Thursday, March 19, 2020

SOL20 Slice #19: Sleep-deprived

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL20).  
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2020.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

At a recent appointment, my doctor asked "How much sleep do you get?" I'm one of the lucky ones, I told her - I easily sleep for eight hours. I don't have trouble sleeping. I sleep deeply, and on many a night, I sleep right through. The teaching week is a challenge for me, because the alarm goes off in the five o'clock hour, and a good night sleep means getting into bed about 9pm, which is hard for me. Weekends become a time of delightful catch up.

My husband is quite the opposite. He likes to stay up late, and then he sleeps only four or five hours, and he is wide awake. Years and years ago, recognizing these differences, we set up the small room next to our bedroom as his room, his second room, his wide-awake place. When he wakes up during the night, he moves to this back room and gets comfortable on the sofa. He 'unwinds' again through reading a book, writing, or a movie on television, and then, before the sun comes up, he'll fall asleep again for a short nap. He lives a nocturnal life that I do not see.

He's also a big napper, a daily pleasure for him during retirement - and something I asked him not to share about, when I would come home from teaching so fatigued and sleep-deprived. I'm happy for him to keep that a secret!

I just had a happy flash on my granddaughter, "Frog" ...I think she may take after me in this sleep thing. She loves to sleep! At 16 months now, when she finds herself tired from all the doing at the end of the day, she walks to the bathroom for her toothbrush - signaling to her family that we need to get this bedtime show on the road. She has a sweet bedtime ritual of a book and some hugs and kisses, and then she is down for the night, not to be heard from for another twelve hours.

My doctor introduced the notion that my sleep patterns may change now that I am in menopause. Hmm. Hope not, I thought. Why bring that up? I wasn't too concerned. There might even be a silver lining, if it happens. I figure a middle-of-the-night wake up would be great for writing, right? I wonder what's on my mind during the night?

NEWS FLASH: All of my sleep habits as described above can now be labeled:

"The Time Before Isolation."

I am no longer sleeping through the night. We're only one week into this new normal, and I have trouble knowing what day it is and what time of day it is, most of the time. I am trying to keep myself on a schedule; I've been going to sleep at a more or less regular time.

I think I'm doing all the right things:

- not using my phone/computer/technology for an hour or two before bed.
- getting exercise, especially "active minutes," as my Fitbit calls them.
- slowing down, meditating, being mindful.

But, wow, something has changed. Last night, I felt absolutely wired after I laid down for the night, and I do not drink caffeine. Every new horror from the day raced around and around in my head:

We're going to throw 1 trillion dollars at this!
Let's watch our national debt go through the roof!
We're going to live this way for 18 months!
Let's cancel primaries! [Hey, what about that November election!]
What about all those people who are the working poor?!
What about those working part-time at several jobs, work that has all but evaporated in just a few days?!
What has happened to our children's ability just to play?!
What is happening to our schools?!
How do young families juggle work and childcare simultaneously?!

I tried to relax. I practiced breathing deeply. I did some anxiety-reducing moves that I learned from a workshop years ago - one example: lay on your back, then wiggle and stretch every part of your body, slowly, sequentially, starting at your toes, moving up your body. In theory, I am asleep before I get to my head. In theory, I don't repeat this practice several times in a row.

After about an hour of alertness, the next thing I knew I was waking up - and the clock said 4:15 am. Oh no! My mind was right back, racing:

Our favorite restaurants and hair salons and yoga studios are going to close for good!
Her wedding celebration cannot happen!
We might not be able to go on that big family trip this June!
Who's actually doing some big thinking right now?
How does it make sense to close borders to an invisible threat, that knows no walls?
Hey, how much more REACTIVE can we be as a government?!
How am I supposed to have trust?
Why does every message from this administration seem like a racist and superficial fix?
Who is putting any big thought into actual planning for the future?!
Look at the state of our healthcare system! Look how our politicians have piddled around on this issue for so many years now.
How can we be so unprepared for this!?
How does this country survive this?

This early morning wakeup has happened for the past several days. I have gotten up and started writing,
writing until I am sleepy again, and
then gone back to bed.

Writing into the fear,
writing until I am tired,
not finding any solutions.

Although I am writing more,
I do not like this new sleep pattern.

Maybe I have entered, "Menopausolation"?


I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?
-- Ernest Hemingway


  1. Our posts do not always need to be upbeat - there may be a greater comfort to to others if they aren't, sometimes; reassurance that "I may be isolated but I am not going through this alone." Here you have been so honest but your truths are cloaked in your wit. Here's to establishing a decent sleeping pattern - trying to get some sleep is SO exhausting ...

    1. Thanks for the empathic response! It is good to know that I am not alone.

  2. I suspect your disrupted sleep has more to do w/ the new normal than with menopause. I ask the same questions, and I worry more about young people than the very old. This morning I listened to Andrew Cuomo’s speech and press conference. Ironically, it calmed me. NY is putting a moratorium on home mortgages, among other protections. Listening to Trump gives me anxiety. I’m going to have to avoid him as much as possible. Here in Idaho we’re not having all the issues others have—yet. We’re often last. Have you tried aromatherapy and wine to help you sleep? Eucalyptus and lavender sometimes help me. And remember, as an individual we can help other individuals. It is something.

    1. I think it's the new normal, too. I am trying very hard to stop listening to Trump and to hear from more reliable and stable voices. The connection with this community this month is very helpful! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thanks for honestly sharing in your post. These are tremendously difficult times. I imagine your current sleepless state is due in large part to the current situation. Each night that I can sleep, I am so thankful. It's so difficult to process any of this, much less all of it at one time! Someone on here recently wrote, "Just imagine! Two weeks ago we were just worried about the presidential election!" It's hard to believe how quickly things have changed. Take care of yourself. Maybe you can take some tips from your husband who does the whole "two sleeps" thing (it's a real thing!) so well.

    1. It is hard to believe how quickly things have changed. You are right to just learn from my husband - and I am thankful that I don't have to get out the door so quickly to teach. (Though there is that virtual requirement....)

  4. You've given voice to so many of my own concerns. And I think it's okay to write honestly about our situation. I've mostly avoided writing about it, but I that doesn't mean that I don't experience the same emotions. When I started having menopausal sleep issues, my nighttime sleep mask became my best friend. Try it, it might help.

    1. I was really trying to avoid writing directly about this, because I feel as if I want to read blog posts that take me away from thinking about it. But, for me, writing can be very cleansing, very healing - it is great to hear from you and so many others, to hear supportive words. Love the sleep mask idea!

  5. My sleep patterns are a mess right now as well. I would say I'm a bit more like your old self and my husband is similar to your husband--except until now. We are both awake on and off throughout the night most nights. It's bizarre. I can't help but feel it is a response to all the uncertainty and thankfully I don't have to be awake and alert for children right now at work. It's not a new normal yet because nothing seems like a pattern or predictable yet.

    1. It has to be this new normal. It is just bizarre. You are right, we need to be thankful we aren't out the door bright and early, too. Hopefully, we'll all even out soon! Thanks for the supportive words!