From how long we sleep to our assortment of idiosyncrasies, sleep is now categorized as another branch of “hygiene” – as if there are clean and dirty ways to get our shut-eye.
Since such a large portion of our time is spent sleeping (or trying to sleep or trying to get someone else to sleep), it’s also a topic that permeates everyday life for all humans on the planet.
So let’s talk about sleep, including some weird (but true) quirks about my own sleep habits.
weird but true
- In high school I hated making my bed and, at some point, decided to sleep in a sleeping bag every night. My parents were 100% okay with this decision. I feel like I might resist my own children making a similar choice, but I’m not sure why? It just seems like a weird habit in retrospect. I had a giant wicker basket that I would stuff my sleeping bag into during the day, so making my bed took seconds. I loved this arrangement.
- I sleep on the same side of the bed, even at hotels. This might not actually be uncommon, but I once talked to someone who said she and her husband would just randomly pick a side if they weren’t home in their own bed. Um, no. This simply would not work.
- For over 30 years I slept on my stomach every night. When I was a teenager I happened to see a snippet of an Oprah show where a guest (a chiropractor, maybe?) was suggesting viewers wear a baseball cap to prevent rolling over onto their stomachs. Or, alternatively, the suggestion was to stop sleeping with a pillow. I chose the latter. I was so attached to stomach sleeping it was one of the hardest things to avoid during pregnancy and I slept on my stomach almost immediately after giving birth. Now it hurts my lower back and I rarely sleep on my stomach (but I sleep with a VERY thin pillow and if I do happen to spend any time on my stomach, I put my head directly onto the mattress).
- I wash my sheets infrequently. I will not share how infrequent this is but will let your imagination run wild (let’s just say it would be horrifying to any once-a-week folk out there; I had an aunt who was a once-a-day sheet washer. We clearly do not share the same genetic profile on this habit). I tend to shower most evenings, though, which has to count for something?
- Speaking of sheets, I no longer use top sheets. Just a fitted sheet (over a mattress protector) + a duvet. Life is too short for fighting with top sheets.
- My nighttime routine is getting more and more complicated. I use a white noise machine and wear an eye mask. I cannot sleep without either of these things. I must use the washroom about 10 times or I am guaranteed to wake up in the night. And if my feet are cold I can’t sleep so I often warm up Magic Bags. It’s a gong show.
nighttime bathroom breaks
I can remember drinking a full glass of caffeinated pop (soda, depending on where you live) right before bed as a teen and my Dad would always shake his head and say: “I don’t know how you can do that and not be up constantly.”
How I miss that young bladder. Baby #2 did away with my bladder of steel and regardless of how little I drink in the evenings, I often wake up to pee and then struggle to get back to sleep.
This is so frustrating and I feel like I’m too young for this issue. I do have significant scar tissue from my C-sections and have had osteopathic adjustments which have helped with scar adhesion to my bladder. But still. I definitely don’t have the guts to drink a full glass of anything before bedtime these days.
A defining theme of my childhood was my mother’s issues with sleep. She struggled for decades with insomnia. I can only now begin to appreciate how hard it must have been for her to show up for her family, at her workplace, and complete her myriad responsibilities in a regular state of sleep deprivation.
I’ve mostly been an okay sleeper, but have had periodic issues for over 10 years which, coincidentally, matches up with when I became a mother. Hmmmm. That said, both kids have been excellent sleepers. If the kids aren’t sick (or desperately hungry, a recent theme with someone going through a growth spurt), we don’t see them between 8 pm and 7 am. So outside of the baby stage, I can’t really blame them for sleep disruption, though I think having children just makes one sleep less deeply as I’m always, always attuned to their noise. In fact on the morning I’m writing this post, I thought I heard someone knocking on the door at 4:56 am (it was either a false alarm or something happening within my dream), but it woke me up just the same.
The DST change back in November 2021 seemed to set off my worst-ever period (several months) of insomnia. I was getting 3-4 hours most nights, and I definitely fall squarely within the “needs 8 hours” category. It was awful.
I’ve done all the “right” things – I’ve gone weeks without caffeine, I incorporate regular exercise, I shower an hour before bed, eliminate evening snacking, and keep the temperature low. Etcetera.
The full moon definitely impacts my sleep – pretty sad when I start blaming lunar cycles, eh?
I’ve tried Magnesium Citrate (hate that stuff), Valerian Root, Passionflower, and Melatonin. Mostly now I try to read my body. If I can’t get to sleep or wake up in the night, I don’t fight it for very long. I get up and do some low-impact activity (often reading or writing) until I feel tired. In a real pinch, I take one of my OTC drowsy allergy pills, which helps with my relatively persistent allergy symptoms and acts as a sleep aid.
Thankfully, sleep has improved lately, but I know it’s a cyclical thing that will almost certainly impact me again. Such is life.
That’s all I’ve got for today. For any mom reading with small kiddos at home, I suspect sleep is on your mind a lot these days. Does anyone have weird quirks surrounding sleep hygiene they’re willing to share?