Goodnight, Gracie

blogXpuppyOne lesson I have to learn, over and over, is that without adequate rest, my whole house of cards come fluttering down. I had to learn this in law school, which was a working full time/in class five nights a week, four year marathon, and I’ve had to learn it several times since.

Now, we’re finding that sleep is when we get rid of those nasty amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s. Sleep is when we shuffle information from short to long term memory. In sleep, we integrate complicated information with what we already know. The brain also uses sleep time to decide what information can be forgotten, allowing us to better grab onto important stuff.

blogXsleepyXkittenI’m still not as skilled at resting as I’d like to be. I tend to have several book projects going at once. If I run out of juice on one, I can switch to another. If I run out of juice on all of them, I have website projects I can work on. Busy, busy, busy… and if all else fails, I can get on that infernal, perishing, blighted, benighted, rubbishing tread desk, and at least walk while I play solitaire.

In the back of my mind though, I wonder at this-near compulsion to be productive. Some of it comes from financial anxiety, some from a mind hitched to a restless imagination, but some of my hamster-wheeling is just an old bad habit.

blogXwheelI want to live a long, healthy, productive life, so I’m making an effort to protect my rest and get the hamsters under control. A few steps I’m taking:

I use the f.lux program to cut the blue light from the computer screen at sunset, so my brain starts getting ready to sleep.

I turn off all devices an hour before beddy-bye, and read a print book to signal that lights out is approaching.blogXeyore

I don’t use my phone for ANYTHING after lights out except to check the time, and if I must do that, I hold the phone as far from my eye-winkers as possible (at least fourteen inches, to keep the blue light input down).

I try not to set an alarm in the morning, if I can get away with that.

My friends and family know that short of a dire emergency, no texts or phone calls after 9 pm MY TIME.

marriage_450During the day, I get up and get out of the writing chair regularly, whether to hit the tread desk, work in the garden, or meet a writin’ buddy for lunch. Sleep is only one kind of rest, after all.

Rest is too important to neglect. Without it, I’ll have no health, no imagination, no progress on my projects, and yet, few of us–women especially–are encouraged to make rest a priority. This is me, encouraging you: Make rest –all kinds of rest– a priority. You’ll be happier, less anxious, healthier, and ultimately more productive.

Are you getting enough rest? How do you recharge? To one commenter, I’ll send signed copy of A Duke and His Duchess, a story about two very tired young parents.

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27 comments on “Goodnight, Gracie

  1. I totally agree with you about sleep and I find as I age it is harder to achieve. I prepare for bed exactly as you do and have found that turning off my tablet at 8 and forging my glass of wine during the week has resulted in blissful sleep! Giving up the wine during the week was the missing link for me.

    Kind regards,


  2. After the birth of my first child (who didn’t seem to understand the need for rest of any kind!), I spent years waiting for my husband to volunteer to come home early from work so I could meet up with friends or offer to get up at night with the baby so I could sleep for more than 1 hour at a time. The offers never came and I became resentful and exponentially more exhausted. In the end, I had to become protective of my rest time and be strict about getting the time I desperately needed. I now have non-negotiable standing appointments for my alone time and time with friends. I’m more pleasant to be around when I’ve had my rest time!

    I LOVE The Duke and His Duchess!! That story definitely hit close to home for me.

    • What IS it with us, and asking for help with the babies? I know a gal who got utterly wrecked by one of those Sleepless Delight babies. I told her to get Hubby lined up for one night a week of kid duty. One night–four nights a month. Saturday night if he’s too slammed at work.
      “Oh, I couldn’t do that! He has too much on his plate.”

      From which he gets a break every single night and most weekends. I coulda smacked her, because sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and erodes everything from metabolic efficiency to memory to immune responses.

      She had been dealing with this for eighteen straight months, but HE had too much on his plate.

      I’m glad you got your situation straightened out. A good night’s sleep occasionally is not too much to ask.

  3. I’m on of the millions – possibly billions who do not get enough sleep. I’ve got a cat who needs medicine every 8 hours for epilepsy – so she gets ‘drugged’ at 11 at night. (Of course, she also gets a treat for letting me shove a pill down her throat – so that extends the ritual). I wind down by reading – often on my tablet no matter how late it is. I also try to get everything done relatively early in the evening so I’m no doing stuff up till bedtime and can relax.

    • Glenda, I hope that tablet filters blue light out late at night, otherwise, your brain is staring at the equivalent of a sunrise for hours while you try to fall asleep. Especially if Kitty means you only have an eight hour window, you NEED your rest (and maybe the occasional nap?).

      In former times, before electricity, at least in England people had two sleeps. They’d nod off after dinner, get in a couple cycles, then get up for a few hours of quiet time and go back to sleep some time after midnight. Of course, for the cold half the year, in England, that sun is going down earlier than in much of the US, and rising later. That probably helps with the double sleep rhythm right there.

  4. My eldest son has autism. Now what does that have to do with lack of sleep? It may not be widely known, many people with autism have sleep issues…so for almost 36 years, I’ve had to DEMAND and connive to get sleep for myself. Hubby is a physician so, automatically, he gets to sleep….can’t have him wielding a scalpel with no sleep.

    When he was young, we spent dinner time and beyond, preparing the boy for bedtime by limiting liquids, chocolate and sugar, being calm and if he wanted television, it would be Disney’s *Melody Time* or *Fantasia* or classical music of some sort. A warm bath right before bedtime too, calmcalmcalm……mostly, it worked. But sometimes, it didn’t and I would have to be up and supervising. Horrid and then I would have to function the next day and would try to grab a nap when the kids did.

    As an adult, (he grew out of it for the most part in his teens)he watches movies in his room and doesn’t fool around so, technically, I can sleep…but I’m always on guard.

    I need an hour of winding down to sleep. I read (and often, it’s my Kindle in bed)books or magazines. I watch my caffeine intake after 3 pm (don’t know why it’s 3 pm but it works best)and I might have a bedtime snack, usually cereal and milk, while I read any story in the newspaper (the actual, physical newspaper)I missed that morning. I take care of my skin right before bed and have a bit of a regime I have to do or I feel icky….it makes me feel ready for bed!

    • A routine is certainly helpful, or supposed to be, as well as reserving bed for lights out. Don’t read there, don’t watch TV, don’t work on the laptop.

      Again with the Kindle, make sure it’s filtering OUT the blue light, or you can have what’s called e-reader insomnia.

      My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for three years, and ASD was one of the causes mentioned. Myself, I think it was having only one parent and that parent being gone all day. If the kid wanted to spend time with me, I was at least available at 2 am.

      • I do use the filter on my Kindle…..and haven’t had trouble sleeping because of it (I don’t think). What I do have issues with is when Hubby is *On Call* and he gets the 1 and 2 am calls from the hospital. Sometimes, I am able to tune it right out BUT sometimes NOT! Monday/Tuesday was just such an example….1 am phone call and could not go back to sleep! Sigh…..yawn!

  5. I find that I need to reset my sleep pattern every few months. Sometimes, I am over tired from working both jobs other times I can’t fall asleep when I go to bed.
    Turning off the tv, a glass of wine or cup of decaf tea and reading helps me settle and leave the day behind. Walking helps and sticking to taking the dogs to obedience class keeps me active. Am a bit tired today as I worked last night and early this morning, so a one hour nap in my future!

    • One of my brothers has the nap gene. He can fold his arms, put his feet up, and nod off for twenty minutes. Says it adds two hours to the end of his day. Of the seven children, he’s the napper, and he’s also the energizer bunny.

  6. Interesting post. I never thought about how busy our brains are while we are resting.

    Now that I’m retired, if I don’t sleep well, at least I don’t have to get up and go to work the next day. And I can cat nap whenever I want. I wake up a lot during the night(aches, pains, animals, etc.)but as long as I don’t let a cognizant thought into my head, I can usually go right back to sleep.

    • Interrupted sleep also figures in weight gain, because your cortisol levels never drop, and you can’t lose weight without adequate rest (or hydration, for that matter). We look at all the nutritional causes of obesity in this country, but seldom mention stress (wage stagnation, anybody?), and our chronic sleep shortage (see wage stagnation).

      And upon whom do these burdens of fatigue and stress fall most heavily? The ladies, who still suffer egregious wage inequality. If you’re a white women, you’re working five days to your brother’s four to earn the same money for the same job. If you’re a minority woman, the white guy while quit right after lunch Wednesday to earn the money you take until COB Friday to earn for the same money.

      And they wonder why we’re chubby, cranky, and tired? When guys control every state and national law making body in the country and they haven’t fixed this in the fifty years since wage equality became law?

      Oops. Sorry. Maybe I need a nap.

  7. Hi Grace,
    I have not been here for a long time! I was just quoting something you blog on my Facebook and came to make sure I was totally faithful…
    TO answer your question: I hate to sleep, I fight every night… I totally know that I need to sleep – its really bad for diabetics not to sleep – glucose metabolism is totally messed up with no good rest… but you know I really can’t stand to sleep – I have no idea why… I took the TV out of my bedroom … if I don’t read I can’t really sleep… I need to crash in order to sleep… I live on naps.

    • Kassia, Time magazine did an article on sleep, sleep deprivation, and sleep disorders, and their research came across a few people who honestly don’t need to sleep more than an hour or two a day. To all appearances, those folks functioned fine, despite all the brain science that says it should be impossible.

      I also know a guy who’s lived with HIV for more than 25 years.

      You might be the outlier for whom a little dab will do ya, at least for now.

      Insomnia has helped me meet many deadlines. I try to view a restless night as opportunity. I’ll get up and write, and even if I only get a 1000 words done, they’re usually pretty good words because I’ve been lying in bed thinking book thoughts.

  8. No rest cost Lady Macbeth her sanity and then her life. I about got to that point my last semester in college, although I didn’t have the King of Scotland on my conscience.

    I went for counseling. Then I graduated. Both helped.

    I learned that most things don’t last forever and aren’t as serious as they can seem at 3 am. (Have you seen the meme “But did you die?”). And there is help.

    And my husband introduced me to reading comic books at bedtime.

  9. I put on my pajamas when I get home from work. I don’t look at any news.
    I turn off the over head lights in the living room, we have Christmas lights on the inside all year long. I’ll watch HGTV or Food Network. I’ll read a romance novel. I am trying to wait patiently for Jack by Grace Burrowes. Sigh.

    • Boy, what you said, Anne. If I make the terrible, horrible, awful, very bad mistake of scrolling through my Facebook feed after about 9 am, I am doomed. I’m trying to spend less time anywhere by on my own FB page generally, and those late night, “I’ll just buzz the feed…” detours have stopped.

      So much negativity. I don’t need that in bed with me!

  10. Prior to retiring, I used to leave for work at 5:00 a.m. for an hour long drive to work. Fighting a 10 year+ habit of waking at 4:15 every morning (including weekends), makes it difficult to change sleeping habits. Still go to bed at 10:30, read for about 15 minutes which helps me shut down for the night. I try not to read your latest offering during this time because the anticipation of getting to the end of the book is too tempting–keeping me awake into the wee hours of the morning!

  11. Oh, “Gracie”! At my age sleep is a slippery fellow that often declines to join me in the land of Nod! (Nap Only, Dam’it) A good sleep is three solid dreaming hours before the siren call of the porcelain throne sounds again! Then, of course, are the distractions that arise after the wake-up: shall I check eMail, FB, News, or, heaven’s forfend, Pinterest? Snacks also intrude….When precious sleep enfolds me again, it is for most likely only another three hours. Damn that old lady diabetic need-for-pee-making! Staying up all the live-long-night writing, cross stitching, reading, procrastinating, binge-watching, only to crash around 8 AM! Sleep another three or four hours! Seldom have to go elsewhere, retirement is a joy for such a curmudgeon as I have become! Add in the wonderful debility of bad hips, aching muscles, neuropathy…etc….and you get the picture. Sleep is an old friend that seldom visits in a timely or appropriate fashion. Pardon me, I feel a nap coming on. Bye!

    • What a challenge the body can hand us, by meddling with what so many take for granted. Sounds like you’re in the two-sleep mode from days of yore. At least those folks had a chamber pot under the bed, so they didn’t even have to hike down the hall, turn on lights, etc. Kinda gross, but that would have been a chilly hike out to jakes.

      You seem to have found your coping strategies though, so hats off to you for dealing constructively with what isn’t easily changed.

  12. I find that it is harder to sleep through the night as I get older. I may get up at least 3-4 times a night. I have always been a light sleeper, but it has gotten worse as I get older. I have been trying to get into bed at a reasonable time. I have to put the Kindle away or I will be up all night reading.

  13. Thoroughly enjoy your stories, which is one of the ways I ready my head for sleeptime. Other than six hours of sleep a night (being a high energy person even at age 68), my husband and I RV with a camping club one weekend a month, travel to different states in the RV hauling my sewing/scrapbooking/painting projects and his woodturning with us. We see family and make new friends at each camground. Everyone has a tale and we love to listen…and read.