Friday, March 8, 2013

"Stalking Sleep"

"It has been some time since I have gone to bed and slept long and well...
I have found myself repeatedly stalking sleep--
and catching it only in snatches."
Faith Baldwin

I have tried to accept what I have been unable to change. I bless the rare nights when I fall asleep before midnight and try not to let it upset me when I cannot. Usually I get up rather than lying there until I can't stand the touch of the mattress on my bones any longer. I iron or something quiet so I don't wake my husband and disturb the sleep that he stalks as well. Or I get up and write, not on my computer but with a pencil and yellow legal pad.

The middle of the night can be conducive to an easy stream-of-consciousness writing. Have you ever noticed that? I like these elegant lines by Robert Shallor Holmes. I jotted them down so many years ago that I have forgotten whether the "Author" he refers to means God, which can also make perfect sense here, or as I am taking it to mean an actual "author", a writer, perhaps even a blogger. Regardless, I like to think that his "velvet of the night" will entice forth my own middle of the night talent:

The Author's Rendezvous
    When the silences are sealed
 By the velvet of the night...

Robert Shallor Holmes

(Not that much of what I've written in the "velvet of the night" is ever any good when read by light of day, more's the pity!)

I'm not talking about missing a little sleep now and then or a night here and there tossing and turning. Or of the odd early morning when a bathroom trip means the end of that night's sleep. I'm talking about chronic insomnia and I've tried all the magazine tips to no avail. 

My room is dark, quiet, and cool. There is no television or computer in my bedroom and no desk work piled up in a corner. There are no longer any pets in my bed to wake me up needing to go outside and potty now that my sweet Penelope is no longer with us. I've tried setting my alarm for seven every morning, getting up and staying up for five days in a row. Going outside in the sunlight in the morning to reset my melatonin. Buying a new mattress and new pillows. Not having caffeine after breakfast. Not eating chocolate. Eating a snack at bedtime. Not eating anything near bedtime. Going to bed tired physically. Going to bed rested. Afternoon nap. No nap. Nothing works. 

I find that the best sleep I get is from about 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sleeping to 9 a.m. makes me feel that I've been reborn--but then it is more difficult to get to sleep that night. I've always loved the mornings, always been a cheerful morning person. I miss that so much and I miss not accomplishing all that I used to be able to in the morning. Sometimes I think I should accept going to sleep around 1 or 1:30 a.m. as the new norm and sleep until 9. Is there an age a person has to reach before they can do this without feeling slothful?

Oh, this all seems so embarrassing, so unseemly. It goes against what I believe in, that admonition of Schopenhauer: "Do not shorten the morning by getting up late; look upon it as the quintessence of life." I believe that. That principle was drilled into my sisters and me by our father, by example if nothing else. Our mother's principle was more on the lines of this cute paraphrase by Dee Hardie: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes your house neater than otherwise!"

My whole upbringing makes the following three words sound to me as irritating as chalk squeaking on an old-fashioned blackboard:

I have insomnia.

Should I just accept stalking sleep? Is there any help? Any non-pharmaceutical help?

"Insomnia does not consist in waking up for a few minutes in the middle of the night,
reading a chapter of a book and then dozing off again.
It means getting out of bed in desperation, at one or two in the morning,
dressing and coming downstairs, and wandering about an empty house
till dawn finds you with aching eyes and a splitting head.
After a week or so of this you neither feel nor look very pretty."

Beverley Nichols in All I Could Never Be


  1. And now Daylight Saving Time comes along to complicate things...

  2. I could have written this post! I refuse to take a prescription sleep aid but occasionally when I really need to get solid sleep, I do take melatonin. I don't rely on it all the time, though. I also notice that my calcium-magnesium supplement makes me drowsy so now I take it later in the evening, half hour before bed! And for those occasional nights where things are pressing on my mind, or whatever, I just go with the flow and am thankful I am retired and can sleep in. xo

  3. Wow, a cannot relate to that at all. Every night at ten I get so sleepy that I can't count on staying awake to finish a tv program. Only on rare nights when I have caffeine do I have a sleepless night. I do get up early. I hope sometime find a solution.

  4. I'm so sorry, Dewena. I wish I could give you some tips, but it seems as if you've tried everything I might mention. Don went through several months of insomnia recently and I know that it took a huge toll on him. There's the challenge of trying to change things so that you can sleep but trying not to think about it too much so that fear doesn't edge its way in. Sleep is so important to us and when things are off and we aren't getting the sleep we need, it colors everything.

    My thoughts are with you and I pray that sleep comes again to you without worry or stress.


  5. Wow, Dewena, you have my greatest sympathy. The occasional nights when I have a little trouble falling asleep are nothing like that. I too love the early morning but, alas, I've never been a morning person, in spite of my dairy farm upbringing. In our retirement, Rita and I have fallen into a 11pm to midnight bedtime, radio on at 7, listen to talk radio (or snooze) until Mike Huckaby at 7:30, then usually get up. We have learned to do that with no guilt!
    Maybe a sleep doctor can help? Listen to 99.7 radio on Sunday mornings for the Sleep Doctor show. They are good; same docs I went to for my apnea and CPAP.

  6. faith Baldwin is one of my favorite writers. she was good friends with another of my favorites . . . gladys taber. i have a feeling there is great similarity in our bookcases!
    i retired at 60 because of uncontrolled hypertension. i had been raised like you to think that rising later than early morning was downright slovenly! my little new england grandmother had rigid rules for living. but i have always been by nature a morning person. the freshness of it. like a blank page.

    funny though how ingrained all those rules become. when i retired i felt totally guilty the first time i didn't rise before the sun. it has taken me 6 years of retirement now to live just the way I want to. i have finally given myself permission.

    and you know . . . life is happier. less stressful on a subliminal level.
    i love the ancient wisdom from the tao ~ 'never doing. yet everything gets done.' the little monk follows nature. he is simply happy to be.

    i would say as long as you are getting those four solid hours ~ be like the little monk. follow this nature for as long as it wants to be. only if you are retired and don't have to worry about being at an office! it doesn't work so well in that case. lol.

    i am living more and more like that little monk. he has taught me much.
    how to simply live. in spite of my old inner rules. i am happy.
    you will be too. xo

  7. I hear you- I have gone through periods of that in my life also...especially the last few weeks when my life has spiraled out of control with deaths and courts, etc. If I get 5 hours I feel that I have done well...6 hours is a full blessing and if I get more than that I feel groggy and miserable. I think age plays a big factor in it, don't you? Blessings to you- xo Diana

  8. I go through periods of insomnia, perhaps lasting several weeks and then a few weeks of sleeping 5 or 6 hours every night. I try not to toss and turn but to get up and do something useful: like you, Dewena, I might get the ironing done or catch up on emails or reading. I wish I could be like you and write on sleepless nights but I'm best at that on bright mornings after a good sleep.

    I heard a doctor speaking about insomnia on the radio recently. He said there was no single approach to suit everyone but that we should treasure sleep, not squander it by dozing in front of the television or taking afternoon naps. He also said we shouldn't read in bed but that's a step too far for me!

  9. Dewena,
    Dear one, I am so~o~o sorry to hear of your lack of sleep!!!
    Have you consulted with your primary care physician? Also,
    a Sleep Study may be in order. Not to cause panic, but sleep
    deprivation is a leading cause of heart attacks!
    Please persue medical avenues for assistance!!!
    I came by to thank you for your sweet comment and visit!
    The book in question is a one of prose and poetry!
    Sorry, don't remember much about black & white...
    in our household...we were limited to one television program per evening!!!
    Do go and see about your inability to get 8 hours sleep per night!!!

  10. I've never known anyone with serious insomnia. I know when a bought of depression robs me of my sleep my world is not right. Hoping the answers come soon.

  11. Dewena, oh I hear you loud and clear! I have suffered from insomnia for ever!..there are periods worse than others the best sleep for me is 5 till 8 also! It's getting better with this new pillow,but oh boy! Sleepy time tea is good for more of a knockout try lunesta prescribed but not addictive makes you get into a schedule ...hugs sweet friend.

  12. For me, it doesn't seem to matter what time I go to bed, I wake up after 5 hours. My husband and I are retired (since 2006) and we both went to work VERY early and we still go to bed early and get up early (like 4 AM). We both enjoy that time of day (the quiet, etc.), but I'm finding the 5 hour thing is making me get up at 2 or 3 AM - HATE that! Sometimes I try to read, but generally that doesn't work after 5 hours of sleep so I just get up, stay up for a couple of hours, then go back to bed. Not an ideal solution, but I guess it's better than having a glass of wine at 2 AM :) PS: it's 3:15 AM right now and I've been up for an hour - jeez...

  13. Not being able to sleep when you're tired and would like that restfulness is terrible. I've had those nights when I lay awake for hours hoping to doze off. I usually get up for a half hour and do something, then go back to bed and fall asleep. But I realize this is nothing like perpetual insomnia. When you find a solution, please share because I'm sure there are so many in your shoes.
    Mary Alice

  14. Bless your heart! I've experienced this from time to time, and yes, it is awful. Hang in there. Perhaps the time change will help.

  15. I've had a few periods in my life when I wrestled with insomnia, and I'm so sorry to hear that it is ongoing for you. In my experience, I would eventually take a sleep aid for about a week and it would 'kick' my system back in place, so that I could sleep again. Those who mentioned a sleep study might be on to something.

    I've never been a morning person, and envy those who are! My best job ever was before-kids and I started work at 9 a.m. everyday. That extra hour of sleeping in made all the difference.

  16. I suffered from chronic insomnia from the time I was a child, and it's been passed down to one of my sons and youngest daughter. Apparently, our brains don't make enough melatonin. It's not as severe as it used to be, but I still have bouts. My son and daughter still suffer. Our doctor prescribed melatonin tablets for them, and they work sometimes. When desperate, I resort to a swig of Nyquil (my bad). Sorry, I know this is "pharmaceutical." In the end, prayer seems to work best; at least it keeps me from being anxious.

  17. Sheesh I have no clue, Dewena :( Maybe a little wine after or with dinner, or ask the doctor if there is a mild sleeping aid that you could try for a wee bit ?

  18. Have you tried melatonin? I have a friend who swears by it. I have another friend who's a veterinarian and she takes Benadryl every night so she can sleep.

    Send me a link to your kitchen! I want to see it!!! :D

  19. I am so sorry to hear about your insomnia. I have had bouts of insomnia. I seem to need only need 5 to 7 hours sleep. I am a morning person. It doesn't matter what time I go to sleep, I am awake at around 5am.

    I don't have an answer for you, other than a visit to the doctor to see if there may be some non pharmaceutical answer. I don't like to take any sort of prescription sleep aid, preferring natural solutions if possible.

    My friend JoAnn goes to bed around 1 or so and sleeps until about 9 AM and does quite well. I do my best "work" between 5 and 9 AM. I don't know why.

    Sleepytime tea might give you some help...the name sounds like it would, anyway.

  20. Dewena, I also have always loved the early morning hours when I'm the only one in the household awake. However, it seems the older I get the less likely that is to happen. I've blamed it on the computer for awhile now, but I suspect it's something about age and the big M. I haven't accepted it yet, and I realize that when I'm trying too hard to go to sleep and get angry because I can't, I am keeping myself awake even longer. I had to laugh about writing at night. There have been times when I've gone back to bed thinking I had just written a little masterpiece, but when I read it the next day, it gets thrown into the garbage! I love the way you write. I hope you get some really good sleep soon. laurie

  21. It would be helpful for you if you can trace back the time when you first had difficulty in sleeping. What triggered it and what triggers it now? Since you’re convinced that you’ve tried every tip and method you can find to help you have a good night sleep, but nothing seems to have worked, maybe it’s time to look at the other factors. Say, your bed. Is it comfy enough? You might want to check on that. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious conditions, so I really hope you get to find the solution to your insomnia soon.

    Michael Green

  22. Just be sure you get a full night's sleep, even if you wake up at 9 am. Your body needs restorative sleep! Sorry you are going through this. Wish I knew the answer as I go through this every night. (Do enjoy a fan blowing on me... makes me feel like I am sleeping by the ocean.) Have a great day and a good night's sleep!

  23. Deweena, thank you for the encouraging comment you left on my blog--just when you think you have written something so boring it could not possibly be of interest to anyone but yourself, it reaches out and touches someone.

    I am not tortured by insomnia as some I know are, it is just there sometimes, standing between me and my acceptable plans, a present part of this stage of life. I don't treat it like a hurdle, I treat it like a child: I discipline it so that it doesn't grow wild, and then embrace it for its unlikely gifts. There isn't an age a person must reach before she can sleep until 9am without feeling slothful, but there is a perspective. How one arrives at that perspective is so varied and wide and individual it would be impossible to include in so limited a space.

    All that being said, It is always a comfort to know that I am not alone.

  24. I have lots of sleepless nights but I get some good restful sleep too! I am a big fan of Sleepy Time Tea. Aside from the fact that it is made in Boulder, Colorado just a few miles from my home in the metro area ! Sometime I think it is psychological !

    Do you have any ENT issues? I work for an ENT doctor and sometime different throat or nasal problems interfere with sleep. Sometime there is sleep apnea. Lots of things that get interfere with our rest.

    I wish you a good restful night of sleep with sweet dreams!


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