There are various articles on the internet that suggest the best thing to do mid-afternoon, when you’re feeling slightly sleepy after lunch and run down after a busy morning working, is to take a power nap of 15 to 20 minutes.
I hate those articles so very much.
Some are better than others, and admit that it’s an “average” among sleep studies. Some of the sleep studies are tiny by research standards.
For me, 15 to 20 minutes is usually not enough time to actually fall asleep. If I’m extremely lucky, I will have just dozed off at 20 minutes. Usually it’s more like 30 minutes.
So, I try not to take naps. If I’m very tired, and it’s no where near bedtime, I might go ahead and lie down; but I do so knowing that I’m probably going to foul up my sleep schedule. I seem to sleep in 3 hour increments. If I’m, again, very lucky, I might manage a “short” 90 minutes, but that’s rare.
I’m not sure what exactly has changed, as I’ve aged.
I have some theories.
I know my sleep patterns took a large hit around the time I was separating and getting divorced from my first husband and my father dying of lung cancer. I don’t recall if it ever really recovered, because I moved away for a year to a different time zone, and never really slept well there either. (Except for when I was very sick with what was probably the flu.) On the other hand, since moving back to Oregon, I’m relatively certain there was a stretch where I slept… somewhat normally for me. And then again, several years later, when my mother had come to live nearby and became sick, I think I regained the habit of cat-napping to keep aware of potential need.
I think this last time, I never really got out of the habit. Even now, I tend to sleep in chunks. I drift off sometimes when my husband does, more often later, and then wake up in roughly 3 hours. On good nights, I might manage 4 hours… but almost always, I’m awakened at 4:30am at the latest by the cats.
That’s first breakfast time, you see. Well, it’s main breakfast, as only one cat is hobbit-like enough to require second breakfast. So after they’ve been fed, if it’s a work day, I go back to bed for another two and a half hours. Just before I leave for the office, the one cat gets his second breakfast. Sometimes he lets our girl have some.
It’s evenings when I often shoot myself in the foot. I’ll get home exhausted, and lie down knowing that it won’t be just a few minutes. I was surprised – the other night, I ended up perhaps only sleeping two and a half hours, and then, although I wasn’t horribly sleepy, I did manage to fall asleep within a couple hours of bedtime, which made the morning much less painful.
At this stage of things, I’m not entirely sure how to fix it. “Ignoring” the cats doesn’t work. Slight sounds I might once have slept through, when younger, now wake me and require acknowledging and identifying before I can roll over and attempt sleep again. And of course, dreams often get in the way, as I dream nightly – I just don’t always remember the dreams later.
I’m not a person who looks back with nostalgia to school years, in general. But that age… where I could sleep without regard for responsibility? Oh, I do miss that!
For a while now, I’ve had a bit of a rotten sleep cycle. Last night was another example.
I tried started to get ready for bed/away from the TV and screens earlier. It was about 10:15pm. By the time Terry was dozing off and only somewhat coherently responding to quiet conversation, it was 11:20pm. I know, because I asked him to look at the clock I can’t read with my glasses off. I don’t know when I fell asleep, because I tried even more than usual not to pick up the phone and look/play at tiles or puzzles til I dozed off. I do know I woke up at 3:40am, overheated and convinced I heard something crash.
This of course woke up the cats, because I got up to use the bathroom and sip some cold water. They were pretty good though, and other than allowing some head scritching did not try to keep me awake. Until about 5:05am. So I got up, fed them breakfast, gave Phoenix his pill and cuddle, gave them treats, gave Shadow a little extra attention because she seemed uncomfortable for some reason. And then tried to go back to bed at 5:24am.
Terry’s alarm went off at 6:30am. I’d been dreaming about my crazy aunt who was being more crazy than usual. I’ve forgotten about what, but I was annoyed with her and just as happy to be woken up. After nudging him to get up and shutting off his alarm, I tried to find a cool spot in the bed and doze til my alarm. It didn’t exactly work. I was obviously out a bit, because I was dreaming about one of my sisters, but it was very easy to wake me up. And in fact, when Terry came in after his shower about 20 minutes later I spoke to him. He let me know he was leaving with a kiss and “I love you” at about 7:20am, 10 minutes before my alarm.
This morning I gave up. I just got up then and got things done. But I can already tell that around 2pm I’m going to have burning eyes and an achey neck and shoulders.
I can’t figure out what is disrupting my sleep. We have a new bed, but it’s a month old now, and it’s comfortable. I’ve been too warm, but we have the temperature in the house where I usually like it. And if I kick off the sheets, I do get too cold. I’ve been cutting back caffeine and sugar earlier, so I don’t think it’s that (although it probably wouldn’t hurt me to cut sodas back again). My brain just isn’t shutting off. I’m probably going to have to experiment with an over-the-counter sleep aid again. Melatonin doesn’t typically help (it just makes the dreams even more manic and nightmarish), and honestly the sleep aids often do as well.
I wish sometimes I had the ability I had as a kid to just crash and be out until 6 or 8 hours later and then actually feel rested. But I haven’t had that since… probably before puberty, with random hints at it here and there, usually after I’d exhausted myself by staying away for too many days in a row or being ill. Neither of those options (obviously) is a healthy solution.
The last 3 to 5 days have been odder than usual for dreams.
I had a very vivid dream about being at a friend’s house with my sister. It was a writer’s night type situation, but for some reason it was implied we were staying the night. My sister and I were helping him tidy the kitchen after folks had eaten and before moving onto writing and art projects. His husband was going back and forth with dishes before being dragged out to work on a computer for another attendee. None of that was the weird stuff. Although I haven’t been to a writer’s night in much longer than I like to think about, those were all logical activities to a varying degree. The weird part was the actual house and kitchen. It was an enormous log cabin. Think Beorn’s home, in the second recent Hobbit movie.
The kitchen was where most of the dream occurred. There were counters along the exterior of the room, except for where archways and doors existed, and several long tables in the center of the room. They were covered with things. Dishes with casseroles, plates to be cleaned, and assorted clutter that everyone acquires in their home, including some new gadgets, one of which was a coffee maker. And I think I’ve just realized that might be what triggered the dream. The coffee maker. But the amount of detail buried in it and the sheer size of the fantastical home (which my friends definitely deserve but that does not resemble their actual home at all) was staggering.
Another night had me revisiting a friend I haven’t talked to in over a year. He’s had some health issues, and I peeked at his Facebook profile to see if he had updated recently. Which was triggered by someone else posting their wedding photos upon the event of their anniversary, and seeing him in them. I don’t entirely remember what we were doing other than I was in his general area of the United States and visiting. At the time, the dream was vivid enough to wake me up and make me frown, but it hasn’t stuck as badly as the previous dream (probably because I knew immediately why I was dreaming of HIM, whereas I couldn’t figure out the logic for the older dream, so have been picking at it in my subconscious).
And then this morning, I had a dream that my sister had arrived several days early. Actually about a week early. And she was planning on working remotely for the next week. Our house had grown in size and she was chatting about if she could do any chores while I was at work for me. Again, semi-logical, except that my house doesn’t look like that, she can’t work remotely for an entire week, and the detail was staggering. In that case, I think I just want her here faster.
I just wish I felt rested after these dreams, but it always feels like my brain is exerting so much energy in the minutiae of the set dressing that I feel mentally exhausted upon waking. Since I’m in a particularly uneven sleep cycle right now, that is not helpful. Some of it is probably seasonal. I have a love/hate relationship with fall and the holiday seasons, and the stores are already pushing Halloween and I’ve seen some Christmas online. Some of it is just that my body resents being diurnal and occasionally pushes back at me trying to function the way the majority of our culture functions.
I would just like a good solid 6 hours of dreamless sleep. Soon. Hopefully.
Sometimes being a human means that I do things that cats would not be patient enough to do.
Phoenix wanted fed at 3:45am this morning. And played with, etc. Shadow was hungry enough to approve the feeding part, but she kept looking at me like I was broken for not hissing and swatting the hell out of him. (And in fact, later, she informed him quite vocally and physically to knock it the fuck off.)
Whereas I was not even coherent enough to form the thoughts at the time, but belatedly, I know it boiled down to: technically, he’s sick, even if he isn’t acting it and is doing quite well currently. So he gets away with more than he should.
Not sure how I want to deal with that, now that my brain has caught up with my behavior. Mostly caught up. Still very burnt around the edges, consciousness wise.