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Much ado about sleep

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

When I tell you I don’t sleep, I am not bragging. Nor am I complaining. I’m just stating a fact. And perhaps looking for some sympathy or justification on why I look so bad.

I once was a sleeper.

Decades ago, I could sleep until noon or later any given day of the week. Of course, that was when I really was a night owl and wasn’t getting into bed until the wee hours of the morning.

That’s all changed now. I can go to sleep at 3 a.m. and in two to three hours, I am wide-eyed and ready to start my day.

My late mother always said I was like a baby – I had my days and nights mixed up. Fact is, I’ve always been a creature of the night. I function just fine in the morning hours, but come sundown, I become more animated and I’m often ready to take on the world – at 9 p.m.

Living alone, that wasn’t much of a problem, but my husband sees things differently.

“A little late to be doing laundry,” he said to me last Friday around 11 p.m.

“Umm, not really,” I said, loading the tub.

Lately, I’ve really tried to overcome my bad habit of staying up most of the night.

Unless it’s a Tuesday – which is THE day in the newspaper business, I make myself be in bed by 11 p.m. I read until my eyes grow weary. And within minutes, I am asleep.

But then I awaken, glance at the Fitbit and see it’s 1:30 a.m. I am ready to move. Unfortunately the dog and the husband think otherwise.

So I lie there and wait. And wait. And finally I drift off. And then voila! It’s 4 a.m. and I’m again wide awake.

Most of the time, I get up, make coffee, read, play on my iPad and wait for the sleeping beasts to join me.

This is not something that happens occasionally. It happens three to five times a week.

I mentioned it a few years back to my doctor, who was convinced I had sleep apnea. I agreed to a sleep study and only the doctor was surprised at the results. I do not have sleep apnea and in fact, go into REM – the dream quality state – three to four times each night.

When I got my Fitbit, I made sure to get one that tracks sleep. It has confirmed what I already knew: I sleep about four hours a night, I’m in REM dreaming about 90 of those minutes and I’m in deep sleep only 45 minutes.

And therein lies the problem.

A person needs to be in deep sleep at least 90 minutes to two hours and I’m only getting a fraction of it.

Am I tired? Somewhat but nothing that prevents me from doing what has to be done. Do I need more sleep? Of course, the body has to recharge and mine is certainly not getting enough time to do it.

Friends have suggested prescription medications, melatonin if I prefer something natural, even relaxing aromatherapy baths and showers. To this point, I’ve done nothing.

I mentioned to my new doctor that I don’t sleep.

“Anything going on in your life?” He asked.

Not the question to ask. What is not going on in my life? I work a stressful job. I work with the Chamber of Commerce and Relay for Life. I have a husband who has been sidelined for two years with chronic back problems. I have three children, grandchildren, friends, family, animals. Holy moley! Is it any wonder my mind is always spiraling at 90 to nothing?

“I can see it now,” the doctor said. “They will find you dead across your desk at 85 years old.”

Umm, no, I answered a bit too sharply. I will not die at my desk.

I want to sleep. I honestly do. REM is my friend. I like my dreams. But that may be problematic too because my dreams are always adventure-filled and action-packed. No sunning on a tropical island in my slumber.

So, if you’re one of those who gets eight hours of sleep a night, I salute you, perhaps even envy you.

But if you’re one of those like me, know you have a kindred spirit.

In the words of the great Warren Zevon, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

And no it won’t be across my desk at the Williston Pioneer.