September 12, 2013
One of my goals for de-stressing these next few months is to try to get more sleep - maybe, eventually, even seven hours a night!
Or... maybe that's a bit ambitious.
During this summer's musical, I got used to pushing myself until later and later at night. There would be rehearsal until after 10, then come home and have dinner, and then clean up, and then...
Unlike other years, I kept this up after the musical ended, and it's part of why I ended up with stress-related health problems.
Between bad habits, not being able to get to sleep because of the CPAP, and getting up to exercise in the morning before it gets hot, I've been getting 5 to 5 1/2 hours of sleep (if I'm lucky) for months. I don't sleep in just because I didn't get to sleep until 3 or 4 am.
If you've ever had insomnia and looked for solutions in books or online, you've seen the "sleep hygiene" recommendations. For better sleep you should:
- Only use the bedroom for sleeping or sex: Right. Where are you supposed to do things like sewing projects (not that that happens except during musicals), yoga, etc.? Any room involving cats WON'T WORK!*
- Don't nap: Then how do you drive safely after 3 pm?
- Don't eat or consume caffeine late at night. That one's easy... unless you don't even get home until late.
- Make sure your sleep surroundings are pleasant and relaxing: I have a CPAP mask on my face which leaks every time I move (no, the people that are supposed to help with this can't!) pushing air into my face (if you don't hold your cheeks tight while you are trying to fall asleep, they puff out like balloons). Pleasant and relaxing are no longer possible.
- Don't read in bed: Stupid. If I read somewhere else, I won't get sleepy, or, if I do, I'll wake myself up getting ready for bed.
I've realized that I have my own sleep hygiene, which, unlike the above stupid recommendations, actually helps even though it seems way too picky to me. I'm currently trying to make myself follow them:
- Start winding down two hours before bed. This is the most difficult one. Why can't I just rush around doing things and then go to bed? This is a total waste of two hours. Even writing blog posts during this time doesn't really work. But it's the way my mind is designed. It doesn't matter how late it is (before, say, 4 am), it takes me two hours to wind down. I'm now trying to finish things up by 10 pm. :P The one exception is if younger son (14 yo) comes to talk to me. When a hermit-ish 14 yo son wants to talk, I listen!
- Get the CPAP, bed, etc. ready right after dinner so that I don't have to do it at 1 am. Dear husband is helping with this. He makes sure there's water in the humidifier of the CPAP. I'd forget, or remember only when I was about to fall asleep and decide not to get up and fill it. Using the CPAP without humidifying dehydrates me faster than anything.
- No matter the time of year or state of cleanliness, I have to take a hot shower before bed. There's this thing that happens to some pre-menopausal women called forMication (I just wanted to make sure you knew that was an "M").** It's the itchy sensation that ants are crawling on your skin. I was so thankful for the internet when this started so I could find out about it! After weeks of sleepless nights, I found out that a simple hot shower can disrupt the nerve irritation enough to get to sleep. If I try to skip the hot shower, I end up being all itchy and getting back out of bed an hour later to take a shower anyway. Some nights, when I can't fall asleep for two or three hours, I have to take a second shower.
- Read a light book in bed until I'm too tired to focus anymore, at which point I'm exhausted enough to fall asleep despite the CPAP. I have a large stash of regency romances for this purpose. For a while, when I was first getting used to the CPAP and had to be even more exhausted, I had a stash of really good fantasy recommended by my kids to get me to the exhaustion stage. Somewhere over the summer, though, as I got more used to the CPAP, I found that those were actually keeping me more awake.
- Exercise! No matter the weather or what else is going on, if I sit all day, I won't sleep at night. Yesterday, I did Zumba in the morning and took an hour-long walk with dear husband after dinner, and I think that helped with actually being able to fall asleep at 1 am!
The stress/sleep thing is a vicious cycle. One of the things that told me I was overly stressed was that I'd get this really strange thing where I would start dreaming before I fell totally asleep. I'd be in the dream, but also still aware of the bedroom around me. I'd wake up again, fully, after a short bit, and then not be able to fall asleep again for a long time.
* Have you tried doing yoga with a cat on your chest? It's not relaxing!
** Formica is the Latin name for wood ants