Sleep and Middle-Aged Me have an interesting and confusing intimate relationship.
It’s important to know I’m not including naps in the following analysis. Naps and Me are on solid ground. Nothing will ever get in the way of our special bond. To prove the depth of my passion and agility for napping, I have a paper plate award that declares “Nap Queen” handmade by one of my oldest daughter’s best friends whose mother happens to be one of my best friends. What is a paper plate award, you ask? Talk to a teen or tween or look it up on Pinterest. It’s a thing. And I’m proud to have a precious few of them…
Napping aside, it’s even more important to know about my background with overnight sleep. For as long as I can remember, I have adored it. It came easily to me for most of my life. In fact, I slept so soundly in my childhood and young adulthood that it was difficult for others to wake me up or for me to wake myself up. This is the primary reason I was the only nerd in detention doing my homework during high school. One too many morning tardies and my first period teacher threw the book at me. Except it was a pink slip, and it declared I was due at Afternoon Detention, along with all the thugs who were there for many reasons worse than being 5 minutes late to AP Biology.
So, at what point did my ease for sleep change? I will exclude the many years of interrupted sleep with babies, toddlers, and young children in my 30’s. Even then when I was up multiple times per night, I never had a problem drifting right back to sleep. No, my habits did not truly shift until 13 months ago when my life truly shifted.
Without going into great detail, that’s when – at age 45 – I began a chapter of enormous life metamorphosis. Separation, Divorce, Shifting Children Back and Forth, Packing Up the House We Lived in for 11 Years, Moving to the New House, Figuring Out Financial Things, Settling into the New House, Starting Freshman Year for the Older Half of The Precious Pair…and here we are in September on the brink of Fall 2019 – and it’s my favorite season. I don’t remember much about Fall 2018, so I’m really looking forward to it this year. Maybe with the crisper air and the calming sounds/smells/sensations that come with October, I will experience better sleep…
But currently and typically, my overnight pattern looks like this: I snooze soundly for the first 3 to 4 hours each night. The waking and staying up usually happens between the hours of 1 am and 5 am, but in varying blocks from 5 minutes at a time on the low end to a max of 3 hours at a time. Most nights, I simply lie in bed, shifting around, thinking. On some nights, I fall prey to grabbing my phone. Always a bad idea and never conducive to falling back to sleep. On other nights, I get up and do something. I might write a blog. Or clean a room. Anything that feels productive.
Recently, I’ve started thinking about why this keeps happening. After all, I am on the other side of all those transitions I mentioned. So, why can’t I sleep normally again? Here are five reasons I have identified:
Yes, (Some) Fear & Worrying.
This is where the pattern started, for sure, 13 months ago — with great concerns for my livelihood. And for my children. And, yes, even for my ex. For the latter half of last year and the first quarter of this year, I lived in a state of fear and worry, day and night. I’ve come a long way since then. At times, new and different concerns come creeping in, but they do not consume me anymore. Yet they can still rob me of some sleep. I highly recommend a worrying stone by your bedside. I recently received one as a gift, and I’ve since gifted the same to my daughters.
Too Many Ideas.
I am a creative type. Thus this blog. I also work by day in a role within Marketing/Communications/Advertising. I am a powder keg of ideation most days, all. damn. day. I curse here because this is somewhat of a curse for me. It’s tough to calm my brain. It runs constantly like a garden spigot you can’t seem to switch off. (Yes, the running water is not only an analogy, but a real-life challenge right now. I need to call somebody about this.)
Too Much Caffeine.
A dear friend of mine recently staged a semi-intervention with me about my coffee intake as part of a detox plan she’s recommending. I explained to her I cannot possibly give up caffeine altogether. But I have agreed to go from a Venti to a Grande daily, cutting out a whopping 4 ounces of coffee; usually Starbucks. (Have you heard about the largest Starbucks in the world opening in Chicago in November? It’s as if the Mother Ship is calling me there! I MUST go.)
Maybe My Needs Have Truly Changed.
My nightly norm seems to fall in the range of 5 to 6 hours of sleep. If I get any more than that, I feel completely exhausted, all day long. This leads me to believe that my need for sleep has decreased in its duration. Less is more, they say. Maybe this now applies to sleep for me.
Yes, (Plenty of) Overwhelming Joy!
I read a quote recently that said maybe we can’t always sleep at night because our current reality exceeds even our best dreams. And this is the reason I like to think about the most. Making it through all the dramatic changes of this past year has led me to a new place and new people and new emotions. I’ve also experienced renewed relationships and communications with beloved friends and family members. So there are nights when my mind is racing with happy thoughts, and it can be tough to quiet those, too.
But I am on a mission for better sleep by changing some habits, such as having an earlier bedtime, taking small doses of melatonin, limiting my phone time at night, and reading more from actual books with hard covers and paper pages. Print is not dead! Especially to us writers. Most of us want to hold a real book in our hands. Don’t you? (I ask this while you are reading a blog on an electronic device!)
One thing is for sure…even though it’s unpredictable, I still love my sleep. I crave it. I enjoy it. In fact, I treasure it. And I appreciate it more now than ever before. One of my favorite quotes is an Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” If something is bothering one of the Precious Pair, I simply prescribe her a night of sleep. All problems seem smaller in the morning light.
And the laughter part? Well, no matter how tired I get, I laugh a lot every day, and I love to make others laugh. Nothing feels better. Except maybe a good nap.
Don’t let the bedbugs bite,