Does this insomnia make me look fat?

My son is getting married next weekend. This makes me so happy. Mostly because I absolutely love the woman he’s engaged to and they’re perfect for each other, but also because being the mother of the groom is way less work than it was being the mother of the bride. Pretty much all I have to do is show up. Well, that and dig out old pictures of my son, because what is a wedding without the parents embarrassing the bride and groom? I’ll scatter a few of them throughout this post. Spread the joy.

He was such a happy baby.

He was such a happy baby.

So, of course, my main concern has been trying to lose a bit of weight before some maniac with a camera tries to get within shooting distance of my personal space. Have I mentioned how much I hate having my picture taken? I’ve hated it all my life, even when I was oblivious of judgments. People hear this and invariably say some version of, “But you look good!” That has nothing to do with it. It’s a visceral aversion. I remember running away from my own father when he tried to make a home movie when I was a child. And my father was not a scary guy. Well, unless you tried to date one of his four daughters, I guess.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

As an aside to those of you who might be interested in calorie tracker things, I recently discovered MyFitnessPal and I love it. It has been helpful and a real eye-opener to write down every single thing I eat each day, to see exactly what those foods contain in terms of calories, carbs, fat, protein, sugar, sodium. Plus, it’s free.

A boy and his best friend... until his sister came along.

A boy and his best friend, Baxter… until his sister came along.

But I digress. This isn’t a post about weight or even about torture-by-camera. It’s about sleep. Okay, it’s also about how sleep, or lack thereof, affects weight and my ability to snarl politely.


First of all, you should know that I’m pretty much nocturnal. I am certainly capable of waking up before noon, but I won’t be happy about it and probably I won’t be fully functional at that time of day. On the other hand, it’s no big deal at all for me to stay up all night writing. It’s just easier to focus when the rest of the world is dark and quiet.

The three of them were inseparable.

The three of them were inseparable.

My ideal schedule would be to go to sleep between 2 and 4 AM and sleep for eight hours and wake up between 10 AM and noon. Never mind that if you admit to sleeping until noon, people assume you’re being lazy. No, I’m getting eight hours of sleep.

The trouble is, I got into a routine earlier this year when I couldn’t fall asleep, no matter what time of day, or night, it was. And when I did sleep, it was only for a couple hours and then once I woke up I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Serious insomnia. It was horrible. It’s also a direct result of being deeply immersed in writing a story. My body gets tired, but my brain won’t shut down enough to sleep. It’s not the first time this has happened, but this time was lasting a lot longer than it ever had before.

Long-term lack of sleep makes me snarly and crazy. I’m normally pretty even-tempered and have a very long fuse. It takes a LOT to make me angry. Unless I’m sleep deprived.

Yes, I tried all the usual “strategies” for easing into sleep, although I drew the line at warm milk. That’s just disgusting. Nothing worked. And I refuse to resort to sleeping pills.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

Then my daughter mentioned that her husband the MD was having similar trouble sleeping during a stretch of weeks working the night shift. What he found that helped was taking melatonin. I was surprised because he’s even more opposed than I am to taking medicine — I know, irony, the doctor doesn’t want to be medicated — and this sounded to me an awful lot like taking sleeping pills. But my daughter said no, it’s just giving your body a natural substance that it probably isn’t producing enough of. So you could sleep.

I was skeptical. But I was also desperate. Experts claim that a good night’s sleep is critical to all sorts of things, including losing weight. Never mind that, I was starting to growl at inanimate objects that weren’t even cameras.

So I tried it.

The first time, it was 5:30 AM and I’d been tossing and turning for hours before I finally got fed up and took a pill. I’m not sure when, exactly, I fell asleep but I slept soundly and woke up at 3:30 PM and decided maybe melatonin worked a little too well.

The next night, I took it earlier, at maybe 3 AM, feeling like one of the three little pigs going to market earlier to avoid the big bad wolf. And again I slept soundly, waking up once to use the bathroom and then going right back to sleep. And woke up at 3:30 PM.

Sigh. That tactic didn’t work for the pigs either, if I recall correctly.

More sports. More smiles. I'm so lucky my kids like each other.

More sports. More smiles. I’m so lucky my kids like each other.

Don’t get me wrong, it felt awesome to sleep that soundly. It was such a huge relief. But I really did not enjoy waking up in the middle of the afternoon. Even I would categorize that as being a bit lazy.

Well, I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Plus, I’d been sleep deprived for weeks and weeks at this point and wasn’t willing to give up the bliss of somnolence, even if it was excessive. So I kept trying, taking it earlier and earlier, hoping once sleep became a regular occurrence rather than a rarity my body would adjust to normal. Well, normal for me. And it did.

I now take the melatonin sometime around midnight and fall asleep around 2 or 4 AM and sleep for eight (or seven, or nine) hours. It’s awesome. And the best part is that it hasn’t negatively affected my ability to write. I was worried about that. I was resigned to never sleeping well, ever again, if it messed with my writing.

So I’m back to feeling well rested and somewhat human again.

Unfortunately, I have not noticed a huge drop in weight as a result and I still want to gruesomely mutilate anyone who points a camera at me, but at least I no longer have the urge to throw a kitchen chair through the bay window every morning before caffeine.

I think this is my favourite picture of them, ever.

I think this is my favourite picture of him, ever.

I’m curious about what will happen if I stop taking it. I seriously doubt it’s habit-forming in a narcotic way, but perhaps it has the potential to become a psychological crutch. I wonder whether my body has adjusted well enough that I no longer need the supplement. I think I’ll hold off on that experiment until after the wedding. No need to test my capacity for sleep-deprived civility.

What about the rest of you? Are you nocturnal? Have you had similar trouble sleeping? Got any tried-and-true tips for conquering insomnia? What about tips on how to smile convincingly when it is the absolute last thing you want to do in that moment?

Scan 42



Filed under health and well-being, parenting

10 responses to “Does this insomnia make me look fat?

  1. CBPen

    You and I have sooooo much in common! Nocturnal for sure. And now, with the puppy, I have to get up earlier than usual because she insists on going out. Tuck can hold it longer than her evidently. And if she thinks she hears me in my room, she starts even if DS just left. So I’m suddenly passing out after I pick up the kids.
    I did, after I was layed off, and could sleep on my own schedule, lose some weight. So it could happen yet for you. 😉


  2. Just a Trace

    I adore the pictures. I was afraid they were going to be stick figures.
    Why aren’t we texting at night when we can’t sleep? My parents said I was nocturnal from the get go. And later in life I found one of my Great Aunts and second cousins were late nighters. So it’s the rest of my family who’s wrong!
    Unfortunately, I was raised and live in a family of cheerful morning people. Good God, it should be illegal.
    Best of luck with the camera avoidance this weekend. Chalk it up to the things we do for our kids. 🙂 I’m sure the wedding will be lovely.


  3. Yay, I’m not the only owl! Pen, that’s the biggest reason I don’t want another dog. Well, other than grieving when they die. I’m done with that. You just can’t train dogs to use a litter box as anything other than a snack tray. And I have lost some weight. Just not enough.

    Trace, I can’t believe I overlooked an opportunity to post stick figures! I’m slipping. Texting? Nononono. I’m WRITING at night. Really. And you’re right, I’d do anything for my kids. They want pics on their wedding day, I’ll suck it up and smile. Well, I’ll try my best. At least it’s not a morning event.


  4. Merry, whose motto is 'just give me the coffee and no one will get hurt'

    Awesome photos 🙂
    I think a cunning plan involving photoshoppery and bribery is your best bet.


  5. MinO

    Beautiful Pictures. Beautiful smiles! I love pictures. But, even more, I love the memories tied to the pictures.

    I am also naturally nocturnal and am forced to live in an 8-5 world. All through college, I worked a summer job that was from 4pm – 1am. Went home had dinner, watched TV and then went to bed. Slept until 11 or Noon. It was AWESOME! I also kept that schedule through college semesters. During those 4 years, I only had 3 classes before noon. I still remember the pain.

    I have mineral deficiencies. And, when I am outta whack with them, I can’t sleep either. When I take my supplements, I sleep easy and for at least 8 hrs. And, I dream. When I am out of balance, I sleep in snippets, wake often and sleep “black” – no dreams. I take the supplements. Life is easier.


  6. Merry, I considered using a body double. But then I wouldn’t get to see the wedding. Must check my bribery budget… funds are a bit low.

    MinO, I remember that one class everyone had to take in college– it was at 8 AM. Cruel. It never occurred to me that my minerals might be unbalanced. Might need to look into that. I’m just glad the melatonin works. And I have dreams either way. Really vivid and disturbing dreams. Sort of wish I could get rid of those. 😦


  7. Richard Maguire

    Hi KD.
    Nice to see you’re using photos again to illustrate your post. That picture of brother and sister walking through a sunlit woods is just beautiful.

    I’ve always been a morning person. Up by 6 am most days, earlier in summer. By 10 pm I’m falling asleep. Staying out late is always an ordeal. There’s no fun in it. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. I don’t know. But my system just shuts down. Yet strangely tonight (it’s well after midnight here) I can’t sleep. I’m almost never on the Internet after 6 pm, yet here I sit, reading your post on insomnia. I think I need one of those little pills you mention.


  8. Hey, Richard! Yeah, I figured it was a terrific idea to post pics that had nothing whatsoever to do with the blog topic. :eyeroll: But that last pic is one of my favourites too. So evocative, and pretty typical of the trouble, er, adventures those two have always gotten into together.

    I hope my inability to sleep isn’t contagious. It would be just like me to create an International Incident by exporting insomnia to Germany. May yours be short-lived.


  9. McB

    Much like the White Rabbit, “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” Because I was somehow unaware that there was a new post up, with pictures yet! KDJ, you have beautiful babies! (As I understand these things, they don’t stop being your babies just because they got taller.)

    Sleep – yep, it’s really important. I deal with life ever so much better when I get my solid, so I say, whatever is working for you, that’s great. You might well be able to back off it after a while, because I do think that a lot of sleeping problems are a matter of habit. Just like your body gets programmed to wake up around a certain time, it can get back into the habit of shutting down at roughly the same time. Frex, no matter how tired I am, I cannot just go to bed early and make up for lost time. So once your body and mind have adjusted, you might well be able to do it without the melatonin. Of course, you have to cooperate by at least laying down and closing your eyes.


  10. Thank you, McB! Yes, they will always be my babies. I can’t go to bed earlier than usual either. It just doesn’t work. I really think the lack of a routine was what exacerbated the problem this time. Between that and the writing keeping my brain stuck in overdrive, my poor body was a mess. And yeah, sometimes that whole laying down and closing my eyes IS the hardest part.