I have to write about sleep again, since it keeps evading me. I could rant and rave about how little sleep I have had over the past 10 years, or I could talk about how much I dread going to bed at night, knowing that I will be up again at 3 a.m., all by my lonesome, walking around trying to figure out what to do with my time. But I don’t want to do that. It’s too boring. Everyone has heard it before.
I do want to write about how much I miss sleep and how I long to have it back in my life. I don’t think I ever realized how much I loved and appreciated sleep until it left me. Growing up, I took it for granted that I would go to bed at night and sleep until morning, without interruption. I also took for granted how rested and alive I felt each day. And any time I was exhausted from some activity or event, I knew that I would recover after a good night’s sleep. I remember my mother saying to me often, “All you need is a good night’s sleep.” And she was right. That’s all I need right now: one good night’s sleep.
But that’s not going to happen. I can fall asleep without any problem, but come 3 a.m. or so, every night, I am wide awake, either worryin about some stupid thing or just plain wide awake.
I know one thing that ruined my sleep was having four children and waking up all night to feed them. I tend to think that’s what ruined my sleep patterns for good, but I’m not really sure. Plenty of people I know, especially women over fifty, never sleep through the night. It just seems to be the new reality. So, maybe it was Menopause. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s having grown children. Maybe it’s having pets. Maybe it’s just being over fifty. Who knows?
All I know is this: I want to take a minute to say to anyone out there who has the ability to sleep through the night every night: enjoy it!!! Never take it for granted! Luxuriate in it! Sleep an extra hour for me! I wish to heaven I could take your place, even for just one night.
It is 4 a.m., and, once again, I cannot sleep. Once again, after turning out the lights with some feeling of dread (I really am not very fond of nighttime any more), I fell asleep easily and even stayed asleep until my normal time of around 3:30 a.m. (sometimes it’s 3:15, sometimes 4:00), at which time I came wide awake, with my brain and heart racing. Part of my problem is that I have sleep apnea, but I’ve done everything I could about that: I’ve lost weight; I hook myself up to a CPAP machine every night; I go see my sleep doctor once a year. Another part of my problem is that I have an excess of energy. I think if I had come along a little later in the scheme of things, I probably would have been diagnosed as ADHD. But the main problem, I think, is that I have somehow become, over time, a human robot that can go for long periods without sleep.
I’ve tried lots of different sleep medications, all of which have helped for a time. But the problem persists. And so I have actually surrendered and stopped taking medication. I’ve found that I can function better the next day if I have not taken anything. It turns out I do better at work on the mornings that I have decided to just get out of bed and stay awake until the rest of the house wakes up, than on the mornings where I’ve taken something to lure me into groggy sleep.
One trick: I try not to think about the fact that I haven’t had much sleep. But I can’t help but wonder sometimes if, one of these days, I’m just going to drop dead from the cumulative effect. Can you tell I’m writing this at 4 a.m.?
In the middle of the night, when everyone else in my house is asleep—and there are no people walking by outside, and even our dogs are sound asleep in the kitchen—I have several options for entertainment: 1) watching reruns on television of “I Love Lucy” (skipping over all the other wonderful choices, such as sex advice shows and endless infomercials) 2) working through a puzzle book from cover to cover 3) washing and folding clothes 4) getting caught up on FaceBook. I have tried nobler pursuits, such as reading, but here’s the real surprise: my brain is not fully functional at 4 a.m.! It’s functional enough to work a Word Search, maybe, but it’s not up to a Sudoku—and definitely not up to reading anything that requires thinking. It does have a special talent for repeating sections of songs in my head—never the whole thing, just sections—in an endless loop. Tonight, it’s “This is gonna be a good life; this could really be a good life; this has gotta be a good life…a good, good life.” To think that I used to like that song!
I blame my present condition of sleeplessness on my children, of course: too many nights of getting up to nurse or help a child through a nightmare or—later on—to wait for a new driver to arrive safely home. I just figure that when you have 4 children, and your body gets jolted out of sleep one too many times, it gets permanently stuck in awake mode. Seems reasonable to me—especially at 4 a.m.
When I used to be awake with one baby or another, I would imagine an invention that I would introduce to the market: a phone where you could somehow tell that your friend, also the mother of a baby, was awake and walking the floor at the exact time as you—so you could push a green button on your phone and she would see it and pick up the phone—without any noise—and you could at least talk to each other and help each other through the long night. Turns out I didn’t need to invent it, since FaceBook works that way. I wonder if young mothers use it for that purpose!
I’ll end by saying this: if you are someone who can sleep peacefully and soundly through the night, every night, do me a favor and count your blessings. I would, as my mother used to say, “give a pretty penny” to be in your shoes.
In the meantime, I hope there are others like me out there, waking their dogs by deciding to clean the kitchen at 4:30 a.m.! I do remember there was a lot of talk about sleeplessness a few years back—but not so much any more. I guess I would like to know if I am not the only one who went through menopause and ended up a sleepless automaton on the other side.