It All Starts in the Bedroom

The nights I’ve slept beside a fussy baby must number in the hundreds or thousands. Sadly, I’m the type of person who needs eight hours of sleep a night, or I’m toast (aka angry, deranged, lunatic). If Mom were alive she would wholeheartedly attest to the affects of sleep deprivation on her second born. It’s sunshine or rain.

Victor Hugo says, “A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” That’s a crock of shit. Infants wiggle non stop, wake up at dawn, and have no idea how to make coffee.

A few nights ago I entered the twilight zone when I found myself snuggling a fussy baby at 2:00 am but this time it was celebratory rather than depletive. Hours earlier the extended family gathered to celebrate my in-laws eightieth birthdays on our beloved patio. I had the privilege of having all my children in the same time zone (even the one from down under) for a night. It was a lovely evening, fun, laughter, and to top it off all my grown children decided to spend the night (which included the three grandchildren). I scrambled to secure beds for everyone delighted to keep them all under one roof for a few more hours.

My oldest daughter ended up in the mermaid room with her three children. This room is located nearest the master so I put myself on alert for sounds of distress coming from down the hall. When I heard the twins start to wail at the same time I popped into the room to see if I could help. Julie simply pointed to one of the cribs and said, “I have this one, you take her.”

I tipped toed across the room reaching into the crib for the fussy little bundle, managed to find her binki in the dark, and scooted off to my room with this new found treasure. Larry never even knew (so absolutely nothing has changed in thirty years).

I admit I was delighted to score a child, but without the benefit of my glasses, or light I could not tell which twin I had? Details. She snuggled with me in the warm sheets and was back to sleep in minutes. I sort of laid there basking in the moment. For a while. After three hours of “basking” I moved towards fear of moving, dread of waking the baby, and at some point dreamed I was paralyzed, sleep deprived, and dying of thirst? I spent what seemed an eternity trying to locate a wine opener? Woke up clutching the Roku remote?

Living in dreams of yesterday, we find ourselves still dreaming of impossible future conquests. Charles Lindbergh

She started to stir at 5:55 am, snuggled against my back, twirling my short hair with her small fingers. It was still semi-dark and I assumed she thought I was Julie. When I turned around I saw confusion mar her sweet face. My mother has aged thirty years overnight? She recovered quickly, smiling and attempting to say “Grammie.” I point behind her and she squeals with delight when she recognizes, “Nono.”

Larry grabs her up in a hug, with that deep rumbling morning voice he says, “Good morning Cora, what are doing in my bed,” and without warning, it was as if we were twenty-seven years old again, waking to a child holding space between us. We delighted in her sweet smile, sporadic giggles, and unbridled joy at holding our complete attention. It was a rather poignant moment.

The exhaustion I felt as a young mother is not unlike the exhaustion I feel today. I don’t know about all women but I’ve been struggling with bouts of insomnia since my late forties (try not to calculate how many years it has been in your head). Laying around staring at the clock is counterproductive, so is playing solitaire on my iPhone, checking email, and scrolling twitter. The anxiety rises with every passing hour while I diligently ignore the restorative breathing of my slumbering partner. I’ll admit to wiggling the bed in order to shake him out of a loud snore every now and then. It’s my only entertainment so go easy.

“My bed is a magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do…” Funny quotes

Research indicates women suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation more profoundly than men. Of course they do! This is what happens when your body suddenly decides to stop producing estrogen! There is no weaning process, you are plunged into an unregulated thermostat, incessant perspiring, layers of unwarranted fat, with no capacity to relax. “I am woman hear me roar.” Below I list the most grievous effects of sleep deprivation for women. It’s daunting so maybe just read a few at a time. No need to get hysterical…

1. Impairs judgment (possibly the reason I enrolled all four kids in Karate lessons one summer)
2. Leads to accidents and injuries (Backing into my husband’s car parked two feet behind my own in broad daylight)
3. Serious health problems; heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke (things to worry about while you can’t sleep)
4. Kills the sex drive (just to be clear, this is listed as a negative)
5. Depression (which explains my addiction to Magnum P.I. and coffee)
6. Ages the skin (You can always staple your sagging forehead to your scalp or inject poison under your skin – either way your ability to snarl is highly compromised)
7. Grey Hair (which compliments your lack of expression)
8. Forgetful (Not to brag, but I can forget what I’m doing, while I’m doing it.)
9. Weight gain (So sleeping has the same benefits as exercise ~ who knew)
10. Is so horrifying I refuse to dignify it with words.

One recent study found that overweight, post-menopausal women who exercise in the morning experience less difficulty falling asleep and better quality sleep than evening exercisers. And they consider this “good news?” I read somewhere that possession of knowledge alone cannot bestow virtue, happiness, or fulfillment. For these things, we must look within and beyond ourselves. Wait? Is it within or beyond? What does that really mean?

“I now have an hourglass figure, with a few extra minutes on top” unknown

Leonard Cohen says, “the last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.” That’s right. Who wouldn’t want to be an overweight, depressed, wrinkled woman with a nun complex and high blood pressure who finds sleep illusive? I’m so in. “The goal is to get your estrogen where it should be so you don’t have to hang out in support groups that do nothing but chew the cud on how miserable they are without estrogen,” claims Marie Hoag. Because apparently estrogen decides everything. My greatest fear… menopause doesn’t exist and this is actually the real me.

“No man was ever shot by his wife while doing the dishes” unknown

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll research natural sleep remedies.

Anecdotes:

  • Rest before you get tired.
  • “You can do this (this thing, where your body will cease to produce hormones and your skin, hair, muscles and bones… basically every part of you will notice, go into withdrawals, and stage a coup). Be prepared for this mentally, and you’ll own this “thing.” Lisa Jey Davis
  • Apparently blueberries, strawberries, raspberries have anthocyanins that can help reverse some loss of balance and memory associated with aging. David H. Murdock

Previously published on CherylOreglia

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Photo credit: Cheryl Oreglia