I met this great guy at a party recently. He is a sleep specialist. Why did I not meet him years ago? In the totally platonic sense of course, both of us being mostly happily married. We have so much in common. He is also renovating his house and experiencing ‘tradie fatigue’. ‘Wow, me too,’ I said, ‘is that an actual thing, tradie fatigue?’ ‘Yes,’ he said and we swapped our tales of woe about the myriad plumbers, electricians, landscapers, tilers, pavers, painters, reticulation guys (actually they were really nice), fencing guys and decking guys we’ve had the misfortune to deal with in the last year.
It’s so great to meet people who share your misery. It validates it somehow, making you feel less alone.
As for his job of sleep specialist, well, I now know that not being a morning person is a genuine thing. I am not lazy, I am just wired this way and it won’t change. I can learn how to manage it better, but I will never ever be someone who springs out of bed at 5.30 am with a demeanour to match that of my annoyingly-cheerful-in-the-morning husband, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for the day. (Read more about my husband and our differing nocturnal habits in Changing Lightbulbs). And he’s the same as me, my new friend the sleep specialist. So we traded further tales of woe about our unfortunately wired body clocks.
And there’s more. My waking up after two hours of getting to sleep is also a thing – it’s called sleep maintenance insomnia. Yippee! I’m not a freak. I have a genuine syndrome. I have no trouble getting to sleep, but often wake up, seemingly for no reason, in the wee small hours and have difficulty going back to the land of nod.
I’m getting better though. During 2013, my annus horribilis, it was at its worst. Anxiety and depression kicked in and there was no respite, no sleep, no rest (read more in Changing Lightbulbs). These days any night time anxiety is most likely to be caused by tradie fatigue, renovation rumination or moving house mania. On most nights now I can block it out (thanks yoga, mindfulness and meditation) and rediscover the sweet sweet sensation of deep sleep. But occasionally I lie awake for hours on end, thinking about nothing in particular but frustratingly unable to sink back into slumber.
I’m doing all the right things, said my new friend the sleep specialist, and there’s not much else I can do short of knocking myself out with sleeping pills, which I am loathe to do. I’ll stick with pacing around the house, or making a warm drink, or writing down my thoughts in the notebook I keep by my bed until eventually I lie down again and miraculously sleep returns.
Strangely, for someone who often finds sleep elusive, I can fall asleep quite nicely sitting upright on the sofa watching TV anytime after 9 o’clock at night, no matter how compelling the programme (yes, I clearly am turning into my mother) or on a lazy Sunday morning stretched out on a sun-drenched beach, or even during an afternoon siesta while an army of tradesmen wield their tools and saws and grinders just outside my bedroom window, or occasionally, very occasionally, during a particularly long and tedious school assembly (ssssh, don’t tell anyone).
I used to resist these daytime snoozes but now, figuring that I need to enjoy them while the going is good, I have embraced the deliciousness of daytime napping, regardless of dribbling, sunburn or public embarrassment.
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