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.
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!!