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(not) sleeping at high altitude

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(not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Linnea » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:37 am

Didn't know if this should go in medical or here, sorry...
At 15,000' and above, I absolutely cannot sleep. The worst was the night at Mera high camp at 19,000'. I would be lying there and just start hyperventilating. Everything I've read indicates that people who get Cheyne-Stokes are actually asleep when this starts so I'm not sure what it was.
Otherwise I do pretty well at altitude except for a bizarre spaciness/out of body feeling that starts about 17,000' that I can usually climb out of.
I've read a bunch of stuff and the only answer seems to be diamox. I've never taken this but I'm not opposed if it will help me sleep. I realize poor sleep is common at high camps but the two nights on the Mera glacier with no sleep at all were pretty bad.
Anyone have this? Any ideas? Does diamox work for you? Thanks!
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Linnea » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:43 am

Thanks, let me know what you find. Although I couldn't sleep at the refuge on Cotopaxi or at Kili high camp, Mera was the first time I got the breathing thing. Maybe I only get it above 18,000. It was really uncomfortable.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Linnea » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:46 am

I mean the Cotopaxi refugio. Smartphones are wonderful things...they think they know what you want to say.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Buz Groshong » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:48 pm

Linnea wrote:Thanks, let me know what you find. Although I couldn't sleep at the refuge on Cotopaxi or at Kili high camp, Mera was the first time I got the breathing thing. Maybe I only get it above 18,000. It was really uncomfortable.


There was a report of a scientific study that I read that indicated that the breathing pattern of pilots flying small planes at high altitudes is similar to Cheyne-Stokes. So, yes you can probably experience it without going to sleep. Weather can also be a factor; when the air pressure goes down it's just like going to higher elevation - combining the two can exacerbate things. I experienced a bit of mild Cheyne-Stokes when trying to sleep on the Huayhuash circuit when the weather was a bit stormy - sometimes it doesn't take much to make getting to sleep difficult.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby PAROFES » Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:12 pm

I guess i am lucky...i sleep like a baby no matter the altitude. I just have to be tired hehehe
My highest altitude sleep was at 17400 ft and ...well....i woke up at the right time with my alarm to go for the summit.
I never lost one night of sleep bcuz of altitude, in the other hand, if i'm not alone inside the tent and the other person happens to be noisy, i have a serious problem.... in feb 2010 i was in Cordon Del Plata with my former partner and let's say, he sounds like an wild boar sick with pulmonary edema. Guess what? I couldn't sleep for 3 nights, so i never went for Cerro Plata summit, just Vallecitos. Now i have to go back :)
:/
Anyway, Fort found some good answers for you Linnea, hope you can figure a way to improve your high altitude sleep!
Cheers
Paulo
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby jthomas » Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:36 pm

FortMental wrote:Had it my first time at altitude. See my trip report: http://www.summitpost.org/a-punters-guide-to-succeeding-or-not-on-denali-s-west-buttress/492622 for details.

I've done a bit of research on this, post climb....in fact, my doctor is a bit of an authority on the subject. I've got some literature around here. Lemme look for it.

Didn't take diamox, despite the fact that we had it, because it was easy enough for me to turn around. But yeah.... I distinctly remember the gasping for air, the gradual decrease in breathing rate, and the sudden increase. It's not, by the way, hyperventilation.


Great article & photos, especially the panorama. What camera did you use, and what software for the pano? Thanks!
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Diver » Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:29 pm

i went to North Col of Everest this May and slept pretty well all the way to 23k feet. I used Diamox and I'm pretty sure it helped me a lot with the sleeping. The night I spent at 23 was a bit weird (vivid dreams), but i think i still got a decent amount of sleep despite the fact that it was my first climb to that altitude.

so i would say try a small dose of Diamox back home to make sure you don't have allergies to sulfa (Sulfonamide) and then give it a try at the altitude. plus plenty of water.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby AdamsKerr » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:55 pm

i wish i could offer some real advice. the only problem i've ever had with sleeping was at high camp on Denali being just too damn excited, otherwise im asleep the second my head hits whatever i've used as a pillow

i would try taking diamox (half to start), staying hydrated and eating well.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Linnea » Fri Oct 29, 2010 3:29 am

Thanks everyone for ther responses! Maybe I will try diamox next time. I envy those of you that can easily sleep at altitude. I also seem to unerringly choose the noisy tentmate as well.
Fort, that study was interesting and disturbing at the same time. Thanks for posting. I love your TR, very creative, do you do any other writing?
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Pablohoney » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:54 pm

This may also offer some useful information for you:

...diamox is a good option...though typical sleep aids like lunesta and ambien also appear to be safe to use, as well as even good old benadryl. One thing about diamox is it is a diuretic so you may find you sleep better except for the need to pee a little more often than usual.

http://www.altitudemedicine.org/index.p ... ted-issues
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby Linnea » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:00 pm

Thanks Pablo, it probably can't hurt to try it. The people I've climbed with who were using diamox didn't seem to do better at climbing the peak but maybe they felt better doing it. I have taken ginkgo but who knows, there have been some conflicting studies on that.
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Re: (not) sleeping at high altitude

Postby seeksit » Sun Oct 31, 2010 12:08 am

Slept two consecutive nights at 19,500 feet with no problem. But I was scrupulous about keeping hydrated and keeping my bloodstream well saturated with nutrients (glucose from sugary drinks between meals if nothing else).

The second night at this high camp we had a foot of snow during the night and I decided to go out at about midnight and thorougly clear all the snow off the tent. I worked my butt off for half an hour and when I came back into the tent and trued to sleep after that exertion I almost went into some sort of delirium before I stoked back up with carbs.

For me this lesson was seminal -- At extreme altitude I need to keep my body saturated with H2O and nutrients.

I've also had the 'sleep apnea' problem on a previous expedition, even as low as the hut on Huayna Potosi (15,600 feet or so). In my experience, that problem can be corrected with hard-core aerobic conditioning beforehand. Do lots of interval training, even at sea level. Push your limits and you'll reap the benefits at altitude.
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