I am a male in his mid 20's.
About 3 years ago, I used to have a job where I was constantly sleep deprived due to long hours. This caused me to have a nasty habit of taking naps in my car, even when I came into work on the weekends. Even on some weekdays, I would be so exhausted to drive home that I would sleep overnight in the car. I would never keep the windows open (even a crack) because I was afraid of people tampering with my car when I would be asleep.
The trouble came during the summertime. I remember on several occasions, I would come into work on the weekends but I would be so exhausted that I would fall asleep in my car for several hours during the afternoon (up to even 6 hours). When I would wake up, I would be covered in sweat and almost gasping for air. I assume this is because the temperature and CO2 levels went up dramatically since the windows were closed and there were no parking spots available outside of direct sunlight. However, every time I woke up I would feel somewhat groggy, but not particularly ill.
Soon afterwards I quit this job and life became more relaxed. However, I have had chronic headaches that started during this initial job and have only gotten worse ever since. These do not feel like migraines; they are more like tension headaches, except it feels like the back of my brain is missing or rotting away. It has really interfered with my ability to think clearly and lucidly. Is it possible that these car naps caused me to have some sort of heat exhaustion damage to my brain? Even if I were extremely exhausted, would my body be alerted out of sleep when the temperature or CO2 level gets too high before any damage to my nervous system begins?
I have been to a neurologist several years ago and he says that eventually the headaches will go away. Instead, they have only become more diffuse, intense, and bothersome.
I realize that this is a strange scenario to be asking, but I am intensely curious about anyone's expert opinion.
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with a doctor.
Without the ability to examine and obtain a history, I can not tell you what the exact cause of the symptoms is. However I will try to provide you with some useful information.
I am glad you are not at that first job anymore. The sleep deprivation and sleeping in the car in the heat was certainly not healthy. It is likely that you experienced some degree of heat exhaustion if you were sleeping for such long hours in direct sunlight. Also it is concerning that you did not have ventilation in the car when you were sleeping. It is quite possible that you had been inspiring air poor in oxygen and have had a buildup of carbondioxide in the blood. It is difficult to say whether it was this is the cause of your current headaches though.
Anyhow, I think it is important for you to be re-evaluated by a neurologist for headaches. You have not provided much of a description of your headaches so it is difficult to give you a differential. But tyoes of headaches to consider would be migraines, tension-tyoe headaches, chronic daily headache, medication overuse headache (if you are using a lot of daily painkillers). Also obstructive sleep apnea should be considered because it can cause morning headaches and excessive daytime sleepiness. Each of these headaches have specific treatments.
Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions, I hope you find the information I have provided useful, good luck
Thank you very much for your response. I hope you can answer my followup question:
How likely is it for the buildup of CO2 and heat to arouse a normal person out of sleep before they reach dangerous levels? I'm trying to get a sense of how much I should be worrying about this before looking for other possible solutions.
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