I am a bad sleeper.
Some months and years are better than others, but since childhood I’ve often been restless or awake while the rest of the household sleeps. I’m one who takes it upon herself to solve the world’s problems in the wee morning hours, and is embarrassingly familiar with late-night infomercials. With all of the research about getting less than 6 hours shortening one’s life, it’s enough to make a bad sleeper lose even more sleep.
A few years ago, realizing how important sleep is to overall health, I decided that instead of just trying to power through on grit and caffeine, I’d make an effort to get a few more hours each night.
First, my husband and I switched to a king-sized bed, hoping the extra space would help. We plotted out our territories, leaving a hefty margin in the middle that no one dared cross. It worked for a while, but then I found myself pregnant at age 46 (I guess there had been some crossing). Pregnancy, nursing, pumping, and all of the nighttime waking disrupted whatever tenuous grasp I had on precious sleep. Our baby was an amazing gift, but I was fried, again.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, menopause set in. Enter night sweats and frequent trips to the bathroom to squeeze out a whopping 3 drops of pee. My eye shades, noise machine, and essential oils were no match for this new stage of life. I tossed, turned, growled, and occasionally reached out to kick my snoring husband, but I did not sleep.
When our toddler started waking in the night after a family trip, I’d had it. We would bring him into our bed, and while he and my husband fell right back to sleep, I’d stare at the ceiling fretting that if I Iet my guard down, our son would roll off the bed or get tangled in the covers. And what about world hunger and nuclear proliferation? Everyone knows that worrying is worse at night.
Soon I took to slipping out as soon as our little one joined us. I’d find refuge on the living room couch or the floor of the basement. I knew it made no sense that I could fall asleep more quickly in these less than comfy places than in my own bed, but the change of location seemed to break the “It’s 3 am and I know I will never sleep again” worry cycle.
Recently, we dragged a mattress to the floor of the basement, and I now have a more comfortable refuge. Sometimes I go there in the middle of the night; other times I scoot down as soon as everyone else goes to sleep. Even when our toddler sleeps through the night, there is something about being completely “off duty” that helps me sleep more soundly. I can pop a melatonin if I want. The cool, dark basement means less sweating, and when I wake at night I’m able to convince my bladder that the long trip upstairs to the bathroom just isn’t worth it.
Would I rather be snuggling with my husband in our own bed? Sure. But in nearly 26 years together, we’ve learned that there are stages to a marriage. I’m sure Tim would rather sleep alone than have a sweaty, seething menopausal woman next to him concocting ways to murder him in his (blissful) sleep. I’m not kidding, that man smiles as he dreams. It’s infuriating.
As for the impact fleeing the marital bed has on our sex life? Well, with a teen who stays up late, and a toddler who wakes up early, I’d say our opportunities are already rather limited. However, aiming for 6 hours of sleep a night can’t help but improve my mood, if you know what I mean.