A Sleep Diva at 42

Entering the Land of Nod used to be easy! Now the environment must be perfect.

Photograph: Photo by: iStockphoto

I’d then do a face-plant, tuck one leg up (that position somehow makes my bladder feel less full) and then it was off to dreamland to appear naked in shame in front of my high school classmates or have my bodice passionately ripped by the guy who plays Denny on Gray’s Anatomy.

Those days are over. In the last couple of years, I have become a complete sleep fussbudget. My sleep environment must be perfect or the odds that I will become fixated on some minor discomfort (it’s too hot, too cold, the sheet is of a sub-optimal thread count) and be unable to sleep are too great.

Here’s what my sleep routine looks like.

1.    After my ablutions, I pee—twice—lest my bladder fail to void completely and I am forced to get up. Once my body is in motion, it feels as if my adrenaline spikes and my mind churns and it’s hard to calm down.
2.    I open the window just enough for it to be on the cool side of temperate in our bedroom, but not enough for something to blow off the side table and wake me.
3.    I jot down any random thoughts or things I’ve forgotten to do on a little pad, thus evicting them from my brain for the night.
4.    I then put in earplugs (we live near an urban highway and while it used to sound like the ocean to me, I now only hear the skidding, car crashes, and cursing), and if my husband is still up and looking at his BlackBerry, an eye mask. Even that tiny light shining within five feet of my pupils will simulate daylight and throw off my circadian rhythms. Of this I am convinced.
5.    Most of all, I studiously avoid any conversation with my husband that might lead to conflict. This means avoiding any conversation.
6.    I then assume my position and God help the child who wanders in asking for a glass of water.

As much of a pain as this makes me, the consequences of not doing this—getting less than the 8 to 9 hours I need for more than one night—are far worse, so my family gives me great latitude. They’ve seen the foul-tempered, nerve-jangled, oddly pigmented carbovore I become when I’m running a sleep deficit.

I don’t think I’m in perimenopause yet, either, which scares me, because things only promise to get worse from there. At perimenopause, according to experts, estrogen and progesterone, which help regulate sleep, take a dive, making matters worse. Add to that the handful of symptoms I may have to look forward to, like hot flashes, and I’ll need a horse pill-sized Ambien to put me out.

But if I worry about that now, at 10 PM, I’ll never get to sleep. So in the meantime, I’ll keep doing all the things the experts say to do—exercise, keep my weight in check so I don’t develop sleep apnea, and try to be moderately sane so that my nerves aren’t on a hair trigger. It’s that last one that I find to be the biggest challenge. There must be a solution. I’ll just have to sleep on it.

Are you a sleep fussbudget too? Share your specific bedtime rituals by writing a comment.

When you’re done here, check out formerlyhot.com, Stephanie’s blog about being too old to be young and too young to be old.

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