Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mission 2: Get Your Zzz's

Get seven to eight hours of restful sleep every night.

I thought this would be my favorite homework assignment of all time. I love getting into my bed at night probably more than I love any other activity. I am serious.

But the thing is, I already try to get more and more sleep every night as it is. I worry about how fat I am for approximately 90% of my day, and I worry about my sleep habits for the remaining 10% of my waking hours. So compared to all the other topics in the world that I think about, worrying about sleep is right up there.

Here's the thing: My husband snores. Loudly, and often. He also thrashes. So I lie awake for hours most nights, frustrated to the point of tears because I am never allowed to sleep. (For the record, I don't "blame" my husband. I know he's not doing it on purpose. He's perhaps not exactly trying anything that might help the situation? But that's another issue.)

Anyway, the book told me to "optimize my sleep environment" and "minimize sleep inhibitors." I feel like I already do try to do this. I really do what I can to make myself feel restful. I never drink much caffeine (and when I do, I am finished with it by 10:00 a.m.). I take baths at night with lavender bath salts. I drink ginger tea while I read in bed. I wear ear plugs. I apply flower petal essences designed to make my mind feel at ease to my chest and the soles of my feet. I take calcium pills, wear an eye mask, and once in a while I nibble off one-third of a Tylenol PM caplet to take the edge off (too much Tylenol PM gives me a hangover). Short of gulping down a bottle of Ambien with a glass of wine, I honestly feel like I'm doing what I can to ameliorate my situation and encourage a restful night.

But the snoring husband does not get that I am "creating sleep rituals" and trying to "develop a sleep schedulel". Neither do my neighbors. This is how it went:

Earlier this week, after three nights of sleeplessness, I threw in the towel and moved myself into the pull-out couch in our office (we don't have a guest room/bed, sadly). It is so uncomfortable, but at least I'm the only one thrashing in there. Now let me tell you a little more about our house. We live in a condo complex, and everyone faces each other around a courtyard. We have a neighbor I call The Hacker. The Hacker is a lady who sits on her porch for, oh, I don't know, 19 hours a day, smoking and coughing. And I can hear everything, because it echoes around in the courtyard. So anyway, I moved into the guest room, and I'm almost falling asleep when... The Hacker starts hacking. At 2:00 a.m. So if it's not the Snorer, it's the Hacker.

On the next night, I just started out on the couch. I didn't even pretend that I was going to sleep in the big bed. I think I fell asleep around 10:00. Awesome! Well. Evidently this night was a big one for the Hacker because around 2:30 a.m. she starts singing. (Can I call it "singing"? Mumbling? Caterwauling?) Must have been a big night for her, because she was really feeling her tunes. I think she had headphones on because I couldn't hear any actual music - just the singing accompaniment. Also she didn't seem like she knew all the words. "NOWwWwwwww.... hmmm mmmm ... and wwmmm FREEEEEEEE!" So I listened to that for a couple of hours. There was no stopping the singing or the hacking.

The next night, I don't even know what woke me up, but I was lying in the dark, watching the minutes tick by on my alarm clock, when I heard the first gunshot. At first I wondered... fireworks? My town seems to have a lot of fireworks celebrations, but I couldn't think of a good reason for fireworks to be going off at 2:57 a.m. It was definitely a gun. I wonder what someone was shooting? A bear? There are a lot of elk in the neighborhood right now - maybe they were shooting an elk? A wolf that was getting after the elk? But at 3:00 a.m.? Probably not, but who knows. I live in Idaho. Then there was another shot. Hmm. No screaming, so... drunks shooting at trees? Into the air? Shooting at other people?! Should I be worried? I know I would really be mad if someone was shooting at me and none of the neighbors came to investigate. Am I being a bad neighbor? A third gun shot. So I lay awake listening and worrying that I should be doing something. But I didn't go outside because it is zero degrees here and then what if someone shoots me?!

(The gunshots were at 2:57, 2:59 and 3:21 a.m. I actually wrote this down, because (a) I'm wide awake, why not? and (b) What if there was criminal activity and the police came by my house to see if anyone heard anything? I wanted to get the details right. No officers ever showed up and I never did find out what the shooting was all about.)

So last night I was at my wits' end. I was ready to call this Mission a bust because I just haven't been able to get better sleep going for myself. Then - eureka! - I finally came up with the idea of looking for a white noise app for my phone. I found one! It has about 10 different sounds (crickets, ocean, train tracks) and a timer, so you can start it up and then it will turn itself off when you tell it to. This worked GREAT for me last night. It did not drown out the snoring (or the hacking or the coyotes that howl every morning at 5:00), but it did give me something else to focus on so that I could get back to sleep quickly. It kept me mellower, I think. I am going to keep trying it and will report back again next week. This could be what I have been looking for!

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