I’ve never been good at the whole “sleeping” thing. I take forever to fall asleep, I wake up frequently, I never feel well rested, I get sleepy throughout the day. It’s not the sort of passing insomnia caused by a stressful event or a particularly hard work load (though the later is more likely voluntary sleep deprivation, which I also sometimes do). My failure to get a good night’s rest has existed since literally as long as I can remember, probably since I was five years old.
My memories of insomnia as a little kid are kind of hilarious, in retrospect. As a kid I believed the mantra of “Parents can solve everything, therefor you should tell them all of your problems.” Oh childhood innocence. But it was rule I followed very closely, especially when I couldn’t sleep at night – which, unfortunately for my parents, was fairly often.
During one of my sleepless nights, I would slowly open the door to their bedroom and creep over to my dad’s side of the bed. Looking back, I am so amazed and relieved I never caught them in the middle of some hanky panky – probably because they quickly got used to me barging in on a fairly regular basis (sorry Mom & Dad – what else are kids for?). The exchange was always the same:
Me: Daaaddddy? … (if father did not awake, insert poking here)
Dad: *wakes up* huuhh what?
Me: I can’t sleep.
He would then take me downstairs to the couch, put on All Dogs Go to Heaven, and then wait until I fell asleep.
Yeah, my dad can’t stand that movie anymore.
Soon he was putting on the movie and leaving me there. And after that, my sleeplessness was met with “And what do you want me to do about it?” and I learned to go sleep on the couch without harassing my dad. (As an aside, my dad asked me recently why I always woke him up and never my mom. That’s because she was a much deeper sleeper, and I knew I wouldn’t get any help from her. Poor dad, suffering from child logic.)
I also used to sleepwalk a lot when I was little. Apparently I would go into my parents’ room babbling nonsense, one of them would tell me to go back to bed, and my zombie like self would listen. I still do minor sleepwalking-like things, but never actually walking around (with one exception). I’ve been prone to sleeptalking, especially when I’m having an angry dream. Sometimes I’m shouting so loud in my dreams that I’ll mumble it, much to the confusion of roommates and boyfriends. I’ll actually sleepcry more frequently than I’ll sleeptalk, which is simply bizarre upon waking.
But the thing I do most frequently is also the thing that freaks out roommates the most – sleepsitting. All I’ll do is sit straight up in bed and stare facing forward. I usually wake up after sleeping in this position for a while, think “Oh, I’m doing it again,” and then lay back down to go to sleep. I completely freaked out my first college roommate, who thought I was possessed or fucking with her when I did this one night. This almost always happens when I’m having a particularly stressful week, so I have no idea how chemicals are messing with my brain to produce this effect.
Even ignoring these bizarre sleep habits, I’ve never been a good sleeper. It usually takes me anywhere from a half hour to an hour to fall asleep, sometimes up to two hours on a bad night. It doesn’t matter how exhausted I am. Once I’m actually sleeping, I’ll still wake up at least twice a night, sometimes up to ten times; I’m not even sure if I know what it’s like to sleep without doing so. The only perk of this is that I always vividly remember multiple dreams from that night, and I frequently lucid dream (“Oh, hey, this is a dream. Time to fly around, weee!”).
Then I’ll usually wake up multiple times before the alarm goes off, frantically checking the clock. An hour left. 45 more minutes. 30 minutes. 20. 15. 10. 5. 2. It’s maddening. And when I finally wake up, I’m never well rested, and I’m lethargic and falling asleep throughout the day. The only mild solution I’ve come up with is allotting myself 10 hours for “sleep,” assuming I might actually sleep during 7 or 8 of those hours. Problem is, I’m an overbooked college student who hardly had eight hours to set aside for sleep.
The utterly maddening thing, however, is that I sleep fine when I shouldn’t be sleeping. On the rare occasion that I nap (I try not to, since I know it makes sleeping at night even worse), I will be out like a light and go into super deep restful sleep. If I’m a passenger in a car, I can’t keep my eyes open and I’ll be gone no matter how uncomfortable the situation (I blame this on my parents – when I was little, they’d drive me around to get me to fall asleep). If I’m sitting at the back of a giant boring lecture after getting 3 hours of sleep, I have no problem microsleeping while managing to not drool all over the desk, snore, or be distracted by the lecture (I know, naughty Jen).
But it seems like the second I lay down in a real bed, I’m wide awake. It’s worse when there’s something I have to wake up for in the morning, but it’s still not perfect on weekends. I’ve never harassed doctors about it, since their general reply (and the reply of others) is that I’m just stressed and anxious.
…Okay, which is totally true.
Regardless, it’s still annoying. I know there are a thousand tips I could be following to get better sleep. Exercise (ha), going to bed at the same time (haha), eating at regular times (uh, I’m a college student?), avoiding caffeine (the only thing keeping me functional during the day), and staying away from the computer before bed (ahahahahahaha). Maybe I’m doomed to my sleeplessness because of my lifestyle. Maybe my constant sleep deprivation is the cause of my sarcastic, mildly cranky personality – aka, the source of all my blogging inspiration – so I don’t actually want to cure it.
At least I can rest easy…well, rest easier knowing that mild to moderate insomnia is associated with increased longevity. I can be sleep deprived even longer!
EDIT: I forgot to include my one sleepwalking exception! This happened maybe a year ago-ish. I had been watching way too much Food Network on TV, and had a hilarious sleep walking episode. I “woke up” semi-conscious, thinking I was participating on Iron Chef. My bed was the prep station and my desk was the stove top. I literally got up and started moving my blankets around, thinking they were food, and then walking back and forth to my desk. The strangest part was that I was semi-lucid during all of my hallucinations, which is why I remember this episode. The whole time I was thinking nonsense like “Man, this food is so hard to cook because it’s not really food, it’s blankets. Wait, what? Oh well, must keep cooking.” At one point my imaginary Chairman demanded cookies, so I literally walked over to the bathroom and stared at the toilet paper. “This isn’t cookies, this is toilet paper. But he wants cookies. Can the toilet paper be cookies?” Eventually I woke up enough to realize that I was playing imaginary Iron Chef, and I walked back to my bed and went to sleep.
The brain is an amazing organ.
EDIT 2: Damn, apparently I already blogged about my Iron Chef sleepwalking. I have no new material, folks. Oh well, go there if you want a more detailed and hilarious description of my sleepwalking.