Monday, December 13, 2010


I have no trouble getting to sleep, I just can't stay asleep. Around 8:00 PM, warm from my bath, I snuggle in bed and break out the Kindle for a good read. Kindle and I enjoy each others company for a couple hours and then I easily go to sleep. Exactly 4 hours later, you can set your clock, I am awake and my body thinks “OK,that is enough you lazy creature” and sleep is history.

On rare occasions, I slip back into fitful quickie sleeps but a lot of times, I just lay there. Not much to do at 2 AM. So again I read. The odd thing is that I don't go around tired all the time, I just am convinced my old body needs more than 4 hours of sleep to rejuvenate.

I have tried a ton of things that did not work for me. Most of the “cures” are to put you to sleep. That is no problem, it is that staying asleep that I can't manage. I have tried turkey sandwiches with milk. I have exercised and not exercised. I have taken hot baths, warm baths, and morning baths. I even resorted to Tylenol PM which did actually work but I hate taking a pill for any reason.

Then, I stumbled on something wonderful during a power outage. I slept like a baby for 8 continuous hours---without electricity. The only constant I could find is that my bedroom is pitch dark in an outage. No little green computer lights, no red gadget lights, no outdoor security light piercing my window shades, and no night light illuminating the path to the bathroom, just complete darkness.

Trying to replicate the total darkness, I was able to hide or eliminate my electronic toys LED lights. Off went the night light and window shades were added to the blinds to block the security light. Nothing was able to produce complete darkness. Light still found its way into my room.

I decided to go Hollywood and went in search of a sleep mask to hopefully drive the rest of the light from my nighttime.

Finding one in a brick and mortar store was difficult but finally I located one in a Walgreen’s. I was hopeful but skeptical that it would work but first I had to overcome a not at all advertised problem. The Velcro straps LOVE satin pillow cases.

The exposed parts of the velcro became completely attached to my pillow case, to the point I had to remove the mask to release my head from the pillow. They should come with a warning label. When I ripped it free, long threads from my pillow case came with it.

Now it was a toss up. The satin pillow case had to go but did I want blissful sleep at the expense of more wrinkles and fierce bed hair? Realizing it is a bit late to worry about new wrinkles and bed hair can eventually be tamed, I broke out a cotton pillow case and all was fine. Velcro is not attracted to cotten.

I was afraid the mask would keep me awake just by its strange presence on my face. However there is a large area that bubbles away from the eye. I can easily open my eyes while the mask is still on. It seemed so light weight, I didn't even know I had it on and off to sleep I went. This was something I could work with.

When I awoke that first night, per usual the first thing I did was reach for my projector clock and pressed the lever which should have broadcast the time on my ceiling. I was so hoping it was going to tell me I had slept through the night. Nothing. I strained to see but still nothing. At first I thought my favorite clock was broken or in need of batteries, but as I strained harder to see, even the vaguest signs of light were not visible.

Yes panic struck. That sudden spell of clear vision I had a week or so earlier now seemed like it must have been the warning of my impending blindness. The reverse of “darkest before the dawn.” Who was going to take care of my pets? What would I do? Not wanting to be a burden on any family or friend, I was planning my nursing home options.

I went to rub my eyes in frustration and felt the mask. CRAP. Ok, you all ready knew it was there but I honestly did not. Feeling stupid ?? You bet, but relief rather over shadowed that really dumb feeling. This was ranking right up there with my “butt ugly glasses” episode when I refused to recognize my own glasses. I sometimes wonder how I have made it for 71 years.

So had the sleep mask worked? Not totally--- but a bit. I had actually logged 6 uninterrupted hours of sleep, a 50% increase. Not bad. I was feeling positively slothful. The six hours however has not been constant and never do I get more than six. I really am still trying for that 7 or 8 hour goal.

I am a firm believer that there is an answer to most problems, we just fail to ask the right questions. So I am asking you---do you have any tried and true sleep MAINTAINING methods? Remember, I go to sleep fine, I need help staying asleep. I may have tried your methods and failed, but maybe, just maybe the right one is locked in someone's keyboard just waiting for me to see.

My eyes are open and waiting. Thank you.


  1. Patti, I have no advice other than to tell you to keep writing. You always make me laugh and usually make me think.

  2. Keep on keeping on with writing.

  3. Abe is right, no matter what.

    I think you might try going to bed later than 8, and read upright in a chair until 10pm or so and then go to bed with your mask.

    We once visited friends and the lower level of their home was built into the mountain land and the bedrooms down there had no windows and no ambient light at all. I went to bed and slept eleven hours straight and when I did wake up, I had no sense of where I was and had a moment of panic, as you did, about possible blindness. But the sleep I had there for 3-4 nights was wonderful. Maybe we should dig ourselves a basement!!

  4. You're breaking my bubble of the glam Hollywood sleep mask and satin pillow cases. I always think of the old "Thin Man" movies when Myrna Loy would wake up looking absolutely gorgeous wearing her sleep mask. Were you a fan of Thin Man? I sure was/still am. I do seriously think it helps to eliminate the electronic stuff in a bedroom. Definitely a more peaceful sleep.

  5. That was so laugh out loud funny. Is it wrong to wish these distressing incidents keep happening to you just so I will continue to be entertained??

    Dark is good for sleeping. Another principle of sleep hygiene (I've had the therapy) is to use the bed for sleep and sex and NOTHING else. So kenju is right, you should read in a chair. And if you wake up and are awake for more than 20 minutes, you should get up and do something else (like read in the chair) until you feel like you are falling asleep. Sounds simple--really hard to do, but I did increase my "sleep efficiency."
    I have tried TylenolPM--knocked out for hours and hours. Nobody needs THAT much sleep!

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  7. I get up 3 times a night to go to the bathroom...uninterrupted sleep is non existent here. blessings, marlene

  8. I tried some feng shui and it has helped. Got rid of a rearing horse pic... It also says to get rid of any electronics in the bedroom,, radio, night lights. I also read that no red lights in the bedroom area, like alarm clock lights or cell phone charging stuff. The bedroom is for sleeping and don't watch tv or read in bed...unless you're having sex at the same time??? ha ha ha

  9. Oooh and it also says to not have any exercise equiptmen in the problem at my house...ha ha ha!! Good luck!

  10. If I sleep four hours straight, I consider that sleeping through the night! I do manage to fall back to sleep, but uninterrupted sleep is way out of reach for me.

  11. marciamayo,
    Thanks so much marcia.Such a nice compliment from a published writer.

    Thanks Abe, sometimes I just have no choice.

    Thank you Judy.
    You are probably quite right. There is no real reason I can't read in the living room. Will give it a try.
    That total darkness is wonderful isn't it.

    Pretty sure Myrna didn't have to deal with velcro. I can see the scene you are thinking of. Sadly my house is so small, I have to sleep with electronics.

    Wonderful. If my distressing incidents tickle you,I can pretty much guarantee more to come. I am pretty much DI prone.
    You make a very good point and I will try that.

    I see you found the ashcan to delete. Don't think anyone would have hurt themselves but you never can tell. Thanks though, I will kick mine up a notch and be careful not to overdo.

    Oh how awful. I sure hope you get to sleep inbetween trips.

    Oh how funny. If I could read and have sex at the same time, someone is not doing a good job.

    Oh no, you must be a very light sleeper. Now my 4 hours is sounding pretty good.

  12. I finally accepted I was not going to sleep 7-8 hours straight most nights, and have been fine since. I just lay down and think, "I'll be awake in a few hours," and then if I do wake up, I start counting backwards or taking deep breaths and find myself asleep again. I know I am asleep because I have weird dreams.

  13. I had trouble sleeping after my knee surgery... I had never had trouble before---and when it did happen, I was pretty miserable... It did finally pass --and I sleep much better now.

    Are you off of Caffeine? I read that that hurts sleep patterne--although I don't have a problem with it.

    Light or darkness don't seem to bother me --but I don't read in bed. When I'm ready to go to bed, that is what I do---Go to bed to go to sleep....

    You have gotten some good advice about reading in bed. I wonder too --if it becomes psychological...??? IF I worry about my sleeping---that just seems to make it worse....

    Good Luck, Patti...

  14. I think Kenju has the answer for you Patti.

  15. Before this reading, I figured my sleeping less and in shorter periods was God's way of blessing me. I figured He knew I had more days behind me then I do before me and was giving as many possibilies as He could to experience this life or finally get started on why He put me here in the first place. Now I am hearing its a real sleeping problem? Crap...I'm so confused.

  16. I wish I had some answers for you, but, Alas, I do not! My sleep patterns have been very strange for years and years and YEARS.....And I came to a couple of conclusions---1) I don't need as much sleep as I used to...and 2) When my body NEEDS the sleep, it takes over and I get the sleep I need.
    Eight Hours? I haven't had 8 hours of uninterupted sleep since I was a child. LOL!
    I have used Sleep Masks in the past---before Velcro and they helped keep the light out, but I never stayed asleep any longer.
    Now, at my advanced age---I fall asleep with the lights and the TV on....and sleep like a baby in these short two hour increments....Wake, and then go back to sleep again for maybe another Hour and a Half...I'm sleeping a lot if I get 6 hours all together, in one night.

    Keep looking my dear, there may be an answer for you! I wish you good luck!

  17. Patti, re your comment on my blog:
    Not that one! She likes to brag that the same women who do the Governor's Mansion do her house too.

  18. I might have to get some of those eye covers too. No advice here either, other than no caffeine or chocolate after 12 noon. I've always only needed 6 hours sleep my whole life so I only worry if I get less. There is actually a small percentage of people that need only 6 hours of sleep a night and they say it's hereditary. My mom only needs the same so that's must be where I got it from.

    Some background noises keep me awake too, so no electronics; I can hear the frig compressor cycle on and off, not much to do with that thougy.

    I think 8 pm is too early to go to bed 10 or 11 is better.

  19. schmidleysscribblins,
    Will try that backwards counting trick. Weird dreams are kind of fun.

    You may be right. I may be conditioning myself to that 4 hour mark.
    I rarely consume any caffine and never after lunch. I am really sensitive.

    I am leaning that way also since more than one has suggested that.

    I am the optimist here, why didn't I think of that? Perhaps I should be grateful instead of grousing?? You have a good point. Stick with what you are doing GQ.

    Wow, you do sleep with a lot of distraction. Still if you go back to sleep like that, at least you are stacking up the time at rest.

    That was my other guess. Nice of you to provide bragging rights.

    Linda Starr,
    Thomas Edison is credited with saying that men should get 6 hours sleep, women 7 and damn fools 8.
    Even though I don't go to sleep till 10 perhaps reading outside the bedroom is good. Thanks.

  20. Hi Patti! A great well written post! You describe these sleeping troubles so well! I also have sleeping problems. I always turn in at midnight, then read a little bit and fall asleep, but after a few hours I wake up. I've tried everything, counting to a hundred in French, which is more difficult than in English. Or repeating irregular verbs in English. Taking a shower sometimes helps. Well anyway, your mask seems to work!

  21. I certainly will be no help as I sleep with TV on, light on, and now oxygen machine running. I sleep rather well but have to make pit stops periodically all night, so the 7-8 hour straight sleep is impossible. I have little trouble however, falling asleep after returning to my liftchair which is my "bed."

    My husband however, is like you --total darkness and silence please.

  22. Patti,

    I have the answer to your problem..

    Get a radio and put it right in your bed next to your ear and tune it to your local NPR station.

    At 3 A.M. when you are struggling to get to sleep, turn up the volume and you will find two soft voiced women discussing the sex life of the African tsetse fly, OR
    what life is like in January in Lappland.

    You will have absolutely NO trouble falling back to sleep while listening to this drivel....

    It's the only reason I contribute to NPR at Beg a thon time. Heaven forbid those ladies should go away. I'd NEVER get to sleep....

  23. Reader Wil,
    Only thing for sure Wil is that we are not alone. Try the mask, it has added 2 hours to my sleep time and might work for you. Good luck.

    Good heavenly days child, with all that going on it is miricle you get any sleep. It is that going back to sleep that bumfuzales me. I am glad you are able to.

    Too funny. But what if I am facinated by those subjects?? I do have weird taste.
    Sadly I can't get NPR radio, don't have cell service either. I really am in the sticks.

  24. I am bent over laughing. I can well imagine you did think you were going blind. LOL Myself, I can sleep in a room with all the lights on if I'm tired enough. I try not to doze through the daytime. I do doze some in the evenings if the TV is boring or even if it's not and I'm crocheting. But I have not sleep all night through since I can't even remember when. If it should happen, I would probably think I had died. When I use to sleep in a bed, I was awake almost every two hours, would have to get up and move around because the joints were hurting. Now I sleep in a recliner and usually once in, I'm there from perhaps 11 or 12 until around 6 or 6:30am. They actually say as you get older you need less sleep. So get up and start doing something boring, or keep a boring book close by, that puts me to sleep I a big hurry. I'm not help what so ever. Sorry.

  25. Back again, just found this article, you might find in interesting, copy and paste in your browser and read.

  26. Books on CD. I listen to them in the car and they keep me awake. I put them by the bed and it's like having someone read me a bedtime story. I keep something checked out of the library all the time for that reason.

    Oh... I'm assuming you are asking for prescription-free remedies to try because your doctor ought to be able to solve your problem without making you drowsy in the morning.

    Love the mask story. Put the satin pillowcase back on.

  27. Patti, I have the same problem, and I haven't found anything that works yet. I'm reading all your comments to see if anyone has a miracle cure because I think 4 hours of sleep is not enough either!!

  28. I have the oposite problem ....I tend to sleep too well...except when my brain is too active with problems .... or I have drunk too much
    My late husband had a similar problem to you at one time ...solved by a milky drink and a biscuit before bed ...well, in bed actually. You may only need 6 hours so maybe retiring to bed a little later too, might help. good luck xx

  29. Oh the things we do when we are desperate for sleep. I feel your pain. I hate all the distractions when I try to sleep. I'm glad you tried out this experiment for me. You keep me laughing. That has to help with sleep.

  30. Patty,
    I am so glad you finally found a way to get comfortable. Pain is a real sleep killer.
    Thanks for the link, it is nice to know it is pretty much common but they also say 4 hours is not enough. I will try being more active as they suggest and see what that does.

    Ah talking books. I love them till I fall asleep while listening. It is brutal trying to find your place again. My Kindle will read to me and when it no longer feels motion it will shut itself off so place finding is not so hard.
    You are right, I am looking for non-prescription methods. I hate taking pills.

    Coloring outside the lines,
    I do feel your pain. However, do try some of these solutions. I have and have actually increased my sleep time now to 7 hours. I am feeling quite rich in that dept.

    I would trade problems with you in a heartbeat. Had to laugh at the "too much fluids," been there for sure. My new found 7 hour nights I can definitely live with and it is a huge improvement. Thanks.

  31. Retired English Teacher,
    Isn't it odd the thing we did with out thought as youngsters,that suddenly require therapy?

  32. This is such a funny story. I too think you should write an ebook filled with these stories from your blog.

    I haven't been blog hopping this month. I do want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2011.

  33. Oh my you poor darling. I felt so bad for you thinking you might be blind. Otherwise I am sorry but I was laughing pretty good at the rest of the story because you certainly know how to entertain me.
    Wish I could tell you what to do but I seem to have the same problem as yourself. I blame it on age but who knows.
    Maybe we do go to bed too early but like you I like to curl up and read. Oh how I wish Santa would bring me a Kindle.
    You did good though by buying the mask. My daughter and sons all wear them and keep telling me thats why I don't sleep longer.
    I think I have too many noises outside the ole farm house and I hear everything. Of course there is ear plugs. lol
    Love ya

  34. Miss Dazey,
    Thank you so much for thinking so.
    Back at you for a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

    Glad to know your family likes the masks also. I am becoming a big believer.
    Only thing scary about ear plugs is that you might not hear a smoke alarm.
    How about one of those white noise makers to drown our your outdoor night life? Good luck.

  35. When you get a chance you've got an award on my blog for today.

  36. Our sleep patterns are becoming disturbed from all the wireless signals that are being pulsed all around us. We love the convenience of the technology but we fail to head the warnings that are published and come with each item we purchase. Many folks just get a pill and that makes the drug companies happy. It stimulates the economy. lol
    Don't worry about waking up. Be happy when you do. It's a blessing, right?

  37. Linda Starr,
    Well aren't you sweet, I'll check it out. Thank you.

    You know, you have a really good point. That "waking up" is pretty important.
    I refuse to take pills and so far all the advice is working. Yipee.