Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yes, I see the irony in this sleep problem.

Those of you who get into bed each night, turn off the lights, and fall asleep within the average range of 7-9 minutes should consider yourselves absolutely blessed. There are lots of us who can't.

My problems started about six months into wedded bliss. Before this, I'd been sleeping in various stages of 'alone-ness' the older I got. As a child, I'd always had my own bed, sometimes sharing a bedroom with my sister. When I was in college, I had my own dorm room, one of the perks of being an RA (excluding my one semester--my first--with a roommate). My first year in Slovakia I shared a room with a family's teenage daughter for several months before they adopted another, which is when I got booted to the couch until I found an apartment. In this apartment, I had my own room, though I did have a roommate. The old windows in that apartment in my bedroom would pretty often blow open during that winter, letting in freezing gusts of wind and snow, so I often would sleep on the swanky green couches in the living room. I always slept well through all of this.

In grad school, I rented one wing of a house, a house full of pets. Susan, the owner of the house, had dogs and birds. She even ran a pet-sitting business on the side, so sometimes, we'd have overnight pet-guests with us, adding a bit more to the animal chaos. The dogs were pretty okay; the birds were the problem, specifically this huge white demon-bird named Clementine who Susan had rescued from negligent owners. She'd taken pity on the bird, not realizing how evil she really was. Clementine had an unfortunate mix of three talents: the ability to mimic most sounds, razor sharp hearing, and the ability to convincingly fool her prey into thinking she was anything other than the devil himself.

I would often come home from class after Susan had gone to bed and sit in the living room, near Clementine's cage, to check my email on Susan's computer. Despite her cage being covered for the night, she would always wake up when I came in, no matter how silent I was. She'd then start mimicking any sound I was making, including sniffs and little clearings of the throat. If I stayed there for too long, she'd get upset and start squawking. And people, the only other place this squawking will be heard is upon crossing the river Styx, into the belly of Hades, amidst wailing and gnashing of teeth.

When Clementine squawked, the dogs would start barking and Timmy, the cute bird, would start talking. It riled everyone up, and I'd just slink away defeated to my part of the house, muttering under my breath all the delicious ways I could off that bird.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Clementine would lunge to bite if you got too close.

The point of all this is that when the animals would get going in the mornings before I was up, I was somehow able to sleep through it. Sure, I'd wake up for a moment, but when they got quiet again, I went back to sleep.

For the three years after grad school, I lived by myself in an apartment in Slovakia during a time I guess I would call the golden age of my sleeping habits. I could always sleep. There was something so cozy and secure about that apartment, or 'flat' as I usually called it there. Others noticed it as well; my friends would come over and often take naps.

Then I got married and things started to change. Everything was fine for the first six months or so. I guess sleeping with another person not just in the room with me but in the same bed
felt novel and cool at first, sort of like, "Look Ma! I'm a grown-up! I share a bed with a man!" While on our honeymoon in Italy, we discovered the wonder of earplugs at a hotel we stayed in our first night there. It helped block out the snoring, and I slept fine.

I think the real problems started when I signed on to teach a 7:00 am ESL class while we were living in Los Angeles. I had to be in bed early enough each night to get up by 5:30 on the three mornings a week I taught. I know lots of people get up that early and earlier; I'd even done it myself through many different points in my life. I'd taught 7:00 am classes in Slovakia plenty of times. What started happening though is that I'd fall asleep okay but then get woken up at some point later when Ted would get into bed or start snoring. In the past if I'd gotten woken up, I could fall back to sleep--now I couldn't. I still don't know why.

So after enough times of being woken up and not falling back to sleep, I started worrying about being woken up and not falling back to sleep, so much so that I wouldn't fall asleep in the first place. I'd just lay there, dead-tired, not sleeping, wondering when Ted was going to come to bed or when he was going to start snoring. I'd end up having to get up to go to work having slept 2-3 hours sometimes. I felt like one of the living dead.

Anyway, this went on all semester and I think it triggered this thing in my brain that I now can't shut off. I've had enough living-dead days now to make my brain whisper to me many nights, "If you don't go to sleep now, you're going to have a zombie day better go to sleep're gonna be tired've got an important thing going on tomorrow..." and on and on. I know how neurotic this sounds, but I've talked with a surprising number of people who've had similar experiences.

It feels involuntary. It really is like a switch I don't know how to turn off. I even went to see a couple of therapists about it, one session a piece. The first one wanted to talk about my childhood (imagine that), and I think he was pretty good, but our insurance won't cover him, so that was the end of that. The second therapist was here in our neighborhood (I actually walked to his office), but ended up telling me things like, "Make sure your bedroom is dark. Don't excercise right before bed. Wear earplugs. Here's a book on snoring for your husband." No freakin' duh. I didn't go back to him.

So where things stand now is that the quality of my sleep comes and goes in phases lasting a couple of weeks at a time. Sometimes, I'll sleep in the guest room if I'm in a bad phase, even taking one of my precious Lunesta to push me over the edge, but at $5 a pop, I dole them out slowly. It feels like paying the cost of a movie ticket to sleep for eight hours. And yes, I do see the irony in the fact that our mortgage is mostly being paid of late by a company that makes a sleep-aid. Friends have suggested that the company should give us free samples, and I say right on but...they haven't.

In good phases, Ted and I sleep in the same bed with no problems, though the conditions have to be perfect: earplugs, fan for white noise, other thing my sister thinks is hilarious. I discovered this past December while sharing a bed for three weeks with my niece on our tour of Europe that I slept much better if I was far away from my niece's head (she's a heavy breather and occasional snorer), so we slept the whole time head-to-foot. It worked great.

So yes, this is how we sleep. Please do not judge. Do not make fun of me. At least we're in the same bed. When I told our friend Baui in Germany about my sleeping problems, his solution was that we should just have separate bedrooms. Apparently in Germany, lots if not most couples have their own rooms. It's completely normal to do this.

With a baby coming, I've thought a lot about this sleep issue and tried to think of a lasting solution. A friend at our church in Los Angeles hardly ever sleeps; during her pregnancy, she couldn't sleep and after the baby was born, she slept even less. So I guess some people just live with it. I hope to find a solution though. Ted says that he'll be the one to get up during the night with the baby so that I can sleep, and while it's sweet of him to offer, to me that feels unfair.

What I'm mostly hoping for is that I'll be so worn out, mentally and physically, from being a full-time mother that sleep will just overtake me, that it'll stop toying with me. I'm hoping we'll be friends again, that the Sleep Fairy will forgive me for whatever I did to offend her.
Real news about the adoption:

There isn't any yet, not really. I'm pretty sure that my AIDS test results got faxed (not verified yet with the home study agency), and we got our certificate of completion from the online course we took. We also have started mailing documents in to Kate in New York for our foreign dossier, and our social worker is coming tomorrow for our first four-hour visit. I'm so clueless about what that visit will be like. I can't believe it will take four hours. What can we possibly talk about for that long? We'll see.


Anonymous said...

Suggestion for your husband's snoring.... have him try the nose strips. Like Breathe Right Strips. My hubby uses them and I get to sleep (mostly) uninterrupted. -- He has a crazy habit of ripping the dern things off in the middle of the night!! Grrr.

:) Found your site through Amy's.


Lori said...

Thanks for the tip, Stephanie, but we tried them already and they unfortunately don't really work for us.:( His snoring seems to be in the back of his throat, not in the nose. He sounds a lot like the suction thingee they use at the dentist to suck the spit/water out of your mouth. So pretty.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Lori -

I am so sorry to hear about the sleep deprivation. It's a terrible thing. I didn't sleep through the night for 15 months in my last apartment when my thin bedroom wall bordered my crazy neighbor's bedroom. We think he had multiple personalities. He would stay up all night arguing with himself. On really, really bad nights he would get drunk and play Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams" over and over again on his stereo - so loud that the even people in the apartment building 3 doors down called the police! Anyway, I will keep you in my prayers and hope that this problem gets resolved soon.

I love reading your blog. You're a lovely writer and it's fun to witness a little bit of your adoption process.

I'm not going to Alaska and was hoping to maybe come for a visit up there. I planned to fly one way and then try to hitch a ride back home with Marianne when she returned from Seattle, but just found out that her best friend and her kids are driving down with her, so alas, there is no room for the likes of me:) I checked roundtrip prices and they're more expensive than flying roundtrip across the country. Holy cow, Portland...what's the dealio? So I may have to wait a bit...

Are you coming down here any time soon? Good luck on your home study tomorrow! I look forward to reading all about it:)


Anonymous said...

Lori, trying NOT to laugh - sorry.

First thing I ask when I wake and can't go back to sleep: God do you want me to pray for something? Think of it this way - when you're awake at 3:00 in the morning, your baby (if born), or mom-to-be across the world may need prayer for the end to their day, or good day for the next. Don't worry about it - it will go away. It's the perpetual cycle of "I can't go to sleep and I've got to get some sleep". Been there, and will again.

Perhaps God's giving you a glimpse of waking with baby. Yes, it does prepare you for those night feedings. I remember when I was pregnant with Bekah and Noah and they would wake me up in the middle of the night I'd wonder if they were beginning to set their schedule in utero. Welcome to the world of "pregnancy" even if it is "virtual pregnancy".

Can't wait for Little Rooney!! I almost expected you and Ted to adopt. I think it is a natural thing for you, considering all those sweet babies you helped take care of growing up. I thought I saw David about 6 months ago. I so badly wanted to stop the lady pushing his chair and ask her what this boy's name was. Didn't, but wanted to! You're a great mom - remember my dream?!
LY! CindyC

Amanda said...

I can attest to the so bone-tired that you fall asleep immediately, although that cute thing that people keep saying about sleeping when the baby sleeps is the silliest thing I've heard. Oh, sure you should do it, but when do the dishes get done, the clothes get to the washing machine, and the pictures get downloaded?
Now, Kiddo goes to sleep right about 8:00, and I typically fall asleep by about 9:00 (and sometimes 8:15 on the couch!) and don't wake up until she does.
Better sleeping days are ahead, Lori. Sort of.