Sweet Elusive Sleep

I just want a good night’s sleep. My kids are all teenagers so the unpredictable nighttime madness is over. Some stay up later than me so we peacefully coexist in the nocturnal hours.

A few months ago I noticed that my hands were falling asleep at night. At first I thought I was just sleeping on them. Then I noticed numbness in the tips of several fingers on one hand. I worried that I had diabetes like my late mother. Not being overly neurotic or a hypochondriac, I occasionally use a handy app called iTriage for perplexing symptoms before I go see a doctor. I had previously diagnosed myself accurately with shingles.

This time I came up with a possible diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. I saw a hand specialist who confirmed my diagnosis which is apparently very common in women in their 50’s. While not thrilled with this diagnosis, at least it’s not life-threatening and I was once again secretly proud of my diagnostic skill. I would have patted myself on the back, if my hands didn’t bother me so much. The specialist recommended I try hand/wrist splints for a month while sleeping to see if this would relieve my symptoms.

I never thought how much numb hands would affect my horizontal repose but they did. It seemed cruel that on the rare occasions when I could leisurely lie in bed and read in the morning, my body wouldn’t cooperate and I had to get upright and out of bed to relieve the numbness. Ever the supportive spouse, my husband tolerated my whining, the loud ripping off of the velcro contraptions/splints of torture during the middle of the night in my moments of desperation and discomfort and supported my decision to have surgery.

The surgery was uneventful and seems to have relieved the symptoms. Sweet sleep would be mine again. I was psyched. Then, before I was even completely recovered a new problem developed. My husband told me I was snoring.

Snoring? Oh great. One sleep problem addressed and now another one loomed. I was mortified. Is this what middle age is like? Solving one physical problem and then another one pops up like a game of geriatric Whack-a-Mole? Sure, my husband had to endure my complaining about my hands but it didn’t really affect his sleep. Now I had a problem that affects our marriage. I envisioned a slippery slope where one of us leaves the bedroom to get some sleep and there goes the marriage as we know it.

I googled “snoring in middle age women” and find I am not alone. I am optimistic that I can tweak my lifestyle with good results before I have to move on to more invasive sleep studies, c-pap, etc. So many people are kept from a good night sleep by anxiety, depression and stress. I am fortunate that these things don’t plague me. It’s my body that is rebelling and ruining my rest.

My husband and I can still joke about it. Before going to sleep the other night, I wished him a good night sleep and hoped that he wouldn’t put a pillow over my face. He agreed that while it might be tempting, he didn’t really want to go to jail.

While we laugh, clearly this has the potential to be a real problem, not only for me but for my bed-mate. Just when I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep I feel exasperated that it is elusive for now. I dread going to sleep, worrying if I will drive my husband crazy along with the nudges from him during the night. To add insult to injury, I find that the glass of wine or two that I occasionally enjoy messes up my sleep as well. Falling asleep is easy with alcohol but I sometimes wake in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep.

So I read – thank God for the Kindle but who knows how the electronic devices screw up my Circadian rhythm?

The pediatrician recently gave one of my teenagers a stern talking-to about the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep per night so all of the data he has acquired during the day can be sorted and stored into his brain properly while he is sleeping. All I could think about was how amazing it is that I function as well as I do, given the shenanigans of my body while it is allegedly “sleeping.”

The writer Anthony Burgess said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

It almost makes me yearn for numb hands.

Advertisements