Sleep habit changes

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 8, 2023, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

Early in the pandemic, my sleep habits changed. The short version of that story is that I just wasn't sleeping through the night anymore. That's weird because for my entire life I've been a pretty good sleeper. I could fall asleep easily, and not wake up until I had an alarm, or otherwise my body just had enough, often nine or ten hours. Obviously, everyone endured a fair amount of anxiety during those weird times. What's frustrating about it is that it never went back to normal.

I've had to roll with anxiety much of my life, but sleep was my reprieve. But since 2020, I find it difficult to turn my brain off and just let myself sleep, unless I'm really, really tired. What I settle into is a repetitive cycle of some arbitrary problem situation, often not something possible in real life, meaning I'm actually close to sleep but not quite there. For example, I might have been trying to solve a software coding problem earlier in the day. In that almost-there state, my brain turns it into some abstract variation of the problem, and my brain tries to solve it over and over again, but it's not possible because it's not real. The only thing that I find that works to break the cycle is to, at the very least, sit up on the edge of the bed for a bit. Worse, because it's there, I might look at my phone and play a few games. Or I'll get out of bed and walk around. And just for something to do I'll often go to the bathroom, and I wonder if that's now sometimes the reason I get up. I can go 12 hours without evacuating (confirmed on our recent travel to Europe), so I don't think that's it.

I do know that folks often spend less time in the deeper parts of sleep as they get older, even though their sleep needs have not decreased. Folks often nap more often but for shorter duration with age. Recovery from jet lag also takes way longer, which I can attest to. Even with my recent trip to Denver, where I tried to stay on Eastern time, I couldn't get back into a normal rhythm. Regardless, I hope age doesn't prevent me from proper rest.

Last night I had some of the best sleep I've had in weeks. Granted, I was up until 1 watching the US Open, so that helped. I know I'm getting quality sleep when I have long dreams and wake up ready to do stuff (usually looking forward to lunch). I had a dream that some dude at a bar where I was doing a light show led me to Sara Bareilles' house, where I met her fiancee and she showed me a VW Bus that she was having restored. I thanked her for her Instagram post about antidepressants that she made last year. (For real, that was the thing that pushed me over the edge to acknowledge the problem.) It was so real, and it seemed to go on forever. And I remember being slightly jealous that she was engaged, because she's on my short list of celebrity crushes still, and we get a pass for those since they're not realistic anyway.

I still theorize that the problem is more psychological than physiological, but I don't have any real data to support that. The start of the challenges coincided with the pandemic, and frankly got worse during a mostly shitty 2021. It was like a switch, and I would think that age-related changes would be more gradual. For now, I need to get back on a slightly earlier waking time, which hasn't been possible these last two weeks up late watching tennis. The earlier rise gives me treadmill time and I generally feel better, even if the sleep still varies.


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