Saturday, August 24, 2013

Forty Winks, Er, 20 and 20.

“You end up exhausted and spent, but later, in retrospect, you realize what it all was for. The parts fall into place, and you can see the whole picture and finally understand the role each individual part plays. The dawn comes, the sky grows light, and the colors and shapes of the roofs of houses, which you could only glimpse vaguely before, come into focus.”


Somehow or another, it became part of the modern world that humans are supposed to lay their weary heads down to rest anywhere from 10-midnight and wake up at 6-8 in the morning. "Catch your 40 winks," "get your 8 hours." We're supposed to practice "Good sleep hygiene," and keep our bedrooms TV-free, cozy and comfortable, dark or dimly lit, and our beds reserved for sleep or sex only (or reading, if that's how you fall asleep, if if you're like me and you listen to ambient or relaxing music).  I dunno--my dad's parents slept in separate bedrooms, my mom's parents in separate beds but in the same room. Apparently, none of them could stand cover-hogging, snoring, flailing limbs, beats me.

We're not farmers. We don't need to be asleep by 8pm to milk the cows at 4:30 am and do chores all day in the fields. I'm still on sabbatical, Chickie Babies. Besides, when would I talk to all of my British friends, like Rob?

An article at, ( however, would argue that such a line of thinking is more antiquated than how antiquated were the sleeping habits of our ancestors, pre-1800's. I thought about this while I was wide awake again at 3:00 am during the night, even though I'd taken Ambien at 9:30 to be asleep by 10:30pm. I was raring to go for the day, as I tiptoed quietly in my socks around the house, because I do literally get in trouble with my mother if I'm up during the night, even if it's just to go to the bathroom, because often times, I'll sneak out for a cigarette before I return to bed. Back before the 1800's, the article emphasizes, individuals would sleep in spurts--for a few hours at night, awaken & do things, then sleep another several hours, etc. 

She's afraid I'll fall outside which, yes, I've done a number of times being Ambiensiac/Valiuminated to a staggering extent. I tend to get belligerent and hostile towards my family who criticize my slurred words, refusal to comply, though for my own good, but they won't give me the opportunity to (as a grown woman) put myself to bed, and everyone's concerned I'll crack my head open and bleed to death on the pavement until morning. Here's the latest half asleep bruise, and it's nasty:

What's made worse is that my mother's anxiety over MY sleep schedule, she says, keeps HER up all night worrying about me. For this reason, she's angry with me because she can't sleep. I think in psychology, we'd called that "displaced anxiety" or "displaced fear." I likened this example: I worry when Luke goes out riding his bike with his friends, for it causes me anxiety. 1,000 bad things could happen to Luke out alone, but he's 13 and I trust him. My anxiety is my own responsibility. I'm not MAD at Luke for "making me nervous" by riding his bike. You follow? He doesn't come home and get a chewing out for me being nervous because he was out. It's virtually the same principle.

I shared the SlumberWise article on Facebook and was surprised at the number of responses I received from friends who have staggered sleep schedules the same as I do, who responded in the middle of the night. I'll often times get up at 3 or 4 in the morning, be somewhat productive, then go back to bed at 7 or 8 in the morning until 11 or noon. If it's a school day and I'm forced to stay awake all day, yes, it's difficult during those morning classes because they're right around the time I'd go back to bed. 

I had said on Facebook regarding the article:

"Too many laypeople and medical professionals are hell-bent on humans maintaining a strict diurnal schedule and if, let's say, I get up at 5am and am productive (somewhat) while tip-toeing around, but go back to bed between 7:30-9am until 11 (when I'm not on a strict school schedule), I'm looked upon as "lazy" or "all messed up." It's gravely irritating. Even when I *do* sleep a "full night," sometimes I need a nap in the afternoon. GASP!"

Back before the 1800's, the article emphasizes, individuals would sleep in spurts--for a few hours at night, awaken & do things, then sleep another several hours, etc. Staggered sleeping was the rule rather than the exception centuries ago. What would people do during these waking hours? Often times, they'd pray. There'd be a set of prayers to be said during those times of the day. Or they'd read, cook or have sex (we had to procreate somehow). Some would even visit with other awakened neighbors. 

My mom often laments when she arises as late as 9:30am, as if the day is thus a wash. I disagree. We sleep when our bodies require sleep & we're awake when it's required. If I nap late in the afternoon, it's frowned upon & while insomnia drives me batty, I'm learning to rely more on my body's cues. If that requires medicinal augmentation at night, so be it. If I'm a "drug addict," so are about 5,000,000 other Americans. I have a pathological fear of insomnia, tachycardia, as well as being bipolar (partly a circadian rhythm disorder, and anxiety disorder) so I'm pretty reliant on my medication in order to fall asleep at a certain time of night, especially when I'm having racing thoughts. (BTW, if you've never had true racing thoughts, you wussies, they'd scare you half to death. Meh, I'm used to them.) But the more I think about it, if I let my body naturally rest and fall asleep on its own, I might not need medication. Just silly. Conversely, I might never sleep again. Not an experiment I'm up for right now. 

My friend, Deena, has valium handy in an emergency of insomnia, her boyfriend a fan of Ambien, but neither take them unless absolutely necessary. Deena on the West Coast (PST) will get up in the middle of the night and suggested wisely that we go with what our bodies want. She says that she conforms to a non-uniform diurnal schedule that works for her, though it's hard to get the child up for school on a Monday. Deena and I found commonality in the peace and harmony of watching both the sun set and the sun rise, and the peace and tranquility present in both states. And I like saying hello to the paper delivery man at 5am. My friend, Joel, found similar happiness in the din of quiet offered by the middle of the night, even if it meant he would be tired during the next day (right now he's on vacation).  

Joel, also on the west coast, said, " I have heard this before and it rang true for me. I often wake up in the middle of the night and prowl around. The place where it compares that time to being "meditative" is spot on. Problem, of course, that I pay for it the next day."

Old school chum Katie had this to add, regarding her diurnal patterns: "I've caught holy hell from my mother if I slept in...ever. Especially in my teens! When did she stop? When I was living with her after my divorce, got in her face and screamed at her to "fucking grow up, realize that *I've* grown up, get over it, that she was jealous that I could sleep in and she couldn't, and drop the whole fucking thing." That about did it. On a lighter note, I read a interesting book where certain characters slept eight hours a day - four from midnight to four am and from noon to four pm. I thought that concept was kinda cool."


It's only been in the past year or two that my teenager has become excellent at setting his alarm early, waking up, showering, dressing and eating in time for school. Years ago, it took a crane to get him out of bed. 

Modern science backs up the findings of the centuries past in studies which can be further perused by reading the above referenced article. The bottom line is not to beat yourself up if you're tossing and turning at 2 or 3 in the morning. Get up. Do stuff. When you're sleepy again, go back to sleep. Even if you have a 9-5 gig, you'll probably ultimately feel better having slept in dribs/drabs as opposed to lying around frustrated for 6 hours. To me, that's not restful.

I found it highly ironic that when Pandora started up again after I woke up at 11:15 this morning, this was the first song that queued:


Kate said...

Hey Princess,
What about that nasty little chemical our brains secrete called melatonin? Don't some people think it relates our sleep by responding to sunlight? I guess we can all pull an Elvis and have an all black room.

Andrea Miklasz said...

I had been taking melatonin supplemements, but they never did much for me.