Sleep is something that’s been on my mind a bit lately. I’ve been getting all introspective and shit and being mindful and all that palaver since I made the executive decision that I had reached what can best be described as Peak Maudy. Also known as the point where one realised that one is in fact fat as fuck and unless one wants to spend a fuck tonne of cashola on the procurement of wider clothing, one had better start taking notice of what one eats.
So how does that relate to sleep? Good fucking question.
Well, as part of this introspective (and to be honest, slightly wanky*) articles I have been subjected to in the process of de-Peakifying Miss Maudy, there was a series of articles on managing stress and stress related eating. This came at a rather good time for me as well. Stressed out of my tiny little brain at the present. A whole conga line of things that, well, you know – one or two would be manageable but ten? Yeah, nah. Stressed. It comes and goes in waves but normally sits at around a 5/10 and peaks at eleven or so. Out of ten. So, I was super keen to (actually) read these articles and get some ideas about managing my stress levels.
But I realised after reading the articles that they were about managing your food-response cues to stress. I don’t actually eat while I am stressed. I just don’t. I’m not hungry at all and food has no appeal, so I just don’t eat. I clench my jaw so hard that my face hurts and I chew on the inside of my cheeks. But I don’t sit down and plow through a block of chocolate and a family pack of barbeque chips when I’m stressed.
But the other thing I don’t do when I am stressed is sleep. And when I’m super tired… it’s like I’m hungover, and there’s that one perfect thing I can eat that will make me feel better. So hells yeah, family block of fruit and nut and bag of BBQ chippies GET IN MA BELLEH.
I’ve always been a bit shithouse at sleeping. I was one of those kids who was bundled into the car for fifty or so laps around the block when I was an infant; and I’ve always woken up at the drop of a hat. I’m the kind of person that goes from asleep to awake and that’s it. No in betweens. Well, once I had babies, I did master the art of getting up, feeding the baby and shoving him back in bed without actually waking up properly… that was pretty good (Mayhem was efficient. Chaos on the other hand…). I’ve had insomnia off and on since I was an actual teenager in a teenager’s body, instead of a teenager in the head of a middle aged lady. I used to sleepwalk and sleep talk and do all manner of odd things in the middle of the night (remind me to tell you the tale of the electric blanket one day).
When I was in my early thirties, my insomnia peaked. I was getting around three hours sleep at night, maybe four on a good night; and not even catching up on weekends. Again, I was fairly stressed – my father had recently died, work was being an arsehole, my love life was in the toilet (again), I’d taken up university and was juggling study with full time work. It was quite ridiculous. I would either not go to sleep at all, drop off in the early hours, and be rudely awakened by my alarm at 6am; or, I would go to sleep okay. But wake up at 2 or 3am and lie there, raging about being awake, until I’d drop off in the early hours and again be rudely awakened by my alarm. I tried all sorts of natural “remedies” – none of which stopped the rage-awakenings in the middle of the night.
I finally went to my doctor after a couple of weeks solid of not sleeping and I tried some chemical assistance. Ahem. No. Not a fan. Taking a sufficient dose that I would fall asleep and stay asleep *all* night left me a zombie the next day. Reducing the dose meant I’d fall asleep, still wake up and rage with the added bonus of being a zombie still the next day. This was not a case of better living through chemistry. It was worse! Back to the doctor I went.
So, we talked a lot about my sleep habits (sketchy as fuck, to be honest) and a bedtime routine (bwhahahahahahaaa) and how some people (me) when they come to the top of a sleep cycle, open their eyes and look around. And if you do that, and you see the clock, and you see time passing in 40 or so minute increments. You think you’re awake. And when you think you’re awake, guess what? You fucking wake up. Ahem. So, new rules.
- Move your fucking clock. If you can’t see time passing you won’t know time is passing.
- Have a bedtime routine. Make it a ritual and do things in the same order.
- If you wake up – Get up and do something. It’s okay to be awake.
- After no more than 40 minutes, re-do the bedtime routine and go back to bed again.
Moving the clock was the biggest game changer. I probably still wake up a bazillion times a night (according to my fitbit, this is actually true) but I”m not aware of it. And having *permission* to be awake is another one.Yep, you’re awake. No point getting angsty over it. Use the time to do something else. I used to get up, get dressed (supporting undergarments and everything) and walk up to the 7/11. I’d buy a chocolate bar and walk home, repeat the evening routine and go back to bed. Instead of being awake for 3+ hours in the middle of the night, I’d go back to sleep after about an hour. It’s still broken sleep BUT it would be seven hours of broken sleep instead of four or five. Now, I give it 20 minutes then read for a bit. Usually works.
Even now, the bedtime routine is still a thing. It takes 15-20 minutes and I do it every single night. IN ORDER. Even if I’ve done parts of it earlier. I get up from the couch, start turning lights off, clean the kitchen, pop the last couple of things in the dishwasher and run it, go outside and erm. Check the perimeter. Come in, lock the back door, do ma evening ablutions, lock the front door and hop into bed. I read for ten or so minutes most nights, then it’s sleepy bo-bos time. Someone once described sleep as being like a train – you have to wait for the Sleep Train to come to your station and get on as soon as it arrives. If you dilly dally, you’ll *miss* that train and have to wait for the next one. It’s probably lost something over time in my memory (that is scarred from sleep deprivations. Ahem.) But basically, if the sleep train is pulling in as I go to bed, no reading or I’ll miss that train and it will be another 20 minutes til the next one. Sometimes I forget. Mostly I remember.
So yeah. There’s sleep. And not sleeping. And being so bonecrunchingly tired I don’t know what to do with myself. But this passes. The stress passes. And gets replaced by a new and different kind of stress. And that too passes. Bit fucking Zen, hey. But as long as I realise that the tired is down to stress and will NOT be relieved by fruit and nut chocolate and BBQ chips; and what I really need is an early night… eh. We’ll see.
*I have a degree in psychology, specialising in social and cognitive psychology. You know, behaviour change. These articles are a) based on reasonably sound research; b) cute-d up and simplified for the lay-person; c) twee as fuck. Honestly, it’s like your dad tryin’ to be hip and down with the cool kids. Noice. I know how this is all supposed to work, and I am actually a little brat and ignore most of the articles and the “homework” I’m supposed to do. But hey, I have lost 3/4 of the Covid Condition, so I will shut up now. And keep not reading my articles.