Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh What a Blessing - the Ability to Fall Asleep

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been cursed with the inability to turn off my mind when I lay down to go to sleep.  It doesn't seem to matter how early I get up or how much sleep I've gotten the night before or what drugs the doctor gives me to knock me out.  Whenever I lay down to go to sleep, I'm pretty much guaranteed that I will lie awake for about two hours before finally dozing off.  Now it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Last night, the light went out around 10:30 and at 12:15, I came downstairs to turn on the television and see if I couldn't get drowsy.  That usually will work in about 20 minutes, but it has to be after two hours of tossing and turning first.  Sometimes I blog in the middle of the night and send emails and don't remember doing it the next day.  Thank God I'm not a middle of the night internet shopper!

After doing a little research recently, I found out that this condition is called "primary insomnia."  Being unable to sleep is actually a medical condition, which is good to know, but doesn't exactly help me get the "z's" I need to function in the every day world.  The kind I have is also known as "chronic insomnia," which is (obviously) something that lasts more than one month.  There is also "secondary insomnia," which is where you can't sleep due to a medical condition or substances you are taking (alcohol, drugs - illegal or legal).  I suppose primary insomnia would encompass trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and waking up too early and then not being able to go back to sleep.  My problem has always been falling asleep when I hit the bed at bedtime, starting long before my medical conditions surfaced and I began taking drugs for them.

About 12 years ago, a doctor I was seeing decided it might be a good idea to help regulate my sleep with Ambien.  For those of you not familiar, this is the drug where you sometimes do things like eat, drive, have sex without being aware you are doing them.  I had a few incidences (never driving, thank God) when I first started taking the drug, but it would now appear, that the drug no longer has any effect on me (unless the sleep blogging counts).  The doctor eventually doubled my dosage, to no avail.  I'm not sure why he continues to prescribe it and I continue to take it.  I still just can't go to sleep.  I now take the pills because the doctor tells me to and because I am afraid that if I don't take the pills, I will never go to sleep.  I don't know why this would be something to fear, since I don't really go to sleep that well anyway.  I keep thinking that I should just stop taking them and see what happens, but every night, without fail, I pop open the prescription bottle and down 20 mg, hoping against hope that tonight I will actually Go. To. Sleep.

As most of you are aware, I lost my job last October.  I went through a pretty bad depression after that and, during the course of that depression, I found myself going back to bed in the mornings after the kids went to school.  I figured that (a) my going back to bed wasn't hurting anyone and (b) that's why people have appointments later in the day available.  They're for people like me who don't like mornings.  I have gotten over both the job loss and the depression, but I have decided (at my therapist's suggestion) to be nice to myself and continue with the sleeping in the morning.  My body just seems to get better sleep when I go to bed at midnight (or maybe later) and get up at 9:00.  Also, Justin benefits, since he works from home, because I'm not downstairs talking to him and distracting him from his work until at least mid-morning, when I remember the real world exists and become conscious and coherent.

I have made a point in the last couple of months to never schedule anything in the morning if I can help it and to ask people not to call me before 10:00.  That way I can make sure that I am awake and aware of what I am doing and saying.  I find myself mildly irritated with chipper morning people who ignore my request and call early.  Hey, just because you're up doesn't mean I am!  One of the best things I got out of losing my job was the ability to say once the kids go off to school in the morning, I am allowing myself another two hours of sleep. 

It's weird that I can be up for half an hour to help usher the kids out the door and then lay down and go right back to sleep.  I don't know why I can do it in the morning but not at night.  I read somewhere that teenagers brains are actually geared to work later in the day and that it would be beneficial to start school, once they get to high school, an hour later.  They have tried this experiment in various places and found that grades actually go up when you don't drag the kids out of bed at 6:00 a.m.  Teenagers are wired to stay up later and sleep later.  Maybe I had this wiring from the time I was little and it was actually hard wired.  Whatever.  Again, I'm not hurting anyone, right?

I'm slightly concerned that my going back to bed in the morning is causing a little marital irritation in my spouse.  I'm afraid he sees me as lazy because I won't do mornings anymore.  (I could be assuming something that's not true here.  Maybe I should just ask him?)  Justin wouldn't sleep in even before we got a dog that needs to go out early, due to some shoulder problems that would wake him if he stayed in one position for too many hours.  He is blessed with the ability to lay down and shut off, kind of like the Terminator in those movies that could be shut down for 90 seconds (except he can shut down for the whole eight hours in about 30 seconds).  Justin can go to sleep anywhere, at any time, just by closing his eyes.  Oh my God, what a gift!  He was more of a night owl when I first met him and I remember both of us staying up until all hours of the night when we were carefree 18 year olds with flexible college class schedules.  I remember several phone conversations that went on until 3:00 a.m. and annoying his sister by calling his house at ungodly hours of the night.  But he has always been blessed with an ability to get out of bed no matter how little or how much sleep he has gotten the night before.  He's able to start work at 6:00 a.m. with no problem whatsoever and sometimes I feel like I must look like a total sloth, even though I still do all of the stuff I need to do - just later.

If I force myself to get up and stay up when the kids go out the door, not only am I cranky, I will end up napping in the afternoon, defeating the purpose of forcing myself to stay up.  So, for the present, it would appear that going back to bed is just the way my body wants to work.  If there's nowhere I have to be and I can schedule things later in the day, I don't see that it's a problem.  I feel kind of bad that Justin and I aren't in sync in this area, but every night I go upstairs at 10:00, go through my remove makeup/brush teeth/use bathroom routine and crawl into bed to read for a half hour with him and then, once I know he's asleep, I sneak out of bed and back downstairs and turn on the television.  Or blog.  Or send emails.  Or get on Facebook...which can easily eat up two hours.  I think it's probably more productive to lie in bed being frustrated that I can't get to sleep than to sit on Facebook until I'm tired enough to drop off.  It's kind of sad when you're awake when even the dog is out like a light.  But, then again, it's kind of nice to have the quiet house to myself for an hour or two. 

Spending Diet Update to Follow

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