Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sleep Interrupted

I love sleep. This wasn’t always the case. My feelings toward sleep have wavered between absolute love and utter disdain.

As a college student, I saw sleep as a waste of time – time spent missing out on living. A night at home doing something ridiculous like relaxing or sleeping would be the night that something stupendous would happen and I would miss it. I got by on what is considered by medical literature (and my adult self) as insufficient sleep – generally four hours a night, often less.

My position on sleep changed after college and I loved it for its properties of escape. During my first professional job, I began going to bed around 8:00 each night. It eventually occurred to me I was acting like some kind of senior citizen, but in retrospect, maybe it was depression. When considering graduate school, I practiced staying up late to make it through classes that would run until 10:00 or later.

During a phase of frenetic energy that lasted for years of grad school, two jobs, photography class, a marriage turned bad then separation then divorce, and a social life, I again viewed sleep as time lost. Then, I couldn’t sleep when I wanted to, anyway, and would lay awake in bed, trying to subdue my pounding heart with controlled, deep breathing. When I finally managed to fall asleep, I’d wake up frequently during the too short night, often in the midst of a nightmare about home intrusion or some other intensely stressful event. Days overshadowed by fatigue were managed with massive quantities of coffee and Diet Coke.

These days, sleep is a tightrope precariously stretched between my love of it and its occasional disdain for visiting me. I love naps. I love nighttime sleep. Currently, once I take to bed, I rarely have difficulty falling asleep (which could change without notice). It’s the staying asleep that is tricky.

For the past year, many of my sleep problems are Moose’s fault, but I probably instigated it. For the first couple months Moose was at the house he slept in his own bed, a polar fleece ring that was lightweight and portable enough for him to carry in his mouth from room to room and up onto the couch as part of the pillow fortress he likes to build in the corner. After boyfriend moved out, Moose started sleeping on the bed with me. There are problems with this plan. Once he jumps off the bed, he can’t jump back up, which doesn’t stop him from wanting to be there. He stands on his hind legs and claws at the mattress beside my head until I wake up to determine if he needs to go outside or just wants to come back up onto the bed. Half the time he wants to go out. This happens roughly every two hours, all night long. Every night.

On nights with thunderstorms, it’s worse. The first hint of electricity in the air sets Moose to trembling. He runs around the house with no destination and tries to dig his way under the bed, his nails making an awful scratching sound on the hardwood floor. When I finally catch him, I try to calm him, stroking his head, telling him in human words that it will be okay. He probably doesn’t understand, but at least I feel like I’m trying, and he eventually calms down when the storm has passed. This is how we spent the time around 1 a.m. this morning as lightning flashed and rain slammed against the windows. At least I didn’t have to worry anymore about the giant oak tree falling on the house.

Two hours after we got up in the storm, Moose woke me again. And two hours after that. Another hour later, and it was time for me to get up for work. And when I get home from work, he naps on the floor near my feet, or beside me on the couch. Sometimes I just want to wake him up.

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