The older I get, the more important getting a good night’s rest has become. It’s amazing how little sleep I was able to function on during college and in my twenties. After graduation, I had to work two broadcasting jobs to survive – one in morning radio, which required me to arrive at the station by 4.30am. As one of the assistant producers, I’d participate in our post-show debrief meeting/next day prep meeting and then spend hours on the phone booking guests. I’d leave around 2pm, get home in time to nap for an hour, shower again to wake myself up, then be at my evening job in TV by 5pm. I’d get home between 11pm and midnight, sleep for a few hours, then wake up and do it all again. During the fall, I’d even add to the madness by working at a popular Halloween attraction in upstate New York on the weekends – mostly because it was so much fun. I lived in a studio apartment and didn’t need much more space than that since it was just a terminal where I’d lay down for a couple hours at a time and get dressed.
Let me be clear: I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I SURVIVED LIKE THAT. Now in my forties, if I get less than a solid eight hours, I am CRANKY. I am also a light sleeper – a trait I inherited from my Father – so it is very difficult for me to fall asleep unless I am completely drained when I lie down, as in the aforementioned scenario. (Maybe that’s why I ran myself ragged like that!) Once I do fall asleep, any slight noise or movement wakes me up – and once I’m awake, I am awake the rest of the night wishing I could fall back asleep. I will look at the clock and think, if I fall back asleep now, I can still get three hours. And this countdown continues until the sun starts to rise and I decide to give up and get out of bed. It is HORRIBLE.
Sleep is particularly elusive if I am sharing a bed with someone. Enter my BF. I have always said that I would never live with a boyfriend, mainly for this reason. But my BF is special and I have found myself making many concessions that I never expected I would make. We have been living together for 2.5 years and he is wonderful, but I have hardly slept during this time. Compounded with a job that continues to pile more and more on me, I started to come unglued after the holidays – a time of year that I love but was particularly exhausted by this year because I was already exhausted going into it. I started taking more baths to relax (my New Year’s resolution!), which honestly did help, but the glass of rose’ (or two) I’d drink along with those baths DID NOT HELP. Do not drink alcohol when you are overtired! I finally had to own up to my issue to my BF: I just needed some sleep. Thankfully, we had booked a last minute cruise in February and it was a much needed break. Since it was a last minute decision, we booked the cheapest room available – an inside room with no windows – and it was a blessing in disguise. I fell asleep so easily on the boat. The room was cool, dark and quiet (we were inside so there was no foot traffic in our hallway) and I’d wake up naturally around 6am feeling refreshed and excited about the day. I’d even jump out of bed and head to the gym! After a full day in the sun and a great dinner, we’d go to bed around 10pm and my eyes wouldn’t open again until the next morning. It was UNBELIEVABLE. I felt like a new, happy person!
Then we returned to land and that feeling came to a screeching halt. But after our experience on the boat, my BF finally understood the gravity of my sleep issue and volunteered to start sleeping in our guest room during the week. It was sweet, but sad. I felt like I had failed us. Up to this point, I had tried everything else: a new mattress topper, a silk pillowcase, a Dohm sound machine, a sleep mask, a bed fan. I was at the end of my rope and didn’t know what else to do. I felt like I wasn’t enjoying life because I was tired all the time and I certainly wasn’t functioning at my best. But the separate rooms did the trick and I started sleeping again. In order to feel somewhat functional during the workweek, I’d have to start the process of going to sleep hours before I believed I would actually fall asleep, but my BF (rightfully so) would want to stay up and watch TV or play games. What would often happen is that he would come to bed just as I was finally falling asleep and BAM, I’d be up for the rest of the night. And the fact that he was sleeping so soundly next to me would only add to my irritation as I watched the hours pass!
The separate sleeping arrangements solved these problems but didn’t seem ideal for a young couple who are sharing their lives. Finally, a light bulb went off: I sleep more easily with him when we are traveling – because we are sharing a King-sized bed! The extra room prevents me from getting overheated (he runs HOT) or feeling/hearing every move he makes. I approached him about the idea of purchasing a King bed for our apartment and he was fully on board, but worried about the amount of room it would take up (we have an awesome apartment but the bedrooms are SMALL). With my experience living in NY-sized apartments, I promised him I could make it work, so we did the ultimate couple activity and spent our Sunday afternoon mattress shopping. Laying on all the mattresses was pretty hilarious and we made our salesman’s day by coming to a decision very easily. That same weekend, Target was having a sale on bedding so we were able to score a deal on new sheets, a mattress cover, a comforter set and a space-saving bed frame. And guess what? The King bed works! We got rid of the futon we had in the guest room and put our Queen bed in there, so now we have even more comfortable accommodations for our out-of-town friends. I still use my sound machine to block out his TV and games if he stays up later than I do, but even if he comes to bed after me, he doesn’t seem to be waking me up like before. The mattress we bought limits motion transfer and my body seems to be acclimating to a more regular sleep schedule.
So, the lesson here? Be honest with your partner about your needs. I was so embarrassed about my sleep issues that I was afraid to push my BF away. But in actuality, I was getting so damn cranky that I was probably doing it anyway! Lucky for me, I found a true partner who understands that relationships require work and we are both willing to invest in building a healthy, happy life together.