was taking for my schizoaffective disorder. It knocked the heart right out of me and then staying up all night got to be a habit.
I switched around antipsychotic medications a lot--a painful experience. And then I switched to one that had the rare side effect of causing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder for some people--myself included. I had been on the medication for years before this happened, but when it did, I switched back to the antipsychotic I had been on when I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective Disorder and Getting Back to a Regular Sleep Cycle
Well, a miracle happened. Somehow, this time, switching antipsychotics kicked my sleep cycle back to normal--at long last. I tried hard to stay up as well. It was a painful transition--I didn't sleep for days and nights in a row. But, when it settled down, I was sleeping at night and waking up early in the morning. And I continue to do that to this day.
I have to remain vigilant--sticking to a schedule and assigning myself walks, small meals, and reading times during the day. But it works.
In my video, I talk more about the things I do every day to keep my sleep cycle on track.