Depression can make it difficult to deal with everyday life, let alone insomnia as well, but the two conditions often go hand in hand. Karine, now 22, was only in her teens when depression struck, and the sleep problems that followed turned her life upside down. Now, however, she is back on her feet and refusing to allow occasional bouts of sleeplessness to get in her way.
The Onset of Insomnia
Sometimes sleep problems sneak up on people by gradually getting worse, but in Karine’s case the onset was quite sudden. “I just found that I couldn’t get to sleep at night,” she explains. “It wasn’t that I was sleeping at other times, I was just awake most of the time.”
This led to problems in personal relationships. “I was living with my then boyfriend and I don’t think he was very thrilled about it. We’d go to bed at the same time but then I’d just sit up with my laptop or a book. We also had a flatmate and he had no clue about it at all, he was just confused.”
Keeping up with work was also difficult. “I still managed to do all my housework, partly because I was trying to keep busy in the hope that I would tire myself out, but I had to drop out of university.”
Seeking Medical Help
Noticing that she seemed to be stressed a great deal and was frequently angry, Karine’s friends urged her to take the problem seriously, and she went to see her doctor, but unfortunately her experience was not a good one.
“I didn’t feel that my doctor really took it seriously,” she says. “Initially he told me to go on St John’s wort but that was a really bad idea because it interacts with some other medicine, like the contraceptive pill I was on. I only found that out from a friend.
“I was then put on a stupid dosage of citalopram for the depression, one gram a day, and that didn’t really do anything even though I took it for months. Then I tried a sleeping pill. The doctor said to take half of one a night, so I took three, and occasionally it helped and I would manage to get to sleep, but not very often.”
Eventually, after a year of problems, Karine’s insomnia started to go away. She has suffered from it again since but never for as long. Although the first bout seemed clearly related to her depression, it now appears to happen independently, but she’s much less bothered by it.
“The first time it was really annoying,” she explains, “partly because I didn’t know if it would ever go away and I worried that I might be stuck with it for life. I would just go to bed and then I’d feel really anxious so I couldn’t sleep. One time I’d gone to bed and it started raining outside. I became convinced I’d left something outside and I couldn’t sleep until I’d found it and brought it inside, even though of course there was nothing there.”
Now back at university, Karine is looking forward to completing a biology degree. Her advice to other people with sleep problems is to get on with things as much as possible and try not to worry, because sometimes it does get better.