Discover more from Meg’s Musings
on its illusive state and my long term desire to conquer it
I have always been obsessed with sleep. On getting, or not. On how to sleep. On pillows. On lack of sleep. On why we sleep. On anything about sleep. I’m the kind of person who all those ads that pop up on your social feeds are made for. Sleepless.
I’ve spent years, a lifetime, trying to ‘fix’ it, to sort it out. I’ve delved back into my childhood, fought it and made peace with it, but nothing ever seemed to make a difference. I remained sleepless.
As a kid, I would close my eyes and pretend to sleep. I knew I was meant to sleep, but the sleep that my sister had where she would hop into bed and close her eyes and go to sleep didn’t happen for me. I learnt fairly early that when my parents came to kiss me good night, they expected me to be asleep. I trotted off to bed after the bedtime story read by Mum in the huge beanbag that fitted all four kids as well as our dog Judy. We were allowed to read in bed (these two acts are most likely where my deep love of reading came from) and then had to turn out the light with Mum saying that she would kiss us good night, soon.
As the youngest, I lay in bed listening to all the goings-on in the household, of which there were many. With parents who were mentors for many people — youth leaders, scout leaders, etc — there was barely an evening without someone popping in for a chat or some guidance. There was a lot to listen to. It was in these very early years that I developed a deep interested in other people, and an inability to switch off easily.
My oldest sister who had the misfortune of sleeping in the top bunk above me and had to put up with me kicking her in the early years, regaled me with stories of me sleeping with my eyes open. Now I wonder if I was asleep or just lying very still. I also walked in my sleep and talked in my sleep.
side note on that has nothing to do with much other than it was during time I should have been peacefully sleeping - - we didn’t have a telly growing up — instead we listened to music (reel-to-reel, records, ABC FM), read and played games — so didn’t watch anything with guns or violence, yet I had a recurring wakeful nightmare from a young age that had me lie sleepless under my doona trying to wish it all away. I was convinced for years that there was a man with a gun who could see me from any of the many windows in the house with his gun pointed at me. I had to run from the toilet and back hoping he couldn’t keep up -- end side note
When I was older, I went away with a bunch of friends and in the morning, the girl I shared a room with asked me where I went in the night. I looked at her in horror. ‘Where? No where.’ She shook her head and told me that I got up and walked out the door without a word and disappeared for a period of time and then returned. So was I sleepless or in some weird deep sleep that allowed me to walk in my sleep?
In my twenties, I fought sleeplessness so hard. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d pace the house getting more and more angry that sleep alluded me. I’d curl on the couch and wish for it. I’d make a warm milk with nutmeg, hoping for the amino acids to help. I tried melatonin, but to no avail.
My migraines have been deeply tied to my sleep. I have had recurring migraines that have most often started during the night, waking me and stopping me from dropping off back to sleep. At some point about ten or fifteen years ago, I made peace with my sleeplessness. I found peace in the solitude of the night. Of the noises that only I was hearing. I knew the path of the possums as they walked over the roof. I knew each neighbour’s car when they came home or left early. I knew the sounds of my sons sleeping/walking/waking. It began to feel like a gift of my own that I didn’t need to share. At some stage I began to wonder why we even sleep. Was it a construct to make us work in the day? Why did we all have to lie in beds and try to go to sleep? What would happen if I never slept again? It was a potential slide into a sleep-deprived madness. I understood at some point why it is/was used as torture.
I became super fussy about everything to do with sleep. The way the lights in the house were on or off, the pillows, the mattress, the crinkle in the sheets, the amount of time I read before turning my light off, the list went/goes on and on.
Then my neurologist, frustrated with my continuing nightly migraines, suggested my migraines and sleep were linked. He suggested a sleep study. I backed off. I didn’t want to end up with some CPAP. I also thought that it would be super expensive to get a study that I most likely would find impossible to sleep during (all the beeping of machines, lights, wrong pillows, uncomfortable bed, poor sheets…all the trappings of a bad night’s sleep). He, generously, let it slide. Some time later, he probed more into my sleep habits. When I said that my legs felt like they needed to go for a long run when I woke and I felt twitchy, agitated, he said the words restless leg syndrome. I rolled my eyes and scoffed. ‘Well, there’s nothing that can be done about that,’ I said. He stopped me and said there was.
A few days later with another bunch of meds added to my stash, I had what felt like the first proper sleep in my life. I slept from one end of the night to the other. When I woke, briefly, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I bragged about it. I was dancing on the moon with it. But I never felt so tired. It was like I was sleeping, but not resting and recovering.
Fast forward to earlier this year. My husband who usually sleeps through all my tossing and turnings and wakefulness was awake before me in the morning. ‘You stopped breathing in your sleep,’ he said. ‘What are you going to do about it?’
So I did what the neurologist had suggested all those years ago, and what I had wistfully wondered if there was something more to learn about my insomnia/shit sleep for more years than that. I had a sleep study.
A few weeks ago, i found out that I have sleep apnoea. Tomorrow, I pick up my CPAP and, I jokingly have said to my friends that the next time they see me, I’ll be a new human from all the good sleep I will have had.
And a tiny part of me worries that I’m hanging all my hats on this trick, but why not. Fifty odd years of shit sleep can do that to a woman.
more side-noting -- if you have sleep issues, please chat with your GP or have a look at The Sleep Health Foundation. Also, for Australians wondering if they can afford a sleep study, it falls under Medicare, so it may be cheaper than you think.
Sorry if you came here for stuff about writing and reading. I will/may resume my usual chatter next time.
Until next time, and sweet dreams, x Meg