You Need Sleep!

I was recently contacted by a very friendly chap named Peter, who has turned some informative facts about sleep into exceedingly cute info-graphics.  Not only does the data look accurate, but it is easy to read, properly succinct, and, most importantly, super cute.

My personal favorite facts include:

1) Not getting enough sleep increases the risk of being overweight (which means I shall forever blame my love handles on my horrible sleep patterns).

2) Cognitive functionality increases 40% after a 20 minute nap.  I am a huge fan of the 20 minute nap – and more often than not I feel more rested after a high quality power nap during the day than I do after a full night of typical “sleep”.  My favorite 20 minute nap method involves drinking a cup of coffee immediately before taking the nap, so by the time you get up from the nap the caffeine kicks in.  I can also forever blame my apparently slow processing speed and dull nature on my ghastly REM cycles.  Hurrah.

See for yourself how lovely and cute fun facts about sleep can be!  Clicking on the picture will take you directly to the original source.

Provided by: MedicalBillingandCodingCertification.net

Grouchy Pants. Or, Grouchy No-Pants.

I didn’t have any problems sleeping when I was younger.  During elementary school, and even middle school, I generally slept through the night, and had dreams only intermittently.  I didn’t start being all sleep-crazy until I started high school. Thank you, hormones.

There was one recurring dream that I can recall from elementary school. I was at the mall, walking down a hallway, by myself.  I hear people shrieking and know that there is a dragon around the corner.  I run to hide, and end up crouching behind a drinking fountain, located in the middle of the hallway.  I peek my head around the edge of the fountain, see the dragon coming down the hallway, in my direction, and quickly swivel my head back around, hoping it doesn’t see me.  It never noticed me, so I thought I would be ok, provided I remain behind the fountain.  It was slightly unnerving while experiencing it, but I do not remember being all that scared about it when I woke up.

As my early years were relatively dream-free, and thus, fatigue-free, I wasn’t always A Morning Grouch.  But, as with all things, there was a day that I recollect as an exception.

The couple who lived next door to us, used to babysit me before school. They had a son my age, and we would squabble  play together often.  I don’t remember too much about the mom, except that she made really, really good chicken curry.  I still think about how good her chicken curry was.  (Sorry mom, for not eating the chicken curry you made me after you found out I liked hers.  I appreciate the effort.  It just wasn’t the same.  Not at all.)  My parents would drop me off next door when they left for work;  I was often carried over, in my pajamas, eyes full of sleep.  I would eat breakfast, get dressed, and hop on the bus from their house.

One winter morning I got dressed, put on my super awesome, bulky, navy blue snow pants, and wrapped a scarf around my neck.  I was very bundled up.  I’m not really sure why I even wore snow pants to school. How dorky?  I mean, I just got on the bus and then walked into the school.  It’s not like I was snowshoeing across the Arctic, through the tundra.  Perhaps they were essential for recess shenanigans.

Anyway, I got to my locker, unwrapped the scarf and slid it on it’s hook, shoved my coat inside.  I went to remove my snow pants…and….uh oh!  I realized I forgot to put on REAL pants underneath!  HOW DO YOU FORGET TO PUT ON PANTS??  There may have been a moment of sweaty panic.

Note:  I know this might sound like a dream/nightmare where you show up to school naked.  But this is for real.  I swear.  (Sidebar:  See husband?  I have always been a little forgetful, even about pesky little things, like pants.  Just an FYI that I will never remember to put the pruning shears away when done, open the window when taking a shower, close the cupboard doors after stacking dishes, and turning off the lights after I leave a room.  At least never all of them, consistently.  Might as well just let it go).

After the brief cortisol surge, I think to myself, “I’ve got this”.  Apparently I used to have an inordinate amount of confidence.  The entire day goes by, and I lie, unconvincingly I’m sure, about just feeling like wearing my snow pants that day.  Uh huh.  You could hear me going to reading….swish…swish…swish, you could hear me going to math…swish…swish…swish…and to recess (which I was super excited about, as it was the only time when swishing was an appropriate noise for your pants to make, and I wasn’t the only odd duck wearing them).

I wasn’t yet at the point yet where I drowned my sorrows in red wine,  so I’m really not sure what I did to relieve the stress from that day.

My Pretty, My Precious

So, starting this blog has made me pay more attention to my sleep patterns, which I have pretty much brushed off up until this point.  I’ve decided that a further investigation of sleep aids, and maybe even a sleep study, is needed.  I will call this time period “My Search For Slumber”.

I am teacher, so initially I was thinking it would make sense that summer would be the ultimate time to test different sleep aids, since I’d have the benefit of not having to work the next morning.  This seemed pretty important, in case I woke up feeling like a zombie, like I did when I tried taking Nyquil.   At least over the summer, me being groggy or snarky or loopy, won’t be putting today’s youth at risk.  But, after a bit of thought, and some prompting from my cousin, Maggie, it occurred to me that I am often zombie-like, snarky or loopy, anyway.

In fact, my husband often asks me constructive questions such as, “Are you EVER in a good mood?”  To which I huff and roll my eyes.  But, I do recognize that I am often NOT in a good mood.  I’m exhausted.  I don’t have the energy to get everything done around the house.  Or to even do something that might be considered fun, like getting dressed up and going on a girls night out.  In a vain attempt to get someone else (Husband) to cheer me up, maybe I do complain too much. And, maybe that isn’t fair, to ask of him.  It also never works, so I don’t know why I keep trying that route.  I’m ok at putting on a façade of normalcy when I am at work.  But, that takes a lot of energy, and quite often after the work day is over, I want to collapse into a heap on the floor.  Sometimes, this is exactly what I do.

This isn’t to say that I am never actually in a good mood.  In fact, I’d say that I AM cheery and chipper, between 30-50% the time.  But, on those days, I am almost manic.   Hyper.  Energetic.  Excessively talkative.  In one 24 hour period I jog, scrub the sinks and organize my closet.  I get ahead on my paperwork.  I scrapbook, I sew blankets, make homemade cards, design road rallys, and create elaborate themes for parties, I cut out pages within old books to create secret cavities for hiding secret objects.  On these days, I am productive as hell.  I am on top of the world! If only I could harness this energy and feel like this every day. (Sidebar:  I have an irrational fear that someone will make me accidentally try heroin or meth and I will LOVE IT and feel like this every day, and I will become an addict, my face will turn skeletal and I will develop oozing sores all over my body, my husband will divorce me and I will die a pitiful, homeless, wreck.  The horror!)  If I see my sisters on days like this, they will ogle me and ask if I am okay.  One of them in particular usually tries to make me tone it down, but of course I simply mock her for reprimanding me.  This lasts for a period of days to weeks, and then I crash back down to reality.  I usually land on my face.  It hurts.

So, you might think that I possibly need to test out some other medications, than just the sleep aids.  And you are probably right. However, I’m not ready to go there, quite yet (In anticipation of when that occurs, I have already named that time period, “My Search for Sanity”.) For now, I’m hoping that helping improve the quality of my sleep will result in a better quality of life when awake.  How could it not?

So, my first test began last night.  My cousin Maggie recently went on a trip to France. She, too, experiences some difficulty sleeping, so while there she discovered a French sleep aid that she refers to as, My Pretty. In a fantastic blog about her trip, she referenced the benefits of My Pretty several times and brought home several boxes with her.  I like to imagine her scouring neighborhoods for any drug store within a 40 mile radius (or should I say 65 kilometer radius) and buying each and every one of them out of My Pretty.  I picture her purchasing an extra duffel bag for the sole purpose of bringing as many My Pretties home as possible, her throwing out the boxes to save room for the good stuff, the case stuffed to the brim with pills, and perhaps a few chocolate croissants or baguettes shoved in for good measure.  But, maybe this is just what I would do.  She generously sent me a sample of My Pretty, and has been hounding me to try them.  She sent me the informational pamphlet along with the pills, but of course it is in French.  So, I have no idea what chemicals abound within the little square tablet.  Could be carcinogens, neurotoxins, Anthrax. But, it could still be worth it.

My Pretties, French Pamphlet. Note how I greedily tore open the fleur-de-lis envelope, knowing what awaited me inside.

So, I began My Search for Slumber last night and popped of the My Pretties down my throat before bed.  I always read each night before going to sleep, and after about ½ hour I did notice my eyes getting particularly heavy.  GOOD SIGN, since generally I start becoming MORE awake after about 8 pm or so.  So, I was hopeful.  I woke up 4 times, which is the typical amount of wakeups I generally experience. But, normally upon these wakeups I feel AWFUL.  EXHAUSTED and angry about the fact that I am awake.  Last night when I awoke, I didn’t feel so bad.  So, other than the time I got up to pee (which occurs at minimum once per night), I just went back to sleep.  I woke up okay.  Not too tired.  Could it be?  Could it actually be helpful?  Suddenly I am referring to this French tablet as, My Precious.  I picture myself becoming hunch-backed, losing my hair, eyeballs starting to consume my entire face.  I see myself ready to maim anyone who might try to take My Precious away from me. We’ll see if My Pretty really becomes My Precious.   I would happily turn into Gollum, if it meant success in My Search for Slumber.

These Irish Peepers Give Others The Creepers

When I was in college, I traveled to Ireland with my Scottish friend, Arlene. We began our trip in Dublin, where we drank boatloads of Guinness, while sitting by fireplaces in cozy pubs, enjoying poignant Irish ballads and laments. I obtained a new passport, since my original passport got stolen while I was in Scotland, the week before. (Sidebar:  Always listen to your dad, when he tells you to photocopy your drivers license and passport when you travel.  Even if you roll your eyes and pretend it is a stupid idea.  DO IT.)  We signed up for a week-long tour of the island, and hopped on the Shamrockers bus, along with about 35 other college age adults. After the organized tour, we took a side trip to Northern Ireland, and visited a friend of ours who lived in Belfast.

Highlights of our Irish adventure included visiting County Cork, where my Grandpa Riney’s family was from, kissing the Blarney Stone in Galway (but I didn’t have the five dollars to buy a souvenir t-shirt, as my credit card was stolen along with my passport), and partying hard while in Killarny, where our bus tour bonded as a group and drunkenly sang, in unison, the lyrics to “If You’ll Be My Girl” for hours straight as we stumbled from pub to pub. Heeeeeey!   Hey baby!  I wanna know-ow-ow if you’ll be my girl!  Uh! Ah!  Yes, we were those Americans.  Northern highlights included viewing the Protestant parades and almost getting hit by a rock thrown by protestors. My friends insisted we pose for a photo with the hulking men in army fatigues, holding semi-automatic weapons. To this day, I have no clue who these armed men were protecting, or intimidating, but as good friends do, they blamed me, the American, for wanting the photo. I humored them.

One of my favorite memories was visiting the amazingly lovely geometric fractures at Giant’s Causeway.     Eyeball the natural beauty:

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Unfortunately, this was pre writing-travel-blogs, so there is a lot about this trip that I have forgotten.

The trip was amazing, and exhausting. We traveled around the entire perimeter of the island, so we were on the bus a LOT. After late nights at the pub, this meant a lot of napping on the bus. I vividly recall waking up from one particular mid-morning nap. I thought I heard someone say, “She’s sleeping!” as I began to come to. I looked around and 6 pairs of eyes were studying me. I shifted in my seat as I glanced around at the circle of faces surrounding me. Had I been drooling? Snoring? Talking in my sleep? Did I sleep with my mouth gaping open, like my great-grandfather used to? Something was causing these quizzical expressions…but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Sara, a fellow Shamrocker, finally asked me, “Did you hear me? I was asking you a question.” I heard a collective groan. EW! AH! (not to be confused with the more lighthearted “Uh! Ah!” mentioned earlier) when I told her that I had been sleeping, so no, I didn’t hear her. One of the pairs of eyes chimed in, “You looked wide awake; your eyes were open, so she was talking to you!” Apparently, when I didn’t respond, Sara was so grossed out that her exclamations of disgust attracted the others, who were now surrounding me.

This is how I learned that I sleep with my eyes open.

A few months later, I had an eye doctor appointment. I set my alarm and got up at the last possible second, arriving mere minutes after dragging my ass out of bed. While she was looking at my eyes, she noted that the bottoms of my eyes were dry. She asked if I slept with my eyes open. Thanks to my Irish adventures, I was able to confirm, that yes, in fact, I did. In Ireland, my open lids were accentuated due to the particular angle of my head against the bus seat; typically my peepers are only slightly ajar.