What is it with sleep? It’s the only thing that gets harder to do the harder you try to do it.
I don’t always sleep terribly well. Maybe it’s to be expected, what with the husband moving out an’ all.
Some nights, I just don’t sleep at all. Last night was one of those nights.
Sometimes it’s obvious why not – I’ve got worries that just won’t go away, my head is literally buzzing and the brain won’t stop thinking even for a moment. I count – in French, or backwards from 100, or anything else I can think of. I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, trying to keep my eyes open (my Dad’s preferred method of getting to sleep). Nothing works. The problems pile in, pile on top of each other. Sometimes they’re not even problems, using any sensible definition of the word – I was worried one night because my son (*waves*) isn’t 17 any more – ffs, he’s 28!!!
But sometimes it isn’t obvious at all – some nights I just don’t sleep. I should be tired (full day at work, session at the gym, dropping off on the sofa), but I’m not. I go to bed, and there’s just no sleep there. I’m simply wide awake. Not particularly worried about anything (no more than on nights when I’ve slept). Just not asleep. These are the most frustrating. I read a bit, I put the TV on (but it has to be the right sort of programme – nothing too funny, or scary, or controversial; nothing too interesting, and no sudden loud noises!), I go to the loo, I even go and make a cup of tea. And eventually I’ll drop off, around 3am.
Then again, I don’t seem to actually need very much sleep.
For at least the last 20 years I’ve been waking up between 5am and 5:30. Except when I don’t get to sleep until 3 – then I’ll be awake by 8. It used to bother me – we’re told so often that we need 8 hours sleep a night, and I only ever get about 6. I should be sleeping longer!! But if I went to bed earlier, in order to sleep for longer, I would wake up even earlier, which is worse!! Go to bed at 11, wake up at 5. Go to bed at 10 – wake up at 4!!
And then there’s the menopause. I had a reasonably short-lived menopause (do we need a menopause blog?? I think perhaps we do…), but now and again I still get a hot flush. And the most frustrating ones would be that ones that happen just as you’re settling down – you’ve read your book, you’ve put the light out, you’ve snuggled down, you’re just dropping off, then bang, your entire body is hot and you start to sweat. You’ve been laid down for, what, 5 minutes max? What the hell is that all about? So that doesn’t really help the general ‘I don’t sleep terribly well’ scenario.
Then one day I read an article about sleep in a magazine. And it said that, what mattered more than the number of hours of sleep was how you felt when you woke up. Did you feel refreshed? If so, then you were getting as much sleep as you needed, and some people just don’t need that much sleep. And that was a revelation to me – I do feel refreshed when I wake up at 5 in the morning. So I started to see it as a positive thing – I can get up and get on with stuff, I’m not in thrall to the alarm clock, I get to see the sun rise. I write most of these blogs at that time in the morning. On the down side, I’m ready for a mid-morning coffee by 8…
I love being jet-lagged! I love that feeling of needing, wanting to sleep. And such a deep sleep. I never sleep that deeply unless I’m jet-lagged. A few years ago we were in China – my husband was working, I was just along for the ride. We’d had breakfast together, then back in the room I lay on the bed while he was sorting out what he needed for the day… Apparently I didn’t hear him say Bye, and as he left he popped the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the hotel room door. I didn’t wake up until lunchtime, after such a deep and wonderful sleep that I still remember it 8 years later!
And another thing, sleep related – I don’t dream. And I can hear a chorus of people out there in blogland shouting ‘Of course you dream, everyone dreams, you just don’t remember them’. Which may or may not be true. The fact remains that for me dreams aren’t a ‘thing’. Not entirely true – very occasionally I’ll have a dream – but I can go months, even years without. Is that related to not needing much sleep? I don’t know. I remember getting very excited about having had a dream one morning, and my husband (who dreams in Technicolour, with surround sound, opening credits and a back-story) asked me about my dream. ‘There was a rabbit,’ I said.
So, here I am, surviving perfectly well on a maximum of 6 hours a night. I think you might be expecting me to say that I’ve been struggling to sleep since my husband left – but it’s been the opposite. I’m, mostly, sleeping better. I used to lie awake worrying about him. To begin with, I still worried about him – it’s not something you can just turn off like a tap. But of his own volition, he’d made himself ‘not my problem’, and bit by bit I realised that I didn’t have to any more. I still have lots of problems of course, but they’re different ones – and some are quite big ones. But they’re my problems, and it’s up to me how I solve them. I have control over my own destiny.
And that’s how I sleep at night. Well, hopefully, that’s how I’ll sleep tonight.
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