For perhaps 6-8 months, possibly more, my wife had been showing signs of cognitive impairment. Memory loss, lack of ‘presence,’ unable to follow complex instructions, etc. It was bad enough that a few weeks ago when a new client asked her our address, she couldn't remember.
She also developed a bilateral hand tremor.
We went from her internist to a neurologist. I'd noticed that she had taken to snoring, and my thought (with which the neurologist agreed) was that it could be obstructive sleep apnea. So we did the whole sleep study routine, and yes indeed, she had obstructive sleep apnea. Tried CPAP, she couldn't stand it. She switched to Provent (small nasal strips with a one-way valve that restricts exhalation to raise pressure in the oral cavity and thus do some or all of what a CPAP machine does). That eliminated the snoring, and a recording pulse oximeter showed improved oxygenation. Great!
But her cognition didn't improve.
I then bought the Zeo, to see if she had a more or less normal sleep pattern. Well, lo and behold, after about 2-3 weeks of measurements, my wife had registered a grand total of no REM sleep.
Not one minute in the entire period.
Since my wife was on antidepressants, I thought that her medication might have something to do with her issue. So I decided it was time to hit the research literature. Fortunately, I've had training as a medical writer and researcher, so this wasn't unfamiliar territory for me.
In poking around, I came across info that that said that SSRIs (a.k.a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) suppress--often entirely--REM sleep. As I delved further into the literature, I found robust support for this.
Apparently, it's a well-known (if rarely mentioned) side effect of the antidepressants. I contacted an old grad school friend, Joe Graedon. He immediately said that not only do the SSRIs suppress REM as I'd seen in the literature, but so do ALL the antidepressants, including the first generation ones.
It seems that in order to have REM sleep, you have to deplete serotonin (and have melatonin kick in) and if you're on an antidepressant, the antidepressant is upping your serotonin levels, thus lowering your melatonin levels, which is counterproductive to getting good REM sleep.
So, with the approval of my wife’s physician, we started to slowly ween her off her medication. For about three weeks, nothing dramatic happened. A week ago yesterday, she woke up one morning and within minutes I knew she was ‘back.’ She was just remarkably different. Much more animated, much more engaged, much livelier.
And SHE knew the difference.
That night she used Zeo again and she showed about 10 minutes of REM sleep.
Hooray! Not huge, but at least SOMETHING.
It has continued to increase, up to 15 minutes two nights ago, 20 minutes the night before last, and 45 minutes last night! She has continued to be much more energetic, totally present and responsive, with her memory working as it should. The hand tremors also entirely disappeared.
NONE of the doctors raised the meds as a possibility.
The sleep study center should have mentioned it in their report.
The neurologist should have flagged it.
Without Zeo, we would not have had the information we needed to make the necessary change. Since tapering down the medication, my wife's been consistently getting some REM every night.
We're hoping that this trend will continue - and that our experiences will help others assess their own medications and sleep quality.