Maybe Disorder Wasn’t the Right Word

imageLast week, my friend Brad Lewis shared a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post article titled:

What to Eat To Get Your Sleep Back On Track

Seeing the link made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, Brad links to food articles that range from recipes for cooking Kale to pictures of mile-high sandwiches from New York delis. I’ve eaten Kale. I’ve eaten at the Carnegie Deli (Brad’s apparent favorite). Deli is better. If you told me that a dish of Kale would add two days onto my normal lifespan and that a Pastrami sandwich from the Carnegie Deli would reduce my lifespan by two days, I would choose the sandwich, hands down. I don’t know what the over under would have to be on that score before I would choose Kale.

The other reason I had to laugh is that the article reminded me of when I was frantically researching the topic of “sleep disorders” because I was convinced that I was suffering from one.

Note: If you actually are suffering from a sleep disorder, I am sorry. You may not want to read any more of this post. I am not going to make fun of people who suffer such things, but you may grow to despise me before you get to the end.

My research took place many years ago. The Internet was imageavailable, but it wasn’t the treasure-trove of medical journals, old wives tales, home remedies and 24/7 Prayer Request hotlines that it is today. So, in addition to my online investigation, I was asking other people for advice.

I got lots of advice regarding what to eat / not eat. What to do / not do in the (1 to 3) hours before going to bed. What temperature to set the thermostat at, how many blankets to use, the type of pillow to lay on and the type of underwear / pajamas I should wear / not wear to bed.

One friend told me that he had been suffering from sleep disorders for years and that the only sure-fire remedy involved the periodic use of a sleeping pill. He added that some over-the-counter meds might help, but that prescription solutions were the way to go. He even offered to introduce me to his doctor.

I didn’t want to go down the medication road, so I suggested that maybe my particular disorder wasn’t yet that severe. Unconvinced, and expressing genuine concern, he began:

What is your nighttime routine?

I normally read for a while before deciding to go to sleep.

Him, still concerned: “How long do you lie awake once you’ve decided that you want to go to sleep?

Me, truly serious: “Sometimes up to 10 or 15 minutes!

Him. No. Longer. Concerned. At. All: “Whaaaaat the…?

I explained that I had been used to always being able to fall asleep as soon as I wanted to fall asleep. No lying awake stuff for me. Lights out. Head down. Zzzzz’s.

My friend explained that sometimes, if he was lucky, a sleeping pill would take effect within 10 – 15 minutes, and he urged me to never use the phrase “sleep disorder” to describe my condition again.

Still convinced that I was suffering from something serious, I continued my research. A couple of weeks later, I stumbled across a documentary on sleep and sleep disorders. I watched as they explored various conditions and various approaches to dealing with said conditions. Finally, near the end of the show, one of the experts caught my attention:

Oftentimes, the problem people have falling asleep can be traced to the time they go to bed. Your body loves a routine. If you go to bed at a different time on weekends, for example, than you do during the week, you might develop a sleep disorder. The best thing you can do is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.”

It was as if he was speaking just to me. I was getting up at 5:00 am for work but sleeping until 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. That had to be the cause of my malady.

The following Saturday, I got up at 5:00 am. While pouring a cup of coffee, my wife (who gets up very early) asked: “why are you up this early?” I guess that that wasn’t the kind of question that was meant to be answered:

I was watching this show on PBS about sleep disorders and one of the experts was talking about how important it is…

You’re talking. Why are you talking?

By this time the cats were staring at me and the dog might have been growling.

You asked…

No, you’re not talking to me at 5:00 am. If you want to be up, be up somewhere else. We (her and the nesting animals) have a routine, and it doesn’t involve talking!


I might be exaggerating a bit, you know, for effect, but that was the gist of the conversation.

Oddly enough, the practice cured me of my “disorder.” In fact, I have imagediscovered by trial and error that I can sleep in until 6:00 am on weekends with no ill-effect. I still get up, get my coffee and make myself scarce. And, I still avoid conversation until one is started by someone else. These days, our dog requires that I sit on a particular couch with her for 15-20 minutes before heading to the family room and my laptop. She’s still a puppy; if our previous dogs are any indication, she will stop needing that bit of attention soon.

36 thoughts on “Maybe Disorder Wasn’t the Right Word

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  1. Picture – I know I’m going to be in trouble with Brad Lewis over that photo. I can’t find a photo of the Carnegie Deli, although I have several. In fairness, The Roxy was the first NY deli I took my daughter to. It was cold and raining and we stopped in for a bowl of soup (which could have fed a platoon). That’s Maddie at the bottom on her “pillow”


  2. I am jealous every night when we go to bed, because my husband falls to sleep immediately (or what I consider immediately) most nights. In fact, my “nighttime routine” starts once he’s fallen to sleep. He kisses me, turns out lights, checks the doors and windows, takes the dog out, puts his clothes out, and then gets in the bed. I rush to get into bed, so he can hold me, and then when he’s rolled away, I do a myriad of things before returning to bed.
    Also, we don’t speak in the morning. I prefer quiet and he’s like a mean drunk if I do speak to him, particularly with questions. I have two daughters like that as well. Mornings are excruciating around here.
    When I take a sedative, it might work. Or not. I don’t sleep well most nights. I’d love to fall asleep 15-20 minutes in. It’s a rare treat for me.


    1. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that there were people who don’t just fall asleep when they are tired. I’ve also, always been a chatterbox in the morning. Maybe that’s because I’ve almost always had a good night’s sleep. Mornings were tough when my wife had to get our daughter up for school. But, as I mentioned on your blog, I was off to work by then. When I was here to get her up, I would start by saying/singing “it’s a brand new day” in a happy voice. Yeah, you don’t want to be near me in the AM.


  3. I’ve got a feeling you may have provided light on my “sleeping Disorder” Dan. I’m anything but regular with my times for sleep and waking up. Need to try this. :)


  4. Up until my mid 30’s I needed 10-12 hours of sleep a night. I swear I didn’t outgrow the teenage sleep phase until nearly 40! I was never a morning person…and then I don’t know what happened. I’m getting up earlier and earlier. I have to go bed at 11pm or later or I won’t sleep the whole night. If I go to bed at 10 I’m up at 3am! Wide awake.
    So, I’m going to bed about 11:30pm and getting up between 4-5am. It’s crazy.

    I like quite mornings. I don’t like talking or having conversations until after my tea, and lite yoga, and catching up on emails and news. A couple mornings a week I try to get up and out for a hike. Those mornings set my day up nicely. :)


  5. I have insomnia or other words sleep disorder too. Due to nightmares all the time.. I sleep at 10- 10.30pm and always waking up at 2-3am. And for me to fall back to sleep takes time nearly 6am..I shall fall back to sleep but by then.. I needed to wake up at 7am for school and morning chores. This happened so regularly it became a routine of my mind and body.. In which, even if without nightmares I still would be wide awake at exactly 2-3am in the morning without consciously wanting to do it.


      1. Your welcome.. seeing as it is the right thing to do right now .. I am awake now at this moment. It is 4am. Cannot sleep hurm.


  6. What is with cranky people in the morning? I never understood that. Maybe it’s because even though I sleep very little every night, when I wake up, I’m AWAKE. I’m never groggy or out of it, no matter how tired I may still actually be. Very alert, whether I’ve had 6 hours or 2. (And I don’t drink coffee either!) With the right person around, I’d be VERY chatty in the morning. I’m a compulsive planner and I like to get “work” over with ASAP and leave myself free time later on. So the morning is the best time to be productive!


    1. Ha! The quiet weekend mornings have become a very productive time for me Wendy. I think I write most of my blog posts during those early hours. Several people commented about not needing much sleep. I’m jealous of that. I can get by on just a few off a night, maybe two but normally I’m down for 8. And no coffee? That’s crazy talk :) thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment.


  7. Embarrassing for me since I have never experienced serious sleep issues (knock on wood)! But many people do and yes, it seems that going to bed and waking up at the same time helps.
    I like the description of your encounter with your wife and the animals when you showed up in the kitchen at 5. Always your signature humor, which makes your posts unique and enjoyable to read, regardless of the topic.


    1. I’m glad you have escaped these issues too. Thanks for the kind words. I’m just glad my wife is a good sport. She reads these ahead if time and could exercise veto-power if she wanted to.


  8. Yup, consistency in bedtime and rising is the key. I always regret it when I get away from that discipline … For example those nights I stay up way past my bedtime reading compelling blogposts about meaningful things like … sleep disorders :-)

    Even though Hub was in Marines for single enlistment, he’s never lost his knack for learning how to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

    And kale is actually tasty and digestible when simmered with other veggies in winter soups and stews :-)


    1. Oops, sorry to be the cause of a future sleepless night. But, thanks for staying up to read and comment. My wife does prepare kale on occasion. I do like it but compared to pastrami?? No chance kale is ever on top.


  9. First of all: yup, you were one that did not make it to my reader. Now following by email.

    I knew a woman who’d say she could sleep with her butt in a bucket of freezing water. Now there’s an image. Anyway, it is not something I can relate to. I, can, however relate to the early morning chatterboxiness of husband. Enough said. Hear me? Enough! (Not you, Dan, the other hubby.)

    I read somewhere recently that women need more sleep than men. I do my best work in the morning, but it does take a couple of hours and a couple carafes of coffee to get to that point.


    1. Thanks for taking the trouble to reconnect via email! I think the Reader is causing problems lately. I’m trying to purge the bucket of ice image from my mind, but I guess that means she can sleep anywhere. I hope that isn’t the only way she can sleep.

      I’m pretty sure I get more sleep than my wife, unless she naps while I’m at work. In any case, I seem to need more sleep in one shot at night than she does, As for chatterbox, sorry, I’m with your hubby on that. I can’t wait to start talking in the morning :)


  10. OH my gosh how you made me LAUGH at this, Dan. Your sense of humor rocks. And I um can relate to your wife, sorry. My hubs is a chatterbox, and in the morns, don’t go there with me until I can crank my eyes open. Tee hee ….. My cats agree. We have a set routine as well, and when Dad is up, it is not appreciated by the cats. They glare because HE is interrupting their peaceful breakfast. Hehehehehehhe LOVED this post, Dan. Thank you. Love, Amy PS NO you do NOT hav a sleeping disorder!


    1. Thanks Amy! Yeah, our cats stand in support of my wife’s quest for quiet in the morning. I get the funniest looks from them, but I don’t think they are laughing. And they do glare! Thanks again.


  11. Your description of the early morning dialogue between you and your wife was laugh-aloud funny and pitch-perfect true — I’ve experienced it. I’m an owl married to a meadowlark who begins chirping the minute he opens his eyes. Drives me crazy. Great post, Dan.


    1. Thanks! I think the comments here are running quite heavily in favor of my wife’s position regarding morning conversation. “begins chirping the minute he opens his eyes” is a good description of me. I am getting away with a bit of chatter these days, although I’m talking to our Irish Setter pup (almost a year old) so it’s things like “who’s a good girl, yeah, you’re a good girl…gimmie that sock” and stuff like that.


    1. Yeah, in addition to nodding off quickly, I can pretty much sleep through anything. Sorry. Sometimes, when I leave for work, I will step out and say “did it rain last night?” I just get a perplexed look from my wife. This morning, even the dog didn’t want to talk. thanks for the comment Elaine.


  12. Dan, I really appreciate the humor in the conversation you had with your wife. Well, I think that among the things my family member and I love and respect so much is sleep. Come visit on a Sunday afternoon and you will find most of us — if not all — are sleeping.


  13. Dan, I really appreciate the humor in the conversation you had with your wife. Well, I think that among the things my family member and I love and respect so much is sleep. Come visit on a Sunday afternoon (while I was still living with them) and you will find most of us — if not all — are sleeping.


  14. I think I am worse. Sleep never comes. If it does come, it teases me, and if I do not take the opportunity to go to bed immediately it disappears for another 2, 3 hours, or longer. On week days, I go to bed routinely at 10pm, waking up at 5am. On weekends, sleep does not even bother to come. I stay up even up to 5 or 6. It’s that bad. Sometimes I feel very sleepy, but a single distracting incident–such as a phone ringing, a neighbour speaking outside, a dog barking, or a memory of something I’d forgotten–can send that sleep away for good. I go to bed sometimes and try to think of nothing, imaging an abyss, a desolation, etc, which is very hard indeed, just to bar other thoughts. Still sleep doesn’t come. Every thought I have at that time produces more thoughts. It is a logarithmic expansion of thoughts. They shield me from sleep. It is frustrating. I have some sleeping pills that just don’t work at all. When I was in school, I slept very little. But I enjoyed then. Not now.


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