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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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?