T Nation

How to Train in Spite of Untreated Sleep Disorder


Good evening T-Nation,

I previously posted under a different username years ago in your T-replacement forum. Fortunately, with medication, my T-levels are now in the upper-normal range (they have been when I've had them checked for years, now). The e-mail I used is no longer valid and I don't remember the username.

I'm having another issue that I would like counsel about. First of all, let me say that I understand that nothing said on this forum constitutes medical advice.

Yours truly suffers from unrefreshing sleep. It doesn't matter how long or short I sleep, I wake up unrefreshed. I've been having this problem for about 12 years now. I believe that it is likely the cause of the low T that I previously discussed (T is manufactured during deep sleep). Thanks again for helping with that.

I am not a bodybuilder, but I like to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, skiing, swimming, and others. I train regularly, most commonly by climbing on artificial walls. I feel like my unrefreshing sleep is taking a big toll on my ability to perform at these activities, especially climbing. My climbing ability has been plateaued for years. My maximum pull-up reps have fluctuated between 8 and 12 or so for years. My libido is also in the toilet in spite of having great T-levels with treatment.

My unrefreshing sleep symptoms are worse on some days compared to others. Something caught my attention; I am sure that I'm observing this and it's not my imagination: when I visit a climbing wall on a day that my sleep feels worst, I will climb just fine for 2 - 3 routes, after which I will find that I can't recover my strength for another climb. It's like if I did three sets of reps lifting weights and then suddenly could not do even another single rep.

As some of you may know, you can have your sleep observed and measured in a hospital or clinic. I did this twice last year (at considerable expense). The doctors who read the results diagnosed mild upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) and prescribed PAP therapy to me in October last year. (That was after one idiot doctor told me there was nothing wrong after refusing to show me the results; what a moron! But you guys know that doctors tend to be real morons).

When I finally got the actual test results in my hand, I was shocked. The "hypnogram", a diagram that shows how the body passes thru different phases of sleep over time, looked atrocious; more like a seismograph recording of a San Francisco earthquake than a measurement of sleep; I cycled between awake, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep so fast! The most striking finding on the test is that my body spends very little time at all in the deepest stages of sleep. I have less than 10% slow wave sleep, so even if I sleep for 10 hours, I have less than one hour of slow-wave sleep, and even that happens only a few minutes at a time. My "respiratory distress index" was only 12, which suggests that that alone doesn't account for the severity of my unrefreshing sleep.

I am scheduled to see my doctor again on the 16th of March. I have not observed any improvement since trying the PAP therapy. What's worse is that I have to use prescription sleep aids to sleep with PAP therapy at all, and I understand that with the exception of GHB (marketed under the trade name Xyrem), all prescription sleep aids REDUCE slow-wave sleep. I have a "Zeo" unit at home which measures sleep phasing. It indicates that last time I took 2 mg of Valium to fall asleep with my PAP therapy, I slept for almost 9 hours with less than 20 minutes of slow-wave sleep, so in that sense, it's actually making things worse! I would really like to try GHB, but I'm told that it's nearly impossible to get without a diagnosis of narcolepsy, and then insurance will pay thousands of dollars a month for it. I'm sure it is common knowledge on this forum that GHB used to be as easily available as aspirin. This is legalized extortion. It boils my blood that this is being done in a so-called "representative republic" I live in. (As an aside, I know of other sleep disorder patients I've met online who've been cut off from GHB because of this greedy BS)

I read about herbal sleep aids in Dr Jacob Teitelbaum's "From Fatigued to Fantastic" and found that tho they seemed to help me fall asleep, they consistently gave me horrible sleep maintenance insomnia, once again making me feel worse.

I would have had this issue taken care of sooner had I not listened to the people who told me that my illness is "all in my head".

I am not confident in the doctor I am seeing now, so I am making arrangements to travel to see Dr Barry Krakow, who is reportedly one of the very top sleep doctors in the world.

I guess what I'm saying here is that I'm trying absolutely everything I reasonably can to fix the underlying problem, but I'm not counting on finding a practical solution.

Sorry to post such a wall, but I wanted to put my question in context.

My question to this group is as follows:

Suppose that in spite of my best efforts, I suffer from poor sleep for the rest of my life. Is there anything I can do to compensate, even if just slightly, for the damage that poor sleep is doing to my ability to train and perform at the activities I love?

Thanks very much for any helpful advice.