Forty winks

When I don’t use my laptop computer for a few minutes, it goes to sleep. When I tumble into bed at night my brain usually doesn’t work that way and I toss and turn, sometimes for hours, until finally I slip into sleep. To facilitate the process, my doctor has prescribed a little pill, and that does work, more or less! The result of a restless night is a tired day and, as some of my readers will know, it’s a debilitating feeling being tired all day. Falling into a semi-conscious state whilst watching the seven o’clock news is blissful, but then having to concentrate on staying awake for it and the following drama series requires a lot of mental effort which results in me being wide awake. Result? Enjoyed the show, but now mentally alert when it’s time for shut-eye!

Reading in bed has proven to be an unreliable method of falling asleep; variable of course, depending upon the story, or the storyteller. The physical weight of a book can be helpful to induce ‘arm fatigue’ but the story is not often soporific and being enthralled means I might read too long! So, I now use a Kindle book reader which is much lighter and more comfortable but, again, I find it almost too good and if the story is good I will, still, read too long into the night. I imagine you are thinking “That must be good”. Well, no. ‘Cos then I wake up in the morning, usually at about the same time, but so tired I want to roll over and get some more sleep. Takes a bit of ‘won’t power’ to get up some days! Should be an easy solution: don’t read in bed. Then I toss and turn! The better alternative, I have found, is to listen (with an earplug) to music on the ABC Classic radio – but then sometimes the music is anything but conducive to sleep. I also try the ABC News radio and, depending upon the topic, that sometimes works, but even that can be variable. Those tactics, or alternatively nothing but endless thoughts, just keeps me awake when I want, and need, to sleep!

After discussion with my doctor about this sleep deprivation and the resultant, almost overwhelming, daytime tiredness, she sent me off to a specialist for a ‘Sleep study’. That required me to have little sensors stuck all over my head and body, wired to a chest-strapped recording device whilst I attempted to sleep, at home, overnight. Of course, I had a very restless night with all that paraphernalia attached, but the specialist’s analysis of the available read-outs indicated that in the time I was asleep there was enough data to indicate a degree of ‘Sleep Apnoea’. The next phase was to fit me up with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a special face/nose mask and a small bedside air pump, designed to provide a constant air supply past the otherwise night-time collapsed muscles responsible for the restricted airflow. Less air, less oxygen, leads to some risks while our breathing momentarily shuts down, and that can be nasty for one’s body and the ‘broken’ sleep results in daytime tiredness. If you are interested you can read a much more scholarly description here:

Well, the CPAP trial continues. A different mask tonight (the third) might prove to be more comfortable and may even result in my feeling on top of the world tomorrow. I am not sure which of the Sleeping Beauty dwarves I most resemble today: is it Sleepy, Grumpy or Dopey? Probably not ‘Happy’! It is an inconvenient truth that I might need to keep this CPAP treatment going for the rest of my life. For now, though, I will need to continue with these trials over the next month to discover whether I can find a system that enables me to ‘sleep easy’ and wake up refreshed.

I always thought this sleep business was simple: just turn off the light, turn over and go to sleep. Sounds easy but, in fact, it’s a complex subject- it seems the ‘quality’ of the sleep is the important factor. You see, I never dreamed (!) that I was stopping sleeping – and, momentarily, breathing – so many times during the night. Tonight, I will sleep on it (or with it), for tomorrow is another day!

How many winks? I wonder who decided, and why, forty was established as the optimum?