Saturday, November 05, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

With apologies to the Bard (who, by the way, DID write the plays of Shakespeare), I find myself speaking that portion of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy quite a bit these days.  I am in the midst of a bout wrestling with sleep.  

Since both my husband and I are now retired, and thus can pretty much live to our own body clocks, we have discovered we have different internal clocks.  My husband has always been an early riser--and now, even though he need not rise early, he continues to do so.  He winds down in the evening--so, don't even think about beginning a discussion after--say--9 p.m.  His mind is sufficiently wound down that anything that revs up the adrenaline is counter-productive.

I, on the other hand, have discovered that I am a night owl.  Try as I might, I cannot wind down much before midnight.  Even if I get sleepy earlier in the evening, the MINUTE I get up to do the final evening chores (e.g. emptying the dishwasher) I am AWAKE.  After I get ready for bed, and settle down in bed to read--I can read, get sleepy and turn the light out.  Even so, I still almost always take at least a half an hour to fall asleep.

But several times, of late, that half hour has turned into hours.  I had one night recently where I was still awake at 4 a.m.  I really can't figure it out.  Oh, occasionally, I know I have had a bit more caffeine than I should have.  But we have changed our coffee habits--partly to help me.  I now drink my diet Pepsi sans caffeine.  And in the evening, I have ONE cup of coffee--that is half caf/half decaf.  

Frankly, I chalk it up to aging.  Just as "other things" change as we grow older, no doubt our ability to sleep changes too.  

I mostly keep in good spirits--I figure, well, I can get by on 6 hours of sleep, or 5, or 4...You can see how the night goes, as my mind keeps bouncing around, careening off the walls of my skull.  

I think I'll start reading every time I can't sleep.  At the current rate, I should be able to whip through several novels a week!


Marie Ford said...

I find that reading or getting up serves me better than concentrating on trying to go back to sleep and never accomplishing it.
I've also had to drink only one cup of coffee in the am. Coffee has a half life of 12 hrs which means you still have half of whatever caffiene you drank in your system 12 hrs later. And even if you were able to tolerate it even 6 months ago and sleep, your body's ability to do so could be changing...just like as we age, our body's ability to tolerate{excrete} alchohol changes dramatically. All this from the queen of NOT being able to sleep. Good luck. Not feeling rested stinks! Love, Marie

Anvilcloud said...

Since I've gone the same way, I am sure that most of this has to do with the way you are aging. But it does sound like you can take steps to help yourself. Stop with the coffee at night. In fact, stop past mid afternoon. Also, get those chores done earlier, so you don't have to wake yourself up. Make sure you are ready for bed and comfy when you are reading etc late at night, and if you're reading something rivetting, switch to something else. Taking measures like these, for the most part, I manage to fall asleep. My main trouble is staying asleep. Drives me crazy.

Nance said...

These habits develop so easily and our anxiety as bedtime approaches seems to further entrench them. Of course, adequate exercise earlier in the day, turning the lights down gradually starting at about 9:00 pm, warm milk, camomile tea, a snack of simple carbohydrates (without chocolate content), a fixed bedtime ritual, etc., are all recommended. They say, when it comes to a good night's sleep, we must treat ourselves at this age as we would treat a toddler. And that makes sense, seeing as how I've regressed in so many other ways, too.

For me, it takes all that AND Lunesta (or Ambien CR) to do the trick. And, strangely, if I take a small nap in the early afternoon, I tend to sleep better at night; without it, I tend to be over-aroused by fatigue and can't shut my mind off. That's certainly counter to the prevailing medical wisdom.

Good luck, dear. Keep us posted.

troutbirder said...

This is very very familiar. We've finally decided to go with the flow and not bug each other about it.
Your previous post is disturing and right on the money (no pun intened). What I was in high school the Kroch (mispell intended) father was the original John Birch funder. Then it was taken for what it was a far right joke. Why should we get out of the UN "right now?" Sad how that and far worse seems acceptable to million... :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I know without a doubt that my Circadian rhythm is nocturnal. I'm often up reading until 2:00 but it matters little since I don't have to go to work. I suspect I ran a sleep debit for most of my working life and it's a treat knowing that even if I can't get to sleep at least I don't have to work the next day. I think the key to managing those wakeful nights is to get out of the bed. Sit in a comfortable recliner but don't toss and turn in your bed or it will become your enemy.

My husband is like yours. He's in bed no later than 10 and up around 5. And worse yet...he is asleep in five minutes. When he was working he was in the office by 6:30 and swears he got more work done between then and 9:00 than he did for the remainder of the day.

Ginnie said...

Now that I am recovering from the hip operation I will find myself nodding off while in a chair ... that is so annoying because it wreaks havoc with my nighttime sleep. I am often up 'til 3 or 4 a.m. even though I actually go to bed hours before that.
I am hoping that getting back to a more active life will cure that! At least I don't have to work around a mate's habits !

KGMom said...

To all--the company of so many good folk who have similarly struggled gives me solace.
And, thanks to that--and maybe just being careful--I have been sleeping better.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Nance... it took Trazadone to shut my brain off for years, but lately I've found that 11 PM is the bewitching hour for me, without benefit of sleep aids.

Of course, it could be because the darned dog wakes me so early in the morning that I'm sleep deprived.

No, 5 or 4 hours aren't enough (although Martha Stewart disagrees.) Take a nap. Oddly, the same audio books which keep me alert in the car are like having someone read me a bedtime story if I'm trying to sleep.. I slip in a CD and I am O-U-T. (By that time, my husband has long since fled to the guest room. Listening to ballgames is his sleep inducer.)

K said...

I have been a night owl all my life. As a child, I shared a large bedroom with my two sisters. We had a regular "bedtime" and they could easily fall asleep. I would try to keep them awake with stories and whatever games I could think of to play in the dark without getting out of bed.

In college my typical starting time for almost all of my papers and studying for exams was 10 PM. My mind was revving up, there were no distractions, and there was always the potential 8-10 hours ahead (if all of it was needed). I could crack open a textbook, read for hours out in the hall (so as not to disturb my roommate), sleep for an hour or two and go to class. I never fell asleep reading.

During my years in business, a few hours after the store closed I would begin many productive hours, occasionally until the sun came up.

After we sold the business I found that I no longer needed to stay up so late, but I found it difficult to turn my mind off at a "reasonable time." Over a period of about 10 years, I have managed to gradually move my sleepy time closer to midnight. I have to follow a certain pattern. If I get involved in an interesting project or suspenseful book, I can still easily stay awake for hours. If I tried putting dishes away I could likely get involved in reorganizing my cupboards. So if I walk away from areas where I could do things, and relax with a good book in a comfortable place near the bedroom, I can get drowsy after about a half hour.

I have never been a coffee drinker. Melatonin and some other suggested sleep remedies didn't phase me a bit. To deal with sleep problems like long flights, jet lag and staying in a strange place, I resort to using Ambien.