On Sleep

Ah, sleep. You elusive creature, you.

It wasn’t always this way, not that I remember. I was not a flashlight-under-the-covers reader when I was younger. My parents didn’t care if I read into the late hours of the night as long as I got up in time to walk to school (uphill! Both ways!) in the morning. I’d just wake up with a book propped up in front of me. But I had indeed, slept.

Then I became a competitive swimmer. Those were the days when I could fall asleep in the middle of a field in the middle of the day in the middle of a swim meet with people cheering, whistles blowing, and not only would I nap soundly, I wouldn’t sunburn either.

I may be making that last part up.

Even in college, I don’t remember any issues with sleeping. Drinking lots of booze (hey it was a work hard play hard kind of school, don’t look at me like that)* may have helped. They worked us to death as freshmen theatre majors too, so when you could sleep, you were down for the count.

Then came the working in Hollywood for multiple years, and waiting tables too. No problem sleeping. Wish we had counted steps then. I’d win.

Mom-dom. Well, here we go. You can get oh… five hours a night if you’re lucky when you have a baby or two. Usually four hours. Three for sure. Naps become the core reason for still drawing breath and being able to walk in a straight line. It’s all a blur, honestly. Bless those sweet babies. I loved being a mom of tots, but I think that’s when the why-can’t-I-go-to-sleep blues began.

When the hospital or the midwife hands you that baby, it’s clear they have the expectation that you’ll know what to do next. You’ll pretend that you know what to do as you take your precious bundle, but inside your head, the oh-my-gods will have started. I was an older mom who’d read every book published about babies before giving birth I could find, but that inner voice was very loud and very certain that despite doing all that research, I didn’t have a clue.

When you have a child, the very instant they hand you that precious gift, the worry begins. Or it did for me.

Worry = no sleeping. Or trouble falling asleep. Or staying that way.

And so it has remained, for the past quarter of a century, and shows no signs of abating. *sigh*

I’ve been trying different foods, food combinations, and intermittent fasting lately, hoping to discover my own Eureka!** cure for not sleeping. I’ll let you know how that goes. I will say that before I started my latest round of discovery that home-made cheese pizza is by far the best soporific for me. It’s as if when I eat pizza, my body just gives up and goes comatose. Not a long-term option, though.

I know there are pills and potions, but I don’t really like those. There are also utterly ridiculous “research” blogs about how ALL humans back in the day before industrialization got up in the middle of the night to do work, or go for visits to their neighbors.

Yeah, right. Back before industrialization, most folks were utterly exhausted from simply trying to stay warm, put food on the table daily, and not get eaten alive by bedbugs. Thank goodness we live in today’s world where (for a lot of places) central air and heat and electricity and clean running water are the available.

I’ve read up on what experts say will give us the best chance of a good sleep. How many do you practice? Make it Dark, Turn off electronics two hours before bed, Go to bed at the same time every night, Yoga/Meditation/Stretching/Warm Bath/ Essential Oils, Wear socks, weighted blanket, turn down thermostat. Change your mattress or sleep position. Read a book.

Here are my answers:

Exercise daily, check. Go to bed at the same time every night, mostly. Weighted blankets, hard no. I hate being confined. Blackout curtains, yes hallelujah we just got these, and it has helped, so check. Turn off the phone/tv/computer at least two hours before bed, eh, I could work on this one. Turn down thermostat, hell to the yes, I hate being hot. Yoga, et al.… eh. Essential oils, sometimes, but the lavender scent has associated memories I don’t care for, so at the end of the day (see what I did there) it’s a no. We have a great pillow top mattress, so that is a check. I’m a side-sleeper. The only time I wasn’t was during the third trimesters of growing babies and could only sleep on my back. It was awful. I don’t see changing this ever again. Read a book, yes, always and forever.

My suspicion is, that just like reading all those “What to Expect” books when I was preggers, the solution on the page is not going to work out *quite* like that in real life. Getting 7plus hours a night will continue to be an occasion for a soft whoohoo and a high five to the sleep gods. Let’s be glad when we get one and drink more coffee when we don’t.

How about you? Do you have any sleep secrets you can share?

*Northwestern University, I’m looking at you.

** what a great tv series.

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