Saturday, June 01, 2013
Since my old FitBit quit and they kindly send me a new One, I've learned something interesting: My ability to sleep is even worse than I thought.
I've always been a very light sleeper, and for years had to have absolute darkness and absolute quiet to sleep (and if I had them, I'd fall asleep literally in under a minute.)
I was always a back sleeper, until I gained so much weight a few years ago and started to snore. Then I'd wake myself up every time I fell asleep, like some demonic sleep-deprivation experiment, and so I had to learn to fall asleep on my side. I got that part down well enough, but rolling over was a problem - every time I started to roll over, I'd stop on my back, where I was comfortable, then snore and wake myself up. I learned to wake up enough to intentionally reposition myself on my other side, then go back to sleep.
And even though we slept in separate bedrooms for years (his back pain and snoring made it impossible for me to sleep, and my kvetching made it impossible for him to sleep) knowing my husband was in the house, whether we were sleeping together or not, made it easier for me to get a good night's rest.
I don't wake up well from any kind of make-you-sleepy thing. Even innocuous things like Benedryl leave me half asleep for many hours the next morning. The old stand-by, the night-cap, doesn't work for me terribly well either - I fall asleep quickly, but waken about four hours later. I've read that it's a sudden drop in blood sugar that causes it, and it's quite common. If I take a (not two, just one) Benedryl at night with a glass of sherry, I'll sleep like a stone for eight hours, then go downstairs to the sofa and nap like a stone for another four. 50% of the 24 hour day spent sleeping isn't really okay.
I can concoct a mix of substances (nothing like a background in experimental psych, heavy on the brain chemistry parts) that will let me sleep for eight hours, and even waken somewhat refreshed, but in the first place, who wants to be drugged every night, and in the second, I strongly suspect it messes with the brain's sleep cycles, because I have weird dreams in odd sequences.
With the FitBit, you tell it what time you went to bed and got out of bed, and it generates your sleep pattern in between. It seems that although I'm in bed for a decent number of hours - somewhere between seven and ten, depending upon whether I have a good book to read - I'm only getting between three and five hours of actual sleep. One night it was only one hour and change. I wake somewhere between 10 and 15 times per night, sometimes more. My "sleep efficiency" is around 40% - I think the highest I've ever seen it is 67%. By contrast, my daughter who works alternate weeks day and night at the emergency vet clinic and needs very little sleep (and never has, even as a tiny baby...) has about a 97% sleep efficiency.
I could throw the dog and the cat off the bed, but I don't think they bother me much, and besides, I like the little buggers. Having them both hammering at the door all night wouldn't improve my sleep much anyway.
I've read all the Sleep Tips and Insomnia Help and all of that. For a while I thought it was lack of exercise, so I got more exercise. Then I thought it was depression, so I got help for depression. Protein before bed. Ambient noise. No ambient noise. Room temperature. Not staying in bed to fret when I can't sleep. Staying in bed so at lest my body gets some rest. I've done it all, and nothing seems to help.
This clear picture of what a lousy night's sleep I get, though, is comforting in many ways. I no longer have a lingering suspicion that there is "something wrong with me" because I'm so weary all the time, nor that I'm sliding slowly into dementia because I'm so forgetful and am losing what used to be an excellent vacabulary and ability to spell. I think I'm just sleep deprived.
But because sleep deprivation correlates with so many things, none of them good, it may be time to see a doctor and go spend a couple nights at the dreaded Sleep Clinic and let them poke around inside my head, or teach me to sleep with a bit in my mouth, or whatever it takes. I loved not needing much sleep. I really don't love not getting enough.