“Sleep is the overlooked hero and the poor man’s physician. Shakespeare said it’s the thread that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, Napoleon called it the blessed end of night, and Winston Churchill – one of the great insomniacs of the twentieth century – said it was the only relief he ever got from his deep depressions.” – Stephen King, Insomnia
I have been plagued with periodic bouts of insomnia since about the time I turned 40, and the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better. If anything, it’s getting worse the older I get.
It’s really disconcerting, because when I was young I slept like a rock – boom! Out like a light and I generally stayed that way until someone or something dragged me out of bed the next morning. But now? Well, most nights I don’t have too much trouble falling asleep and will wake up briefly two or three times. Once in a great while I’ll have a night of genuinely deep, uninterrupted sleep but those nights seem to becoming fewer and fewer, just as the periods of insomnia seem to be increasing.
I’ll go weeks, sometimes even months, with what has become my normal pattern of sleep, then I’ll go through a period where I can fall asleep with little or no problem, but once I’ve wakened – for a drink of water, to go to the restroom or, gawd help us, with a lovely hot flash – I can’t just go back to sleep the way I normally do. Sometimes it’s just an isolated incident, but more often than not it heralds the onslaught of 3, 4 or even 5 sleepless nights spent on the sofa dozing through a movie.
Last night, it was the good old antacid coupled with a mild anxiety attack (another little menopausal gift that just keeps on giving) at 3:20 in the morning. Off to the sofa I went, with my pillow and the afghan, so I wouldn’t keep Beloved up with my tossing and turning. This morning, as we got ready for work, he said, “Next time you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, try to match your breathing to mine.”
I’m not real bright at 7 a.m. after a largely sleepless night. “Huh?”
“You were breathing so rapidly when you got up last night,” he said. “You were almost panting.”
“Yeah, well, an anxiety attack will do that to you,” I replied.
“Well, try matching your breathing to mine next time,” he suggested again. “It might help you calm down enough to get back to sleep.”
Again, I’m not at my mental best under those circumstances so it didn’t occur to me to tell him that part of the anxiety attack was caused by me remembering (and I don’t know why) the truly creepy ending of Paranormal Activity coupled with the thought of the huge pile of paperwork sitting on my desk at the office, so I said, “Gee, dear, I don’t think it’s going to help me get back to sleep by going ‘SNOOOOOORKGURGLESNOZZZZZ’ at volumes that could wake the dead. But thanks for the suggestion.”
He was not amused, although it made for a good story while gathered around the coffee pot at the office this morning.
So, do you suffer from trouble sleeping? And what do you do for it?