Sunday, March 13, 2011

ZZZs Please

I've had trouble falling asleep for as long as I can remember. Once I'm in the land of Nod I usually stay there, it's just the winding down and actually drifting off to slumber that's the tough part. I hoped that on top of helping out with my winter grouchiness the SAD lamp I bought might help my insomnia situation as well, but it didn't. And the fact is that I've always had just as tough a time going to sleep in the summer, so the issue isn't season-related.

I know my problem is that I'm a Type A Freakazoid Stressball whose made a habit of equating bedtime with worry time. I lie awake every night, fretting about everything under the sun, rehearsing conversations I'm dreading (that there's a 99% likelihood I'll never even have), making mental lists of what I must tick off my ever-growing To Do List in the coming days and weeks, and generally getting myself so worked up that there's no way I could rest.

Many nights I continue to be caught in this "worry cycle" 90 minutes after the lights go out. How do I know? Because my husband has his iPod hooked to our alarm clock, and it plays a track of ocean waves (to help drown out noise from our neighbors and the back alley, etc) for that long. My husband is usually asleep by Minute #2. (Grrr.) If I'm still conscious when the waves switch off, I know I'm in for an especially long night.

And yes, I've tried Ambien, Lunesta, and all of those types of "sleep-enablers." But I hate the way they make me feel the next day... and I also don't really want to rely on drugs for anything. So I continue to suffer. My husband shared a trick he uses on the rare occasions he doesn't drift off within minutes: he holds his breath for as long as he can. HUH?!?! How exactly is that relaxing? He swears that once he exhales he's in a blissful state of peace. I figure he's just about cut off his oxygen or something. Needless to say, that trick is not for me.

But the past few days I've been doing something that seems to have worked. It is, in fact, so simple that it's totally stupid. Here it is: I do not lie down until I'm at the point where I can barely keep my eyes open. Then I fall asleep almost immediately -- and it's a good, deep sleep. I wake up about 7 hours or so later (on my own), refreshed.

I was able to try this because my husband's been on a ski trip with his friends for the past four nights, so I don't have to work around his schedule. The problem is I've been staying up much later than we normally do when he's home (since he has to go to an office in the morning and I don't). But the time I've been waking up is the same time I normally get up every day. Which leads me to believe that I really shouldn't even attempt to go to sleep until one to one-and-a-half hours after I normally do. This little experiment reminded me that I actually learned this about myself a full decade ago. My husband (then boyfriend) and I backpacked around Southeast Asia for two months and never used an alarm clock. I would always glance at the clock when I went to sleep and then got up every morning, and I swear to you the time elapsed was ALWAYS EXACTLY SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS. To the minute. It was amazing.

My husband's back tonight, so I'm going to see how I can possibly make my preferred schedule work without disturbing him too much -- he seems to need about an hour more than I do. But if I succeed in getting a good night's sleep every night, then we both win because I won't constantly be complaining about how tired I am. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

(On an unrelated note, if you're wondering how my Day of Straightening Up went yesterday... there's good news and bad news. I didn't get much done because I was sucked into actually cleaning the areas I started with -- my front closet, the front room, etc. So the biggest issue -- the kitchen table -- still suffers. But I'm hoping to get to it today... and so with that, I'm signing off!)


Pritch! said...

Hi e!

Long time to talk (type?). I have started to have trouble sleeping for the first time EVER in the past couple years, and one stupid thing that has worked for me is this herbal spray called "Rescue Remedy SLEEP" by a company called Bach. It might just be a placebo, but it's worked for me!

It's worth a shot if you're getting desperate :) You can buy it at Whole Foods or other natural markets. I'm sure you can also find it online.

I actually also use it on my completely neurotic dog who doesn't sleep, the vet and the dog trainer both said it was totally safe for her.

Now that I think about it, I haven't had a good nights sleep since we got the dog in June. Damn dog ...

I also might come see you in Rochester next Tuesday, but I don't want to be a creepy stalker.

Take care!

KristYn in Detroit

Erika (aka "e") said...

Kristyn -

You're never going to believe this, but recently my dog's been acting REALLY strange (long story, worth its own post one day) and my vet brought up rescue remedy. It's too funny that you and your dog use it! Maybe I will have to give it a shot, then.

AND YOU BETTER COME NEXT TUES! Do you think I posted about it all over the place because I DON'T want anyone to show up? You so crazy. And for the record I've heard from a few other blog readers who made the exact same "I don't want to come off as a stalker" comment and so please rest assured that I WANT TO MEET YOU and this is the perfect opportunity! So anyway, I hope you can come. : )

- e