Gill has recently been complaining about her sleep patterns…as in, she has none. Well, stand in line! You come by it naturally. Other families keep track of their family trees; we keep track of our reasons for not sleeping. My father suffered from insomnia, I do, and so do Gill’s siblings.
Gill has been waking up early — around 4 or 5 a.m., unable to get back to sleep again. Well, I can tell you, she’s going to find it difficult when she comes here for her vacation this summer. I don’t think we’ll be able to accommodate her insomnia on our schedule. We each have our own time for mid-night wanderings and it’s not to be tinkered with. This house is a very busy place in the middle of the night. But, perhaps if we try very hard, we can find a slot for her.
The only saving grace is that L’il Sis hasn’t been doing her sleepwalking lately. You really can’t pencil that in on the calendar. She sleepwalked occasionally when living by herself and it was worrying. She could have walked right out onto the street and not known. Here at least she’d fall and break her leg on all the stuff piled in the rooms, halls, garage, before she made it to the street. Or some creature(animal or human) would bite her, alerting her to her plight.
I am usually the first to retire for the evening –around 10 if nobody has found a new Netflix series for me to binge watch. I lie in bed for an hour, tossing and turning, trying to sleep. I feel tired when I’m up, but the minute my head hits the pillow, I’m wide awake. I’m planning my chores for tomorrow, the next article I’m writing, the outfit I’ll wear to an event. (Wait a minute…isn’t that what women are accused of doing during sex?)
I tell you, my mind isn’t nearly that focused or productive during the day. (In fact, I’ve taken to keeping pad and paper on the night table to jot down my brilliant ideas lest I forget them before morning. Despite telling myself I will remember the idea, I always forget without a note…not that it’s possible to decipher the writing.Illegible chicken scratchings done without the benefit of glasses are a puzzlement.)
If things go well, I fall asleep by 11. If not, I’m up at 12 for a pill: a cheater such as Gravol, not a real sleeping pill. I save the real thing for vacations when I’m in a strange bed and can use ‘different surroundings’ as an excuse for my inability to sleep. I catch a good three hours before I wake again. I often hear L’il Sis getting up to let The Pig out…to pee, poop, vomit. After witnessing that, she is up for at least an hour, shuffling to the kitchen for water or whatever. She has to watch that she doesn’t collide with Crazy D who is either just coming home, is up early for a job, can’t sleep and needs tea, or has to use the bathroom. I’m thinking of installing traffic signals in the upstairs hallway.
By 5, someone is up permanently. Yesterday I went down to the kitchen to get an ice pack for my sore neck. It wasn’t yet light but the light was on. Crazy D sat at the table,squinting at his iPhone and shoveling gruel into his mouth. It looked like (and, judging by his expression, tasted like) glue. He looked up, revealing barely open eyes and black bags beneath them.
“Good morning,” I said cheerfully. I can manage cheerful anytime in the early hours of the morning. The voice is engaged; the mind, not necessarily so.
“Rrumphh…” came the response.
“Rough night?” I asked.
“Couldn’t sleep…and that bloody robin started singing at 4:03. Figured I might as well get up…grr…”
We were joined soon after by L’il Sis, limping into the room. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked.
“Pressure change in the weather today. My arthritis is bad. Neck hurts. Back has stabbing pain. Hips ache. I’m cranky…don’t speak to me. Must have coffee…” and she headed to the coffee maker.
So if Gill is willing to take the 4 a.m. slot, I’m sure there is a small open window of opportunity.
Although I feel badly that they have inherited the family curse, part of me sees my offsprings’ insomnia as payback.
My battle began about the time Gill was born and worsened when there were three.
It’s not their fault, of course, it’s just that all the books about parenthood tend to gloss over the lack of sleep part. Oh sure, they make comments like ‘your precious little one will wake up during the night. The first few months will be tiring. Rest during the day when baby is sleeping.’
Really, people? Tiring isn’t quite the word I’d use…exhausting, or bone-numbing fatigue, yes. Your mind so foggy you are incapable of thought or speech,a blithering idiot. And once you’re into the routine of not sleeping, why stop? You will always be listening for them to wake up, needing something, or you’ll be waiting to hear them return home in the wee hours (hopefully with your car in one piece). Or when they move out, you’ll be half listening for that emergency phone call in the middle of the night asking for help, ransom money, or solace. You will never sleep soundly again.
And just when the childhood bit ends, you hit menopause. And then you really don’t sleep…’cause how can you when you’re flaming hot, soaking wet and lying in an inch of water from the night sweats,your hormones completely out of whack, your mind whirring a mile a minute?
You go to the doctor for relief…and he gives you hormones. Wonderful relief…until a new study comes out saying that hormones are bad for you if you use them longterm. I figure if I haven’t slept longterm, I can use hormones longterm too. But the doc snatches them away — for your own good, of course. And you’re back to sweating and not sleeping.
When you become a senior, you don’t sleep for many different reasons. The books say you need less sleep. I beg to differ…where’s the logic in that? You have to make up for the 40 years of not sleeping! Your bed mate snores. You still have occasional hot sweats although the medical experts claim that’s not possible. I’ll give you not possible!! Your mind is still whirring, thinking of all the things you have to do for your volunteer group, your grown kids, your house (the one you love but is becoming a pain in the arse, your community). You find yourself becoming, instead of ‘The Lady Who Lunches’, ‘The Lady Who Naps’.
Napping in the afternoon works so much better than at night. There is nobody around to disturb you — except, in my case, the snoring coming from The Pig who is ensconced on the settee in my room. She sounds like a freight train. But I’m so tired from not sleeping the previous night I hardly notice. I do find that generally speaking, the quality of the afternoon sleep is much better than the nighttime sleep. Good thing, too, since I have to prepare for the next evening’s activities and hallway traffic jam.
But we are making headway on our list of reasons for insomnia: stress, too much wine, arthritis aches and pains, hormones, overactive brain, noise, the 4 a.m. robin, The Pig and her ‘habits de toilette’, curtains that aren’t dark enough, bed that’s too soft, bed that’s too hard, too lumpy, too short (these in deference to the Princess and The Pea), another creature in the bed who snores, crinkly mattress cover, bad smells (this for Crazy D when he forgets to remove his sweaty biking clothes from the floor of his closet) and hay fever.
So, Gill, I’m warning you: we are anxious to see you but don’t expect much sleep here at Insomniacs R Us.