Saturday, January 3, 2015

Day 3: here's where it starts to get hard

I'm still on vacation, so it's not as hard as it could be.

But last night, I followed the rules: electronics off by 10:30, phone downstairs, lights out at 11. I kept thinking about things I wanted to just quickly check online, or emails I needed to send, but the phone wasn't there, so I didn't. (Lesson in impulse control: make it hard to follow the impulse. No way was I going downstairs in the cold to get the phone.)

I didn't really fall asleep til midnight though - just lay there.  Slept well til 6-ish, woken by cat (who claws noisily at the bed to get attention when she's hungry.) Bathroom break, and then lay there awake for a while - maybe a half-hour.  When I fell back asleep I was dreaming vividly (the main character looked a lot like the brother in Transparent) but when the alarm went off I turned it off and went back to sleep - I just couldn't make myself get up. Slept another full hour. So I probably got a total of 8 hours of sleep, maybe 8 1/2, but not contiguous.

 This is not the result I'm looking for.  Especially because I'm sleepy/foggy now.

Let's review, though: yesterday I had some wheat (triscuits) and a couple of glasses of red wine before dinner (I neeeeded it after a stressful meeting!).  Got minimal exercise (walking to the pond and back and another brief dog walk.) A second cup of coffee in mid-afternoon.  Overall, a lot of things that probably contributed to a more restless night than the previous. And the itching came back, at least a little.

Oh the itching. Some nights it's so fierce - for an hour before I go to sleep I'm scratching all over - scalp, legs, arms, back - the more inaccessible the spot, the more I have to twist and turn to get to it, the more often and powerful it will itch. Sometimes there's a vaginal or even rectal itch too.  I have never been able to correlate it to anything in particular - I thought it happened more in cold dry weather but I had it a lot over this past summer.

I'm hoping, through this experiment, to learn whether there's a food and drink correlation, or maybe it's some kind of neurological firing that will subside if my brain calms down from less time looking at the phone.

If I can solve the itching, and that's the only permanent change, it will be well worth it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day 2: so how did it go?

Well that didn't go according to plan.

Maybe I need a new rule: on weekends and vacation days everything can be pushed back by up to an hour (but no more.)  I don't want to get off schedule too much, but it isn't realistic to go to sleep at 11 and get up at 7:15 on a day that I don't have to go to work. Reading that, it looks like an excuse. I'll make the limit 11:30, not a full hour later, on non-"school-nights."

That said, I follow the plan and every other respect. I left my phone downstairs, I turned off the TV half an hour before I went to sleep – in this case I watched an old Downton Abbey episode that ended at 11 –I wrote down what I ate, drank, etc. before I went to sleep, and I did whatever I could to facilitate good sleeping – used the Neti pot, and the breathe-right strip. And, I slept pretty well: I fell asleep within about 15 minutes with minimal itching, I had one wake up where I lay in the cold dread for about 15 or 20 minutes thinking about work stuff, and then went back to sleep and woke up pretty easily around 8. Not having the phone by my bed in the morning was very interesting: it left me to my own thoughts and to act with more intentionality right from the get-go. I have a feeling that that is going to be the most profound difference of all – starting the day in my own head, instead of immediately distracted and stimulated by whatever's online. 

One note from my one-day food/drink study: I had no wheat yesterday, and  no alcohol. My stomach didn't bother me last night or this morning, and again, I wonder about a link to that itching (details of which to come in a future post.)

Today's source of exercise will be: walk to the lake with the dog, and/or exercise bike later on.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Day 1

It's January 1, 2015 and I have a New Year's Resolution: to sleep well, every single night, all year. 

There are a million things I want to change about myself, to do better. Every time I think about my sleep project, I am so tempted to throw just one or two more vows in there: I'll sleep and I won't eat sugar. I'll sleep and I'll never check again when I'm supposed to be working. I'll sleep, and I'll be so much neater this year. 

But the truth is, I'm 50 years old, and I've never thoughtfully, intentionally changed a habit and had it really stick. I've gotten fired up about projects, for months or even years, and have pursued them because I was excited about them. (See: link to SharonCTDailyPhoto blog.)  And maybe I'll get to what has really motivated me to do those things later on. But it was never because "I should."

Hmmmm.  So what will be different this time? I want to get more sleep because "I should." "It's good for me."  "I'll be a better person." I'm sleepy already just thinking about such dreary reasons.

On the other hand, I have a theory: if I work hard at changing this one thing, and address all the reasons that sleep is hard for me, everything else will be easier. It will all just all into place. I'll exercise more, lose weight, get to work on time, keep my house clean, and, much more important, figure out what I really want to do, and do it. I'll find a deeper purpose if I'm not so damn bleary and tired all the time.  

It will be easy!


So starting today, I'm going to find and follow all the advice that may help me get 8 (or more) hours of solid sleep.  I've already taken the first step: I bought an alarm clock. That takes away my biggest excuse for bringing my iPhone to bed with me - I need it for the alarm. But someone with my insomniac tendencies will stay up far too late randomly clicking and reading things rather than try to go to sleep, or grab it at 5am when I wake up for even a few minutes.  

So: Rule 1: No more iPhone int he bedroom
Rule 2: All electronics off by 10:30, lights out at 11. Alarm set for 7:15. 

This is going to be hard. And I'm going to have to confront all the things I struggle with as I try to sleep: congestion (so I'm stocking up on breathe-right strips) and allergies; constant itching; dogs and cats and kids (not so much with the kid interruptions anymore since they're older, but kid worries for sure); asthma or whatever is going on that makes my chest feel heavy (and the worries that it's Something Serious); noises, lights, and every other ache, pain and did I mention worry. 
copyright Roz Chast / The New Yorker

For the first little while I'll just focus on Rule 1 and Rule 2. No new resolutions for at least a month, either.  No exceptions for the first month - not for The Daily Show or Saturday Night Live, not for helping kids with homework. (Sorry honey.)

And one more thing: I'll keep a journal next to my bed and before I go to sleep, I'll write down a few things: did I exercise, what did I eat, what did I drink, how much, when. In the morning I'll report on how my sleep was.  Maybe I'll discover a correlation that will help.