08/01/2014 11:47 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2014

Sleep and Mood Disorders

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. (NIH)

For the past year, I've had chronic sleep problems. At first I thought it was a withdrawal symptom of coming off of the Seroquel. Seroquel is highly sedating, and I was on it for six years. If I missed a dose, I couldn't sleep. In June 2013 I started not being able to sleep. So my personal psychiatrist increased my Seroquel dose from 600mg to 800mg (the highest dose possible). This is why I gained so much weight. I was tapered off the Seroquel in November 2013 because of the 52 pounds I gained. My psychiatrist replaced it with 5mg of Saphris, a relatively new medicine.

I was still having sleep issues. I had trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and I woke up early. I was so tired at work. I would lay down during free periods. I even got special permission from my principal to come in late. For the last few months of the 2013-2014 school year I came in late one, two or three times per week if I didn't have a first period class. I would fall asleep during our every-other-Thursday 7:45 a.m. faculty meetings. It was so embarrassing. I would be doing the "crackhead nod" -- you know what I'm talking about: Your eyes can't stay open, your head falls to the side, you jolt awake and catch yourself, repeat.

I told my psychiatrist and he prescribed Xanax. It didn't help. He then prescribed Trazadone; that didn't help either. I even saw a sleep specialist in January. He prescribed Lunesta, a sleeping aid. It worked 66 percent: I could fall asleep and I could stay asleep, but I still woke up early. I became resigned, figuring that this was my new sleep pattern. It really sucked.

When I was hospitalized in June 2014 I told the psychiatrist about my sleep issues. He said that according to old research it was thought that sleep issues caused mood disorders. Turns out mood disorders can cause sleep troubles. The classic chicken or egg situation. The reason I wasn't sleeping was because I was depressed. And the medicines I was on wasn't working on the depression. Once the depression ended I became manic. Once the mania was treated with Lithium and Latuda my sleep issues went away. The hospital psychiatrist prescribed Temazapem for sleep, but I no longer take it since I don't have sleep issues anymore. And more importantly, I'm no longer groggy during the day. I don't do the "crackhead nod" anymore. And I've only had three cups of coffee in the past two months! (I only started drinking coffee seven years ago when I was first medicated; my meds made me so groggy. During this past school year, I was drinking two or three cups of coffee per day.)

Safeguard your sleep. It influences so much of your day-to-day functioning. For instance, if I don't sleep, I can potentially become manic or depressed. I am very protective of my sleep. You should be too.