Monday, June 08, 2009
If you listen to old folks for a bit, one of our biggest complaints is that we no longer sleep through the night. The old bones won't stay without complaint in one position for more than two hours at the most before the pain kicks in. The legs get antsy and you begin to shuffle them all over the bed trying to find some spot that won't make the arthritic knees complain and will allow the calves to lay quiet without tingling. The arthritic shoulders get sore if you lay on your right OR your left side too long. The arthritic spine says don't lay on your back because the pressure points are are all wrong. The acid reflux says don't lay on your stomach or you'll wake coughing up bile. The bladder demands you get up and empty it at least twice a night. The allergies require two pillows but no more or the spine and neck start yelling. And most indignant of all, if you're a woman, you will have hot flashes at least twice a night so badly that you'll wake up throwing off the covers and wiping the sweat off your face, neck, and chest and swearing that somehow the temperature in the house has been set at 90 degrees and you are sweltering. Then, if you actually manage to get back to sleep, in an hour you'll wake up freezing because you've been so hot just 60 minutes ago that you threw all the covers on the floor.
If you have dogs (or cats I'm told) who like to sleep in bed with you -- and though you may promise yourself when you get that puppy that he will sleep in his own expensively acquired soft bed, you will eventually succumb to the soft pleading eyes and the little whines emanating from the floor-- you will also find that the dog(s) will sleep soundly through all your waking hours and most inconveniently also manage to sprawl right in the middle of the bed, leaving you with only a small strip at the far side of the mattress.
In May I turned 63. Thirty years ago I swore that was an age where you were definitely classified as old folks. Now I'm trying to tell myself that I'm only at the far, far end of middle age (yeah, right -- and Hubby who is 74 is still a whipper-snapper, himself). However, for the past five years I've been "old folks" when trying to get a good night's sleep. I find that each year brings me less and less satisfying nights in bed. I'm down to maybe four hours of sleep on an average night and quite often a lot less. Last night was a case in point.
I slept well from 11:15 until 1:35. Then I was up and wandering the house, reading magazines, organizing computer files, watching TV until just about 5:00 a.m.. As the early morning local news came on the TV I managed to doze, in and out of consciousness until 6:45. Because I had agreed to be at school for student scheduling, I forced myself to get up and take the morning meds, get dressed, and wander out the door by 7:45, bleary eyed and grumpy.
Of course, by 3 p.m. I was exhausted -- and here comes the real problem with not sleeping at night. I HAD to take a nap. My head was nodding, my eyes barely open, and I was worthless for any activity that required thinking -- or sitting (because now I can fall asleep sitting up I'm so tired). The conventional wisdom is that a 20 minute nap will revive you -- but I never manage to sleep just 20 minutes. It was 5 p.m. when I finally woke up, feeling groggy and mean and still very sleep deprived. And because of the nap I can guarantee that at 11:30 tonight I'll still be wide-awake, unable to fall asleep at a reasonable bedtime.
I've thought about taking some of those sleep medications advertised on TV but I know two people who actually do take them - and both of them require pills to also wake them up in the morning. And the medication itself says not to use it unless you are sure you can get eight hours of sleep at night.
So I've become sleep deprived. I honestly feel tired almost all the time -- bone weary tired. And the options to try and solve the problem -- naps, pills -- don't seem viable in my circumstances. The only thing that I think might help would be aging backward. I fondly remember that at 18 I could sleep fifteen hours with no problem at all. Sadly I doubt there's a Dorian Gray portrait in my future.