Finding My Rhythms
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
The bodyâ€™s natural rhythms should be discovered and respected, whether itâ€™s sleeping, Â eating, Â ovulating…whatever.
Iâ€™ve had problems with insomnia for several years but always just dealt with it. During the break-up of my marriage, Â I Â had Â to Â resort Â to Â sleeping Â pillsâ€”something Â Iâ€™d never done beforeâ€”because Â I couldnâ€™t get Â my mind to stop grinding long enough to get any sleep and after two weeks of nothing more than nodding off, I was a basket case. After the divorce, I slept more restfully and needed much less sleep to get through the night but Iâ€™d still wake upÂ frequently, Â probably Â because Â I Â was Â gettingÂ used Â to sleeping alone.
These days, the insomnia is on the early end of the nightâ€”between midnight Â and two a.m.â€”and Â itâ€™s Â most likely because Â Iâ€™ve disturbed Â the patterns Â and set some new ones that arenâ€™t good for a person who must be up and at work and at least appear to be alive in the morning.
A friend of mine, also an insomniac, once explained the REM Â cycles, Â and Iâ€™ve thought quite a bit about that over the years. He used to tell me that the human body needed only 3 hours of sleep a night. Hmmm. Maybe his human body. But then, I do recall that he liked to nap in the evenings and on his days off. I canâ€™t get by on 3 hours a night, even with a nap during the day. I can do 4.5 and I adore 6. Why the odd intervals? Blame it on what he told me.
If deep Â sleep Â occurs Â in Â 90-minute Â intervals, Â then Â I need to finish a 90-minute interval before I wake. That simple. Iâ€™ve tested this out to find out what works for me, and Iâ€™ve been pleasantly surprised. Not that he was right, but that it was a much simpler way of managing my time and energy.
I found that I was much more rested and ready for the day at 4.5 hours (three 90-minute cycles) than if I got 7 hours (four 90-minute and a broken fifth cycle). More hours asleep, yes, but waking in the middle of a cycle left me lethargic andâ€”since my early to mid 30â€™sâ€”nauseated.
So last year, I began planning my sleep-time. I used to stay up after the family had gone to bed and work, work, work until my body decided in my early 30â€™s that it was going to force me to sleep by becoming suddenly nauseated so Iâ€™d have to shut down and crawl into bed. Nausea will shut me down faster than anything Â else. I can work through pain, Â but not through Â nausea. Then if I didnâ€™t sleep deeply for enough hours, Iâ€™d wake up nauseated until I did get enough sleep. My answer to this was to plan about 15-30 minutes to fall asleep and set my alarm for four sleep cycles later for a full 6 hours of sleep. I found I could fall asleep at midnight and still be fresh for work at 7 the next morning (I can be dressed and out the door in 30 minutes, or less time than it takes to drive to the office.)
The flaw in my plan? â€œItâ€™s only 5 and you donâ€™t have to get up yet, but have you seen my algebra book?â€
Now that weâ€™ve got that worked out, the blame is all my own. Since summertime, Â Iâ€™ve been staying up a little later with Â the Â girls, Â who Â donâ€™t Â have Â the Â same Â bedtime schedules as before, even though Shannonâ€™s working full- time by the time I leave for work every morning.
So Iâ€™m often settling in to do some serious me-time on the computer and on my writing at 10:00 at night. And at midnight, Iâ€™m thinking, Iâ€™m not sleepy yet, so I might as well be up. And at 1:00, Iâ€™m Â telling myself the same thing. And at 1:30…. Iâ€™m falling asleep at 2:00 or, heaven forbid, 2:30 and finding myself waking up at about 4.5 hours later, before the alarm goes off and telling myself, no, no, no, itâ€™s too early to get up. So I got back to sleep for about 30 minutes or so and Â feel like crap when the alarm does go off.
So Iâ€™m either going to reset my sleep time and get to bed at a â€œdecentâ€ witching hour or Iâ€™m going to start get- ting up when I wake up before the alarm. I didnâ€™t learn to count in 90-minute intervals for nothing!