Sleep has always been a struggle for me. Okay, to be fair, the struggle it is today with the miracle medication known as Ambien is lightyears away from the struggles I had pre-Ambien.
For most of my life it’s taken me on average two hours to fall asleep. Even then, if I woke up, my wind would be abuzz if I’d just drank a pot of coffee. Until more recently I believed the only explanation was trauma, both in my childhood and adult life. I mean, I’d tried everything: exercise, meditation, dietary changes, melatonin, incense, putting aside electronics after a certain time, taking hot salt water baths, and so on. Nothing worked. Granted, I’d yet to learned the tricks of wearing ear plugs and putting on an eye mask at night, but those things couldn’t really account for hyped up my body and mind were as soon as my head hit the sack. Nor could they explain the random heart racing, even when I was calm.
I’d always known it had started around when I was fifteen or so. That was the year I went to Australia for three months with my family. My brother and I’d gotten a nasty bug only a week or so after arrival and it wreaked havoc on us for almost the entire trip. At best the doctors could only guess at what it was; no treatments were provided. My sleep had suffered appreciably ever since, but I’ve never been able to quite remember if it started earlier. I think it did. It just got worse. No matter.
Now, with the magic pill, plus a solid daily schedule, I can generally fall asleep within 30 minutes. I’ve even learned (most of the time, anyway) not to spend that time focused on whether or not I will fall asleep in 30 or will be lying there for hours. Doctor’s tend not to take me serious (but then, how often do they?). I can take an Ambien and it takes an hour for it to kick in? I can keep doing things around the house without getting stupid or falling asleep next to the fridge with a sandwich in my hands? Granted, I there is a fifteen to thirty minute period where I get the uber munchies, but I don’t take one and then nod uncontrollably off like, say, my mother, who has to take them when she’s getting into bed. Nah, I could easily pop one and keep doing what I’m doing and most nights barely notice that my body is ready to sleep. That’s why the set schedule is important. The red light turns on at eleven. I take the pill. An hour later I get into bed and start the slow, slow journey back to sleep.
This week’s been a strange one though. I’ve been waking up around 4 or 5am and I’m completely wired. For historical context, generally after I fall asleep it’s impossible to wake up unless I’ve had a solid 9 or 10 hours. I suppose I’ve been getting too much sleep. My dream cycles have been longer and longer. Been sleeping in too long on the weekends. It explains a lot. Fighting the urge to avoid the waking hours. More sleep equals more REM cycles. More REM cycles tends to equate with worse sleep over the long haul. And the dreams have been crazy, more crazy than usual. More often than not I’m somewhere from my childhood, either in or around the ranch house I grew up in or in my home town (more on those in my dream journals, of course).
I spent most of my tossing and turning hours last night pondering existence, not just of me, but the human race. Plenty of material to share here. Another time, maybe.