Rules of sleep

So it has been a week since the treepocalypse in my back yard and I’m doing better than I was the day of my last post, finally. I had a few days of being even less able to speak coherently than usual, and maybe not-coincidentally, a few pretty good sleep attacks, but last night I got a decent amount of sleep. Decent, for me, is five and a half hours out of an eight or nine hour night, and no laying there awake for an hour or so at any point. Six hours is my goal but I rarely hit it. Any night where there’s at least one hour and a half or more period of complete stillness (as recorded by my fitbit) is also pretty good.

“But wait,” you might be thinking right now, “I thought you said you had narcolepsy?” Yeah, everyone thinks narcelepsy is all about sleeping too much – and for some people it is – but it’s more about having a broken sleep cycle. Heavily fragmented sleep and insomnia are actually pretty common. But anyway, in spite of the word ‘sleep’ in the title, I actually didn’t want to talk about narcolepsy. Where I was going with this was all of the ‘requirements’ I have, going back to childhood, for my sleep environment, and the way-cool thing that arrived in the mail earlier this week.

Note: I think I even bored myself writing this, so at this point you might just want to save some suffering and scroll to the last two paragraphs.

Rule # 1 – It has to be cool. I cannot sleep if I’m too warm. Growing up, there was no such thing as air conditioning where we lived (read: projects) and there was no way to control the boiler-fueled radiators in the apartments so unless you opened a window, so it was just as hot or hotter in the winter. Not having a blanket ran afoul of rule# 2 (see below) so I remember spending a good part of my childhood pressed against the coolness of the wall wedged sort of beside/under the mattress, or with an open window sometimes blowing snow on me.

Rule # 2 – I have to be covered, and the covers have to have a certain amount of weight. Even if it is blisteringly hot, I can’t sleep unless I am under a blanket. Menopause almost killed me. When I was little, I had a cotton quilt. It was sort of a pink-brown paisley pattern and stuffed with this dense grey stringy filling with colored bits. I know this last part, because I kept that quilt through most of my childhood, until it was more holes than quilt, hemorrhaging stuffing everywhere. Sometimes I’d wake up with an arm or leg protruding through a big rip, tangled in strings. I adored that quilt. It was soft and cool to the touch but wonderfully weighty. My mom eventually managed to pry it away from me when it was literally a mostly empty tattered shell. The next ‘quilt’ I latched onto was actually a worn moving pad, the kind they wrap furniture with to keep it from getting damaged in transit. It was not as soft as my beloved quilt but nice and heavy.

Rule # 3 – only cotton can touch me. Ideally only smooth cotton, though in the winter if it’s cold enough I can deal with those “T-shirt” sheet sets. Fleece, wool, synthetic blends, etc. have to be carefully kept separated by the sheet layer. Up until recently, I’ve had to have 3-4 blankets to achieve the right ‘heaviness’ and there’s always this elaborate struggle to keep any of them from actually touching my skin.

Rule # 4 – the pillow has to be ‘right’ – don’t ask me to explain that one, but I go through a lot of pillows trying to find one that allows me to comfortably get my arm crooked underneath it without bending my neck at a weird angle. The pillowcase, obviously, has to be cotton.

Adulthood added rule # 5 – it has to be pitch dark, or as close to it as I can get. I have blue painter’s tape over the LEDs on the smoke detector, air conditioner, and power strip in the room and put a piece of cardboard in the window at night,over which go blinds and then curtains.

Living on a noisy road added rule # 6 – white noise is needed. I can’t sleep without a fan (or AC) running to mask out road noise.

Anyway, if it sounds like I am a complete pain in the ass to try and share a room with, that is because it’s true, and add the nightmare that has been the extreme insomnia and other sleep issues, I’ve pretty much been banished by mutual agreement between my partner and I to our former office/spare room, now dubbed the ‘sleep cave’. I’ve got a window AC unit so that I can have it as chilly as I want without totally running up the electric bill and freezing the rest of the household. As I already previously mentioned, I also have had at least 3-4 blankets on the bed. Now, though, I have my brand new 15 lb. weighted cotton blanket and just a light quilt over top. I love it! Where has this been all my life?

I had to shop around a bit to find one I could afford, and I got one with just the plastic pellets quilted inside and no batting.  This way it can be heavy without being hot. I’ve been able to raise the AC from ‘arctic’ to just chilly so it’s a win for the environment and our power bill. It’s not like I am suddenly miraculously sleeping eight hours a night, but I am a lot more comfortable and feel more… secure? I don’t know if that’s the right word. Usually I have to pull my sheet tight around my shoulders and squish up to the wall but the weighted blanket just drapes comfortingly around me and it’s very soothing. I’m hoping that along with some of the other environment tweaks I’ve made over the past few months, it will help me bring my stress level down to where maybe some of my sleep and sensory issues will improve.

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