I am obsessed with sleep.
How much will I get tonight? Will O wake up at 3 AM or 4? Will I be able to fall asleep after I get him back to sleep? Ok, if I fall asleep right now, how much will I get? Ok, how about now?
It is possible I think about sleep more than I actually engage in it.
Not getting enough sleep because of a child is frustrating, but it’s far from novel. What drives me bonkers is when I do get time to sleep and can’t seal the deal. Fifteen minutes before I go to bed I can barely keep my eyes open and then I lie there wide awake, sometimes for hours. Mulling. Ruminating. Stressing.
I’ve literally lain awake at night unable to sleep because I’m stressed about sleep.
The truth is I struggled with insomnia long before I had a baby. O’s erratic sleep habits have only exacerbated it. And I know my insomnia is a result of anxiety that, at least for me, is pretty chill during the day, but likes to come out in full force after dark.
But this is the part that really makes me mad: Why does a personal problem that seems surmountable during the day become an anxiety-ridden fixation at night?
I’ve talked to friends, and I know I’m not alone. And I’ve always assumed it was the quiet stillness of night that allowed our brains to work through the stressors in our lives. But is that right? Why do I spend night after night worrying about a financial problem only to think in the day, oh it’s ok, no biggie, we’ll get through it. Or how I make a flippant comment to someone during the day and it barely registers, but then I spend hours in bed worrying about what that person now thinks of me. It makes no sense.
One of my personal defense mechanisms for mental problems is to look up the science behind them. It’s not that I’m necessarily trying to solve the problem. I just get solace from knowing the “why” of it – like, see, I’m not crazy or defective, my body is supposed to do this.
For example, this morning I realized I had really screwed something up royally and got that horrible, yet universal, “sinking” feeling of a “pit in my stomach.” So to stop my obsessing, I started Googling, which ended with, “oh, that’s just the adrenaline pumping through my body.” Although it probably isn’t the healthiest response, it makes me feel better.
So I naturally always get excited when I read about a physical explanation for sleep problems.
Last year, I read that scientists at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine had found that insomnia often happens because the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that does planning and decision making – can’t cool down enough for sleep to happen.
See how reassuring that would be to me? It’s not my problems keeping me awake! It’s just my brain is too hot from thinking about them. Just flip over the pillow to the cool side and problems melt away.
This morning, I happened upon a study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience that found that sleeping after a traumatic event “cements – and could even amplify – negative emotional memories.” I read this as proof that going to bed angry really is bad for you. And you’re likely to still be angry and maybe even more so the next day.
I should point out that this study was of people who went to bed after experiencing an earthquake and not a $7,000 vet bill for dog surgery, as just one example of something that’s kept me awake. But I would guess that trauma is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the insomniac. Couldn’t any kind of mental anguish be cemented and possibly amplified by sleep?
Do you see where my self-defense rationalizing is going here?
Of course, I read this study as proof that it’s good for you to lie awake thinking about things! It’s just my body’s way of making sure they aren’t cemented and amplified. I’m not abnormal – I’M EVOLVED!
Which leads me to the next natural conclusion – women are obviously more evolved than men on this front.
How many times have you ladies who share a bed with a man turned out the lights and suddenly had the intense, burning desire to…
You know what I mean, ladies. You just wanna…
I have so much I want to say to Tedd when I go to bed. Why don’t I discuss these things over dinner? Until now I had no idea. (Ok, we almost always eat in front of the TV.) But now I know it’s my body’s way of releasing my worries and ensuring they don’t grow overnight.
So there’s my insomnia answer. It’s not ME. It’s Tedd’s fault! Duh. Tedd, see how you just grunting and pretending to be asleep has made my insomnia worse?
From now on, I am going to expect we go to bed early we can spend a significant amount of time sharing and caring, feeling and healing.
And then I will promptly fall asleep.