Last night I was suddenly awake, again. I asked myself–do I have a sleep disorder? Yes, I’m a boomer, but at any age we all want a good night’s sleep. I did reach a conclusion–most of us don’t have sleep disorders, we just have a life!
At first there wasn’t a logical reason for my wakefulness. My husband was in a deep sleep, I wasn’t having a hot flash and nature wasn’t calling me! I was comfortable—my pillow and covers were just right. But I was awake. A car drove through my cul-de-sac, its lights glazing the ceiling. Somewhere a dog barked.
Yes at first I did blame my boomer age—that wakefulness, sleep problems and sleep difficulties, develop as we age. But comfortably lying there I found myself remembering other sleepless nights and then suddenly smiling. This was nothing! As the memories kept coming, I eventually fell back to sleep. Had I found a cure? Certainly not, but I had reached a comforting conclusion. At younger ages most of us have dealt with far more serious sleep disturbances than I was presently dealing with.
- From about age five till maybe ten, I couldn’t sleep if my mother went out with friends. My father died when I was three; mom was my world. Babysitters were no substitute—I’d lie awake listening for their movements downstairs. I’d startle awake when the front door finally closed right below my bedroom, signaling Mom was home. Then I’d force myself to stay awake until her footsteps sounded on the stairs. Often she came in to kiss me; I pretended to be asleep.
- One hot summer night, at age 9 or 10, Mom left me sleeping so she could sit on a neighbor’s porch and chat. She was just a house away, but I immediately got up, closing and locking every window. When she came back later, the house felt like it would explode from the heat—but I felt safe.
- There were many sleep-interrupted nights in my teen years when the lack of air conditioning was a problem; but that was nothing compared to my teen life which intruded on restfulness. Jealousies, worries about clothes, grades and petty arguments—they could keep my mind awake for hours.
- College was four years of little to no sleep. During the week studying occupied my time until 2:00 a. m. Saturday night I was up even later—dating.
- A few years later, the biggest sleep disturbance ever created entered my life—children. The amazing thing about sleep-deprived parents is after a while, that’s all they can think about. And when the child finally does fall asleep for 20 minutes, there are all those other healthy things to do instead of sleep—like taking a shower and eating.
- When babies become teens, sleep flies away again. You might be lying in a bed or on a sofa, but you are straining to hear the car or see the pattern of its lights come up the street or driveway.
- Then there are the camping trips, the only-type-of-hotel-we-can-afford-because-we-are-saving-for-college nights. And yes, there were some very comfortable years when the children were settled and living responsible lives and sleep was endless and rewarding. Then the Boomer Highway happened. I would sleep, but always with one thought locked in my brain—that the phone could ring because of my aging mother or my aging aunt. And it did. There were many falls. There was the fall that led to a broken hip. You are sleeping with one ear listening for the phone.
What disturbs my sleep now? For me it’s stiffness and soreness from lack of exercise. Caffeine that might have snuck into something I drank unawares. Hot flashes. Ah but no crying babies. Some of you now have pets so you won’t forget what it’s like to have to rise early to care for a living thing smaller than you!
But the next time you suddenly find yourself awake, remember when your sleep was in 20 minute increments and your partner always claimed that he or she was up with the kid the last time. Or remember years of worry that you wouldn’t pass the test, get the job or find the right partner. Hopefully those worries are gone and you can welcome your present situation. Or do you have other sleep-deprived experiences to share? There have to be hundreds that I haven’t even touched on. Please comment and share.
Here are a few more suggestions to increase the chances that you will get that rare gift—a good night’s sleep. After all, you probably don’t have a sleep disorder but you do have a life!
- Try to go to bed and get up on a regular schedule
- Avoid napping
- Relax before bedtime by watching television, reading, listening to music or having a warm bath
- Keep your room dark, quiet and not hot or cold
- Sleep on a comfortable bed with a pillow that works for you and enough covers to keep you comfortable
- Avoid strenuous exercise 3 hours before sleep; avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol; and drink fewer beverages so that bathroom trips won’t disturb your sleep
- A light snack can often help you get a good night’s sleep
- Keep a telephone and emergency numbers by your bed
- Have a lamp that turns on easily
- Never smoke in bed
- After 20 minutes if you still cannot sleep, get up and read or listen to restful music before going back and trying again.
Thanks to Google Images; Thanks to National Institute on Aging;