Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sleep, Two, Three, Four!

It wasn't any sort of oneupsmanship, a case of my-Dad-can-beat-up-your-Dad, but a co-worker some years back was talking about his Father, and what a relaxed guy he was. 

"My Dad", he said, "would come home from work at lunchtime and grab an hour's nap before heading back". And judging from that, he was probably one of those lucky souls who falls asleep right as his head is hitting the pillow. Upon impact, as it were. 

My Dad(and thus half  my DNA), on the other hand, was just the opposite. He had a hell of a time getting to sleep at night--a midday nap, at least during his "working years", would be all but unthinkable--to the extent that he even had a mini-library of books on how to reach the elusive Land of Slumber. I told my co-worker friend that his Dad, at least in this respect, was the very antithesis of mine.

There were three or four such books in Dad's library(which he termed the Study--this sounded incredibly pompous to me as a kid, strangely enough, much less so now as an oldster). My favorite title in this collection-actually, the only one I remember- was "Sleep, two three four!"

And my perspective has changed here too. As a kid, I used to laugh at my Dad's mini-library of sleep books(soporifics in themselves), not derisively of course, but more from the gentle humor towards one's all-too-human foibles. People are often funny as hell in ways they'd really rather not be, and my Dad was no exception. With him, it was a sort of dramatic fretfulness(and sometimes just plain dramatics, always uttered in deep, Stentorian tones)-occasionally viewed with concern, but mostly with a sort of compassionate amusement. 

As far as his difficulties in getting to sleep, not so funny now that I'm experiencing it myself, now that the shoe is on the other foot. Okay, Dad, you got the last laugh. But then I'm not surprised. Ever since I can remember, I've had occasional trouble getting off to sleep. So it figures that this problem would follow me throughout my life, all the way into retirement. And maybe even intensify.

During my working years, I'd occasionally hit a patch of 2 or 3 days, never longer than that. Probably because you're kept active at work all day, and thus giving yourself something to sleep off. And after that first night's good sleep resumes, you feel wonderful! So good it was almost worth it to feel that bad.

In these retired years(at least thusfar), it's different. Upon embarking on this new period, I did note that every night was a good night's sleep, and this began a good two year span of relatively undisturbed slumber(ahh-the halcyon days of my retirement!). But in August of last year, I had the first of what were to be several patches of insomnia. Four, sometimes five days- which, of course, are progressively rougher day by day. 

 One in August, one in September and one in October. And then another in January of this year. Since then they've tapered off considerably, but still occasionally there. And then I just had one this month, from which I'm emerging. Never say never again, I guess..

There are those souls, like my co-worker friend's Dad, and my next-door neighbor, who drift off effortlessly into blissful slumber. Unlike the Unicorn, they do exist. But for every one of those 'genetic mutants' I meet, there are at least two more(sorry to say)kindred spirits who experience trouble either getting to sleep or staying asleep on at least a semi-regular basis.  

For many folks, it's a chronic problem. For me, just an occasional annoyance, one which has gained more regularity with advancing age(or maybe I'm just more aware of it, having all this time), but still remains something I can fend off- though not always as quickly as I'd like.  Still, I figure if I got myself into this mess, I can, with the right kind of effort, get myself back out again. 

So how do you get out of it? Well, there are a goodly number of remedies out there. Some folks like meditation tapes. Tried that Zampfir flute thing myself and it just weirded out my cats. Sleeping pills work to an extent(as does Melatonin) but they're really just a nudge. Got some from my Doctor, and take them, but still have occasional trouble. 

The only things I know to do are the commonsensical things every healthcare person you ask will tell you to do: avoid caffeine later in the day, avoid naps, wind down at bedtime. Exercise is probably the best remedy though, particularly strenuous exercise. At least that seems to turn it around for me. Hit the body hard enough and the head will follow, to borrow a phrase from one postulate of the sweet science. 

So I try to have as few sleepless nights as I can, trying to do the right things as far as maintaining. Despite my best efforts, it still fluctuates, but most of the time I sleep just fine. Out in maybe 20-25 minutes, not to awaken until morning. And it reinforces itself, just like the sleep-deprived periods can. Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. 

In these periods of Nice Restful Sleep, which I hope I'm re-entering, I feel a little bit like my neighbor and my office friend's Dad, or at least like I've been granted access to their world. Not having their same makeup(see 'genetic mutant' earlier in this piece), I have to make my peace with the fact that at least a few of my days. perhaps like Persephone in Hell,  will have to be served Elsewhere. 






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