Sleep and Perspective

For many many years I’ve had trouble sleeping, off and on. I remember in high school and college lying in bed and just aching to go to sleep, trying all the tricks I could think of to drop off that high cliff of wakefulness into the blessed vale of sleep. I remember lying awake with my body sore from lying there, literally weeping in frustration and anger and exhaustion because I was trying so damned hard to sleep and wanted nothing more and just couldn’t do it.

At some point after college, I think I slept ok for a while. But then we got a dog and kids, and there was a period of maybe ten years during which if it wasn’t the dog waking me up to go outside for a 3am pee, it was my own bladder waking me up for a 3am pee, and if it was neither of those, it was a child crawling into bed for a 3am cuddle or waking me up at 5am on a Saturday for breakfast. It was rare during those years for me to rub more than 2 or 3 consecutive hours of sleep together, though on the whole I suppose I got enough sleep to get by on.

For several years now, we’ve been dogless and the kids have mostly stopped coming into my bedroom at night (though my daughter did stop by for a 5am visit one day this week after a nightmare). The old bladder still wakes me up fairly frequently, but that I can largely control by throttling fluid intake.

These days I’m mostly back to having trouble getting to sleep and staying there. I get bedsore pretty quickly, so I’ll lie down for an hour or so, frustrated that even though I feel so very tired, I can’t fall asleep. Sometimes my head is racing still with work, but just as often, I’ve had a nice disconnect from the day job — have had time to hang out with the family, plunk on my guitar a bit, and read for a while — and still just can’t drop off to sleep. My body aches as I lie there, and the frustration builds until finally I get up and go downstairs (for a change of position and environment) and have a cup of milk and read for an hour or so. Usually I can fall asleep after doing this, but usually it’s 2 or 3 in the morning and I’ve got to get up at 6:23 or 7:49 depending on whether it’s my day to get the kids up or not.

So I’m sort of a zombie during the week and try to make up for it on Friday nights. I take a dose and a half of Benadryl and more often than not sleep like the dead. Last night I went to bed at around 11 and didn’t get out of bed until after 11 today, waking once at 9am for a quick stumble to the bathroom. Today I predict that I’ll be sort of half-awake and feeling dopey for a while, and then during the early afternoon, I’ll begin to feel lethargic and muddled again. At least that’s how it tends to go. I suspect it’s at least partially psychosomatic.

I actually sort of dislike sleep. On a day like today, I feel like I’ve lost hours during which I could have been doing things I enjoy rather than essentially wasting time. I suppose this all means that I’m a malcontent and a whiner who declines to be happy either with or without sleep.

It’s certainly a first-world sort of problem. I have the luxury of waking up to come down a lovely set of stairs and gaze into a bountiful pantry to find a good food option. So far I have declined to eat because nothing we have really appeals to me. I then have the luxury of being able to get into a magical carriage and drive to a store full of colorful food options to find just the thing that I would find not only minimally nourishing but optimally appealing. After that, I can turn a knob and take a shower in hot, clean water and pick from a smorgasbord of clothing and have a whole afternoon (with the prospect of a similar day tomorrow) to do pretty much whatever I’d like to in. I can take a trip. I can go see a movie. I can take a walk without concern for the safety of my person. I can sit in front of this glowing screen and spend a few minutes griping about what for many would be a very small problem indeed to have among their top woes.

2 thoughts on “Sleep and Perspective

  1. I’ll tell you what I strive to tell myself when something seems quite wrong to me but, in light of real world problems, begins to sound to my own ear like the whining of a blessed person…yes, there is famine and murder and pain and hatred in the world, but sleep struggles can still be a problem, and you’re complaint isn’t whining. Your not ignorant to the blessings of your life, you just have a specific pain that you’re allowed to confront aloud. Not being able to sleep sucks. And it’s hard on your body and emotional state.

    I’m sorry you’re not able to sleep when you want to. I’m sorry for the reason you’re dogless. I’m even sorry, in a nostalgic, achy way, that your kids are too big to come in for 3am cuddles.

    I hope you sleep well again tonight. Several days in a row will ideally make your body remember why it needs to sleep.

    I also hope that after you get a good night’s sleep that the world is free of hunger, pain, bloodshed, war, and pestilence. Not causation but correlation. Like the best day in the history of humanity happens the same day you sleep easily and fully.

  2. I get insomnia. It comes and goes. The last time it was really bad and went on for months I tried a sleep restriction strategy I had read about. The idea is to deprive yourself of sleep so that you crave it. I can’t remember the exact particulars but it was something like don’t go to bed before midnight for a week. Then the next week make it 11pm and the week after 10pm and so on. It worked quite well for me because prior to this I was lying in bed hour after hour trying to fall asleep and getting all worked up because I couldn’t. Once I got myself into this state I was never going to fall asleep. It hasn’t been as bad as that since and typically I only have it for one or two nights and I’m back to normal again.

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