I’m a Lousy Sleeper

There’s no other way to describe it. I’m a lousy sleeper.

I’ve never been a great sleeper. Even as a kid, I remember struggling to fall asleep. When I shared a room with my sister, I’d complain that she was “breathing noisy”. My mom and dad would let me fall asleep in their bed and then move me to mine. We added on to our house when I was in 4th grade and I finally had my own room!!

I remember listening to the radio at night, thinking it might help. I had to find stations (AM, of course) with a strong signal since we lost our local stations pretty early. I usually listened to WLS in Chicago or a station I can’t remember in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m not sure it helped me sleep, but I did get to hear a lot of good songs.

I’ve always been a light sleeper. Light and noise would wake me up. I actually thought my sleeping was improving as I got older, possibly because I was so tired at night, I couldn’t help falling asleep. The light wasn’t as big of an issue and even little noises didn’t bother me as much. And I slept alone for many years.

I’ll always sleep better when I sleep alone. Doesn’t everyone? Note: I am not blaming my lousy sleep on Tim.

Busy brain

Part of my problem is I can’t seem to shut down my brain. I can be reading and falling asleep with my book in hand, but when I get to bed, I’m wide awake and thinking about everything under the sun. And why does everything always seems worse at night? Things I wouldn’t normally worry about come into my head. Argh!!

Before retirement, my brain was full of work-related stuff. I am a planner, so I always have thoughts in my head about the next day, the week, etc. Writing those plans down doesn’t always keep them from creeping in. I thought after I retired, my mind would finally be at peace.

Guess again. I’m not thinking about work stuff anymore, but all the other stuff that fills my days. It’s good stuff; usually, I’m writing a blog post in my head or designing a card. Why? I wish I could explain it. Tim thinks I should be able to just tell myself to stop thinking and go to sleep. Obviously, he’s someone who falls asleep in less than a minute.

My problem is typically falling asleep, but lately, I’ve also been experiencing periods of waking up and not being able to fall back asleep. I never used to get up, but I don’t fight it anymore. I get up and read or play games on my iPad.

I can always tell when I’m going to have a night of trouble. If I’m not dozing off while I’m reading, then I shouldn’t go to bed. But I do, especially if it’s midnight or later. I shouldn’t stay up. I might as well, though, because I’ll be back out there within the hour.

Learning from FitBit

A while ago, I downloaded a bunch of sleep data from my FitBit. I thought I could scientifically demonstrate what a lousy sleeper I am. The data I really wanted – my Sleep Score – was not downloaded. But I was able to look at my stages of sleep by day. This chart is from about a two-month period in 2018. (Wow, I guess I have been thinking about this for a long time.)

More recently, from about mid-January to mid-February in 2021, I got these numbers.

The numbers are very similar but that’s kind of misleading because they don’t capture the long periods of time when I’m awake. For instance, in 2018, my average time in bed was 7.6 hours while in 2021, it was only 6.6 hours.

When I look at the benchmarks, provided by FitBit, for women my age, I don’t seem that far off. It shows I’m actually awake less than most. However, they show these ranges that are quite large, so I’m not sure it tells me much.

Not a deep sleeper

My downfall is deep sleep. Here’s an example.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip with my book club. Most everyone had a FitBit and we’d compare numbers in the mornings. One of the girls had 2.5 hours of deep sleep. I had 11 minutes. I can tell I’m not getting enough deep sleep, too. I don’t always wake up feeling refreshed.

I’m trying to decide if my lack of good sleep is the result of my mood or if my mood is based on how I sleep. When I have a good night (actually like last night when I had 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep with deep sleep of 1 hour and 46 minutes), I wake up feeling great. Lots more energy. More positive mood. I like days like this SO much better. What can I do?

I told Tim I’m almost scared to go to bed at night, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep. I’m sure that doesn’t help my situation. You know, the more you think you can’t fall asleep, the more you don’t fall asleep.

I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that I’m always going to be a lousy sleeper. The only consolation is I get a lot of reading done!!

12 thoughts on “I’m a Lousy Sleeper”

  1. I am late to be reading this, Linda! But this might be worth a try – https://apothekary.co/products/do-not-disturb
    I ordered a couple of things from this company although sleep has not been a problem for me so I haven’t tried this particular product. I did try their product chill the f* out to substitute for a glass of wine and I do find it helps!

    1. This looks interesting. I may have to try it. I’ve tried something else and it didn’t work, but then I also never know if you have to take it regularly to see results and if so, how long before that happens. I’ll keep trying, so thanks for the tip!!

  2. My doctor said that setting an alarm to make sure you don’t oversleep would be best. I was prepared to but instead adjusted my sleep schedule to go to bed much later than I used to. I am waking Up at my usual time even though I’m going to bed an hour later than I had been.

    Obviously what works for me might not work for others. I was just surprised after bad sleep for so long, I’m finally rested when I wake up.

    1. I really want to feel rested as I don’t a lot of days. I used to be able to wake up around the same time, but as it’s getting darker in the mornings, I find myself sleeping later especially if I’ve had to get up for a while during the night. I may try the alarm, but my husband probably won’t be happy!!

  3. Oh my can I relate! Prior to 2007, I slept 8 solid hours a night. Then for whatever reason in 2007 I got horrible insomnia. I could get to sleep relatively easy but only stay asleep for 30-60 minutes at a time, wake up for half hour or more, rinse and repeat. My doctor had me try all the holistic options available. I made sure my room was dark and cool and have the best bed and pillow in the world. All to no available. I went on sleep meds a few months later. Over the years, I changed from a great doc to a lousy one and the lousy one put me on mega-sleep medications. When I moved back home and got a good doc again, he said that was way too much medication. Over the years, I have gotten it down to a managable amount. Then the past six months, my sleep patterns are crazy again. One night I would sleep 8 hours (minus one or two potty breaks). Most nights, I was waking up all night again.

    Then two weeks ago, I went to my doc again and told him all this. I asked why in the world was this happening when I was still taking the sleep meds. He explained that my body has adjusted to the meds and they are really only for getting me to sleep. Not keeping me asleep. He further explained that as we get older, we need less sleep. I had a great sleep routine for someone trying to sleep 8 hours a night. And I’d get that once in a while. But it was too much sleep. My body then compensated with lousy sleep again for a few nights.

    His recommendation was this: stay up later and cut my sleep time to 6 hours. No reading in bed as has been my habit for decades. No fluids after dinner time. My caffeine level is already low but if it hadn’t been he would have suggested reducing it. He warned me that it might be difficult for a couple of weeks but I should adjust.

    First night was horrible. I think it was due to such a radical changed from my routine so I opted to adjust his suggestion and shot for 7 hours with 15 minutes of reading time. This has worked beautifully. I am sleeping better than I have in a long time. I do still wake up during the night once but only briefly. I often skip my potty break.

    This has surprised me. I didn’t believe him when he suggested this change. I mean how could less sleep make me feel better? But it has. I feel a lot more rested.

    1. I seem to be in a bad cycle right now, sleeping poorly then over sleeping. I can see where sleeping fewer hours every night might be an answer. I would probably have to set an alarm though, which does not excite me!! I’ve been trying this sleep aid for three nights and last night I had a bad night, so I’m not sure it does any good. I need to figure out how to shut down my brain. It’s my worst enemy!!

  4. My situation is the exact same as Janis. I fall asleep quickly but then am awake starting around 3:00am. I think of nearly everything I shouldn’t at that time, from financial quandries to sibling issues. I also tend to think I sleep better alone, but I can’t blame my wife for the thoughts keeping me awake! 😉

    1. My husband sounds more like you. About the time I’m falling asleep, he’s waking up!! Not quite that bad but we have some bad nights. Last night was actually one of those. He thinks we need a new mattress, but I don’t expect that to help me. Like you, I can’t blame anyone or anything for my crazy brain!!

  5. I can completely relate to this! Although I can usually fall asleep with little trouble, I often wake again somewhere between 3 and 4 and toss and turn. I also thought retirement woukd help but nope. I have friends who swear by CBD with melatonin and I’m tempted to try.

    1. My book club friends were talking about CBD and how well it works. For some reason, I’m hesitant to try it. And not sure I can get it in Iowa anyway.

  6. I’m one of those people who checks sleep with a Fitbit too. However, I’ve discovered that how well I feel I’ve slept often bears no resemblance to the Sleep Score achieved until, that is, I look at that score realise I’ve only registered a fair and immediately start yawning and wondering if I’m going to need an early caffeine boost!

    1. That’s funny but true that my score can often make me feel worse after I see it!! Maybe we’d be better off without Fitbit!!!

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