A Good Night’s Sleep (Or Lack Thereof)

Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep.

It doesn’t matter if you get four hours or ten hours of sleep, as long as that’s what’s right for you and what your body needs. I’ve often been envious of those who can blissfully be alert and energetic all day on four or five hours of sleep, because they get an extra four or five hours a day to get stuff done!

I usually need closer to eight hours but have almost never gotten it. For years there was full-time college and a full-time job. (A college professor told me that I was burning the candle at both ends, I figured it was more like I was putting the candle into an industrial strength microwave and just nuking it.) Then there were kids and a job. Then there was that whole single dad and kids a a job thing. Now that I’ve gotten older and the kids are gone (and for the moment, unfortunately, so has the job) I find that there are other things that keep me from sleeping. Some years I feel like I just can’t get a break.

The dog is sometimes an issue. If she needs to go out or if she’s restless, I’m usually the one to get up and take care of it. In the past there have also been other household beasts that have been sources of nocturnal interruptions.

Various ailments are sometimes an issue. I’m particularly susceptible once or twice a year to some kind of rash or allergy that itches like crazy. Makes it tough to sleep.

I’ve also had kidney stones in the past, so I’m a bit fanatical about staying well hydrated. (If you’ve ever had kidney stones, you know what I’m talking about.) So as I’ve gotten older it’s gotten tougher to get a solid eight hours (or even six) without waking up and needing a trip to the bathroom.

My most recent problems have come from nocturnal leg cramps or “charlie horses”. If anyone has an actual treatment or cure, they’re keeping it well hidden from the medical community. I guess there’s not as much money in solving that problem as there is in coming up with a new treatment for baldness or erectile dysfunction. But if you’ve ever had night leg cramps, you know the joy of waking up in agony with your leg(s) in knots. WebMD, the Mayo Clinic site, the family MD, the CDC — none of them have a clue other than, “Yeah, it happens as you get older. It’s a bitch. Live with it. We’re clueless.”

Whatever the reason that you (by which I mean “I”) get your six or seven hours of sleep in three or four stretches of sixty to ninety minutes a time (when what you really, really need is a solid eight hours), messing up your REM sleep that much is going to leave you punchy at times and grouchy. (I know, that’s why coffee was invented. I don’t drink coffee.) Even if you do your best to “shake it off”, it’s like having a compromised immune system, only for your spirit and sense of humor instead of for your physical body. It doesn’t take much to tip your mood off kilter when you’re on the thin edge of exhausted all day.

I guess my point is that it’s important to remember that when you’re feeling a bit on the ragged side and it feels like the universe has you down by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, you should see if maybe a fifteen-minute nap might not help.

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

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