Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Insomnia Again, Naturally

You know you have a sleep disorder when you find yourself sitting in the recliner watching Hoarders and Intervention on A&E, wondering why you're awake and the rest of the world is peacefully snoozing away.

I fall into the category of "people who worry."  I worry about everything.  To say I obsess would be a total understatement.  Every night, we do our pre-bed ritual - take the dog out, drug the dog into oblivion (haha), gather up our stuff, turn out the lights, do our bathroom things, change into whatever, and crawl into bed to read or watch tv.  Justin is usually ready for lights out within ten or fifteen minutes and I go along and turn out the lights - I'm game for anything!  I'll give sleep a shot!  And then I lie there for about 15 or 20 minutes while I wait to make sure he's definitely asleep while I obsess about whatever is bothering me.  And then I get back up again.

I read somewhere that if you suffer from insomnia, you should never lie awake in bed for longer than 20 minutes at a time, because you'll just start to frustrate yourself and wake yourself up even more.  The current thinking is that you should get up and do something boring, like playing cards, or reading a college chemistry textbook, until you start to get sleepy.  Then, and only then, go back and try again.  If you find yourself awake again, get up and repeat.

My usual plan of attack is to come down, turn on the some boring cable show, and sit in Justin's "official chair," (the aforementioned recliner) and wait for "sleepy" to come up and hit me in the back of the head.  While I'm waiting, I turn whatever it is that is currently bugging me over and over in my mind, worrying it like a dog with a bone, trying it from different angles, trying to figure out what I am doing that could cause a different outcome (because at midnight, aren't our imagined outcomes always the worst and not the best?)

Then there are those things you cannot change and are supposed to just accept and let go.  Not.  My.  Strong.  Point.  I can remember very little from my early childhood - one or two memories from about the age of 6 or 7 and then nothing much until about 7th or 8th grade.  But I can hold a grudge - man, can I hold a grudge.  And so there are times I will find myself worrying something that might be decades old, knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now, but determined to keep myself awake with it.

I have recently contributed to my insomnia problem with a poor sleep schedule.  I go to bed, get back up, go back to bed, sometimes get awakened by the dog, more often by my aging bladder or aching muscles, sleep a couple of hours at a time, get up at 6:30 to get the kids off to school, and finally go back to bed for two really good hours of sleep from about 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.  Not the best habits, for sure.  And certainly not what they recommend when they are trying to get you onto a "sleep schedule" that will enable you to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, decent sleep.  But it has become about the only way I know how to do it.

Right now, I have a lot on my mind.  Which transfers into quite a bit of broken sleep.  But I find that I can live with the broken sleep, as long as it is getting made up for somewhere - like that two hour block in the morning.  I have taken to scheduling things for later in the day, when I am more awake and not expecting too much of myself before about 11:00 in the morning.

I can remember (a very early memory for me) of being about 6 years old and having been put to bed by my mother.  As I lay there, wide awake, I could hear sounds and conversation coming from the living room.  Sneaking out of bed in my little nightgown, I discovered my mother popping popcorn on the stove (this was back in the early 70's, so everything was done the old fashioned way).  Jackpot!.  There actually was a life going on after I went to bed!  There was a reason my brain was trying to keep me up.  Much to my parents' dismay, I am sure.  Sometime after that night, I again heard sounds and snuck out of bed, hoping for popcorn and a later bedtime again, and my mother reprovingly telling me she was rearranging hangers in the closet and to take my little self back where I belonged. 

As a parent, I always believed in early bedtimes for my own kids and, when they were small, this was fairly easy to accomplish.  But as they have grown and become adolescents, their bedtimes are quickly sliding through my fingers.  The older two pretty much set their own bedtimes and, as long as they are able to get themselves where they need to be without prodding on my part, I don't really have a problem with it.  Since I have so much trouble falling asleep, I sympathize with their internal clocks telling them night is day and day is night.  I still have some control over Joey, being only 12, but there are many nights I hear him turning pages by the light of his closet door or talking to himself because he has trouble falling asleep.  I see another insomniac in the making.

It seems like Justin is the only one of our family who has the circadian rhythm of sleep down.  He can go to bed at 10:00, get up at 6:00, and actually spend his day the way normal people do.  He can fall asleep just by closing his eyes - an ability I envy more than he'll ever understand.  I wonder if he realizes how great a skill he has and how wonderfully lucky he is to have it mastered.  Maybe I'll ask him tomorrow, after I finally get out of bed for the last time.

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