So I’m sitting up late, normally the case lately. At my computer, it’s 3:23am. I have trouble sleeping. Not just today. Many days. Someone yesterday said: “Oh that’s so lucky, I wish I only needed that little sleep”. I wailed: “But I don’t! I need lots of sleep! I’m perpetually tired and sleep-deprived!”
Though I’ve had sleep problems since I was a teen, there have been phases in my life where I slept just fine thank you very much. There was even a time in the not-so-distant past when I would go to bed as early as 10, be fast asleep by 11, and still suffer to get up at 7. In those days, the waking up part was the toughie. Snooze was the name of the game. I can play that game for hours. I dreamed up strange devices that would force me out of bed, some way to keep me from ignoring the annoying alarm and the rational ‘get up’ thoughts. The inventions in my head included some foot-censor pads in the shower that would ring until your feet actually got on them. Someone should make that. I should make it. Can’t be bothered. Too tired. Reminds me of the Ingrid Michaelson song “… I want to change the world, instead I sleep” (http://www.myspace.com/ingridmichaelson).
I also was so impressed when I read about Clocky, that alarm clock that actually jumps off your nightstand, runs away from you, and hides under your bed. Invented by a beautiful grad student at MIT. Who often overslept of course. (http://www.clocky.net/story/)
In the absence of my own theoretical shower foot pad invention (yes we need a better name) and of Clocky, I resorted to hiding my alarm in a box, in an attic height closet, so I’d have to get out of bed, get a chair, stand on said chair, open said closet, open said box, get the clock out and turn the alarm off. Sounds like an effective antidote for snoozing doesn’t it? No. I’d just go straight back into my warm and beautiful bed.
Maybe we should install cold-water sprinklers in our bedrooms to wake us up. No one wants to get back into a cold and wet bed. Ew. But the thought is too nightmarish and concentration camp-like, I’d rather suffer the wakeup normally.
Anyway at some point it changed into not being able to fall asleep and not being able to stay asleep. Getting out of bed in the morning is still hard, but nothing compared to the anguish that I know many of you have felt: Lying in the dark in your bed, tired, desperate to sleep. Too tired to even get up and do something constructive. You feel the hours passing and feel how it’s getting closer and closer to morning, and then you see the morning light and you finally just give in to the risibility of the moment. You open your eyes and see people signing into facebook who you know have just woken up for work.
So I researched. I decided to find out about everything sleep-related. I asked a therapist. I asked a psychiatrist. I asked a regular MD. I went to a specialized sleep clinic in a hospital where you spend the night and try to sleep and they stick electrodes on you and watch you through a glass wall. Kinda like being abducted by aliens conducting experiments. They all said sleeplessness would only be in phases, and I’d sleep fine in other phases. At my most desperate point, when I my eyes were closing at work and I felt like I was speaking in slow motion, I asked my friend in New York who also has trouble sleeping what she does when she’s tired at work, and she said she hides in the bathroom and tries to sleep for 15 minutes. I tried so many natural sleep aids that I turned into a Valeriana plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_(herb)), and when that didn’t work, I tried (with my physician) three different types of sleep medication (aside from ‘panadol night’- candy) and none worked, and all are bad for you.
And I asked friends and family. And they had loads of advice: Don’t eat late. Exercise (I do). Read boring books. Don’t have a tv in your room (by the way I’d die before I ever got a tv in my bedroom. A bedroom is for sleep, sex, and maybe pets and/or kids jumping up on lazy Sunday mornings). Drink chamomile and yanssoun. Do breathing exercises (will always do). Acupuncture (those needles in my forehead didn’t help me relax). Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon (I’m so afraid of coffee now that the latest I’d ever have one is 9am). Don’t be worried/anxious (never been more relaxed and worry-free in my life). Keep your bedroom a cool temperature (it always is and that’s the way I like it anyway). Take a cold shower before bed. Take a hot shower before bed. (one alludes to the science that the body needs to drop a degree in temperature in order to sleep, the other alludes to the simple relaxation of a hot bath). Both don’t do sh*t for me. Shower = wide-awake for me. Put lavender essence on your pillow (didn’t help but smells so lovely- thanks Dad).
Tonight as I was leaving a party, the host, B, said: Should I ask you to missed call me when you get home? (a safety precaution we use in Lebanon to make sure people get home safe, not sure it is used elsewhere or that it even has any function, but I like it). But my poor friend was clearly falling asleep and actually leaning on the wall as he showed us out. His wife said to him: “you’ll be asleep as soon as the door is closed, way before any missed call”. We all laughed and I told him he was blessed with such easy sleep. Proceeded to mention my sleep issues, just briefly, and the 5 girls there all gave me versions of the advice listed above. Finally B said: “maybe you need a chest”. All of us went blank and I was thinking: a chest? Why would I want to sleep on a large box? Then little by little we began to laugh as it dawned on each of us that what he meant was a man’s chest. That maybe what I needed to get a night of peaceful respite was to rest my head on someone’s chest. I don’t know if he’s right, but it was wonderful to hear a new idea for once. The girls then discussed the fact that the chest lean is much more uncomfortable than it looks and is only bearable for a couple of minutes, but that’s beside the point, and sleeping positions can be tackled in another post. It’s now 4:10am and I shall try to sleep.