Monday, January 11, 2010

It Never Fails

Yesterday seemed to be the breakthrough day for me. I finally got all cylinders running, was feeling alert and good and a productive member of society. Went to church (hmmmm....THAT couldn't have had anything to do with it, now could it?), did some cursory grocery shopping, got the entire ground floor of the house tidied up, completed several loads of laundry, had myself dressed and made up and was tripping about the house nicely.

And then, my old nemesis struck:


I have battled this beast my entire life, at no time worse than as an infant when I nearly drove my frazzled parents crazy. They actually took me to the doctor who did every test available at the time and told them I was simply a person who did not need a lot of sleep and liked to be awake at night.

As an elementary-school-aged child I distinctly remember not needing much sleep and loving being awake all night. I would be sent to bed with instructions not to leave my room where I would read and read and read because I just wasn't tired. Eventually, my alarm clock would go off, I would put the book down, get out of bed and get ready for school. I would be fine all through the day and then go to sleep around midnight that night. That happened frequently throughout my prepubescent years.

Once puberty hit, things changed, as things are wont to do in that stage of life. I suddenly needed six hours of sleep each night. I know, six is still a rather small amount, but for me, it was monumental. My parents were worried again, wondering if I had some kind of fatal illness and was wasting away. But, no, I was just a teenager with changing needs. But even during high school, I was rarely asleep before midnight and never seemed to be tired.

My circadian rhythms seemed to be made for college life. No one pulled all-nighters like I did. Somehow I managed to avoid early classes and blissfully enjoyed staying up and sleeping late. If you needed to talk or borrow clothes or find a partner for a prank at 2:30 in the morning, I was your girl. Everyone knew I'd be up later than anyone else. Of course, they also knew not to come near me before 11:00 am.

I have always been at my sharpest mentally late at night, between the hours of 1 and 5 am, a true night owl. Which worked great during college and even when my children were babies (when I wasn't just flat-out exhausted). But now, at this stage of life, with school-aged children and the demands of their 8-3 schedules, my nature is at harsh odds with my needs.

I have a very hard time falling asleep before 2:00 am. I'm just not ready to sleep. And even if my body is tired, which it always is because, at 37, I need the standard 8 hours of sleep to feel human, my mind is always raring to go all night long. I lie there, sometimes for hours, willing myself to just fall asleep, knowing the alarm is going to shrill me out of bed at 7:15 and children must be sent to school properly fed and dressed. But my mind won't cooperate. I count sheep, I count my blessings, I pray for everyone I can think of, I read, I recite the multiplication table in my head, I constrict and relax all the muscles in my body from head to toe, nothing works. I've tried melatonin, mild sleeping pills, a small tot before bed, warm milk, warm baths, hot baths, NOTHING! The mind wants what it wants and at midnight, mine wants ACTION!

So, invariably, I spend at least 3 mornings a week in a glassy-eyed stupor. I rise at 7:15 to get Man-Cub going, having gotten around 4 hours of sleep. I go through the motions half-asleep and get him out the door. Then I begin the desperate debate of what to do next. I'm tired. Too tired to think. I really need to go back to bed for a few more hours. I'm a housewife with children in school all day, I have the luxury of being able to do that. But if I do, we all know what will happen. The day is pretty much shot. By the time I get back up and get moving it will be time to get the kids from school and the afternoon routine of homework and dinner prep will begin and it's a downhill slide from there. But I cannot function on 4 hours of sleep so if I don't go back to bed, I will sit around trying to stay awake all day and then be super crabby by dinnertime and making myself stay awake never really helps to get me to bed at a decent hour the next night.

This is exactly where I find myself this morning. I went to bed having accomplished so much and with such high hopes for today (stripping beds, tackling more laundry, finishing the grocery shopping, finding a pediatric dentist, braising a roast) and then sleep eluded me until after 3:00 am. So here I am, groggy and bleary-eyed with a task list as long as my arm and no energy to do it.

What to do? This is no way to start a day, let alone a week. What's a well-intentioned housewife to do when insomnia rules her life?

1 comment:

Leila said...

Okay, here are my thoughts:

Have you ever read "Solve your child's sleep problems" by Nathan Ferber? He helped me understand sleep cycles. I hesitate to go where sleep experts have failed you, but it sounds more like your sleep cycle is out of whack than that you have insomnia -- i.e. you ARE sleepy, just at the "wrong" time.

Ferber has a couple of methods for working your cycle around to fit the day. What he says makes sense and fits what you describe.

Caffeine? Even one speck after about 10 am keeps me awake even if my body is tired. This isn't as bad in the summer, but in the winter (when I most need a strong cup of tea), ugh.

Is it possible for you to do certain things from, say, 10 pm to midnight that you would schedule for the morning if you could? I mean, you can't vacuum, but could you dust, do laundry, plan menus, braise your roast, etc...and then just sleep after the kids go to school? Then at noon you could wake up, vacuum and do other loud things or things that require other people, and pick up your day from that point on?

It's not immoral to sleep in the morning if that is what you have to do. You're not lazy. You have certain hours, maybe you can just use them differently from others...

By the way, from other things you have written, it made me think of my own hormonal imbalances. Have you ever gone to a gyn who actually knows about hormones (as opposed to just prescribing the Pill for everything)? I found one after years of having them just sort of look at me blankly. Um, this is your specialty...

Maybe this can help:

Anyway, let's ask your Guardian Angel to help out here! XOXO! (you don't have to post this -- you could email me if you want to talk more :)