A Divorce Journey: BLOG 5
In Search of Sleep
By Lynn Kaplan
Certified Divorce Doula & Divorce Coach
I had my next Blog Topic all planned out. It
was going to be called:
Family Dinners: Why They're Important and How to Make Them Fun.
My editor was completely on board with the idea, as he was excited to hear how it could help him and his three young boys with that mealtime stress.
But then it happened. I stopped waking up early in the morning. I’ve always woken up early, usually somewhere between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. I love that time because the house is quiet, the world is quiet, even my dogs are quiet. It’s my time to make a coffee, straighten up the kitchen, get cozy on the couch and write. It's my time to go inward and reflect on my own experiences, then let them seep out onto the page. I cherish those early morning hours, and now they are gone. I tried to get them back. I even set my alarm clock to go off every 15 minutes starting at 6 a.m., but I turn it off and roll over to go back to sleep. Yes, I've been sleeping in for the last month until around 8:30 a.m. Yikes! One morning I didn't get up until 9:30! Why, why, why?
Well, I actually do know the answer, and the truth is that although I am missing those early mornings, how can I not be grateful that I am sleeping well? A few years ago, I decided I needed to create a good bedtime routine and to “Sleep Train” myself. My sleep, like that of so many others, was crappy -- unpredictable, up in the middle of the night, head spinning and agitated.
As a single mother, with health issues and lingering divorce challenges, I wasn't surprised that I had difficulty sleeping. It's truly one of the most common things I hear from my clients.
I was going to be the “guinea pig” to figure this out. The idea of going to bed around the same time every night didn't sound reasonable, but I decided to give it a try.
I invested in a weighted blanket and a white noise machine (both well worth it). My white noise machine is set to "Ocean." I am a California Girl and I love listening to the sound of the waves.
At around the same time, my son was reading the Alchemist for his high school English class. As he has the accommodation to listen to audio books, he chose to listen to the version read aloud by Jeremy Irons. If you Google “Best Audio Book Voices,” Jeremy Irons is at the top of the list. I can understand why. One evening I found myself sitting on the couch with my son while he was listening to the Alchemist. The voice was so soothing, and the imagery of the story so beautiful, that I fell into a deep sleep right there. I should have been making dinner, but instead I was snoring away in the living room.
I woke up a few hours later. I decided then and there to add Jeremy Irons and the Alchemist to my Sleep Training routine. And, just to let you know, everyone survived eating late that night.
The next night, fully equipped, I got into bed at the designated time, the sound of ocean waves turned on, blackout curtains closed tight -- I forgot to mention blackout curtains and a sleep mask are essentials -- weighted blanket pulled up to my chin and the Alchemist playing.
That did it. I drifted off into that wonderful world of sleep. At 2 a.m. I woke with the audio book still going. Oh crap, I was wide awake and my head was spinning with things like what needs to be fixed in the house, the grocery list, how to get my son to help more with the chores, and on and on and on. And then I thought of Jeremy Irons’ voice. I turned the audiobook back on, no idea what chapter I was on, I didn't care. I drifted back to sleep. I did that routine for almost a year, although I probably couldn't tell you the whole story of the Alchemist. But there I was: “Sleep Trained.”
As time went by, I’d start having a few nights in a row where sleep and I just weren’t connecting. My gut feeling was to go back to listening to the Alchemist. It would never take more than a day or two to get me back on track. So all was good in my sleep world - early to bed, early to rise. Before dawn time to reflect, to slowly sip my coffee and to write. Skip forward two years. At a regular appointment with my family doctor, while he was catching up on how my pain levels were from my chronic health issues (read all about it in Blog 4 part 1, part 2 and part 3) he said he would really like me to try mindful meditation, again. He'd given me that prescription before - to meditate every day. I had tried many times, always being guided to sit up in a comfortable position. But with my back problems, I always ended up being very uncomfortable, to the point where I could only focus on the pain, and I would have to stop.
The doc’s advice this time was, “why don’t you then try it lying down.” It seemed ridiculous to me, as the “problem solver,” that I hadn’t thought of that myself. We agreed that I would get into bed a few minutes earlier than usual, get comfortable, and just go for it. And that is when I lost my morning hours!!!! What I did find was this guided meditation: 20 minute mindfulness meditation for being present, from the Mindful Movement, with Sarah Raymond as the guide.
Night #1: Fell asleep maybe halfway through it, slept like a log…woke up at 8:30 a.m. (Remember, I always used to wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 am. Waking up at 8:30 a.m. meant I had lost 2.5 to 3.5 hours of awake time. I rushed to get ready for clients, with certainly no time to reflect and write.
Night #2: Fell asleep even quicker and, holy crap, slept in until 9:30 a.m.!!!!!!!! Thankfully my son is old enough to not need me around for his morning routine, and can get himself off to high school. But what about the client I have booked for 10 a.m.? Gulped down my coffee. No reflecting, no writing.
Night #3: It had been a really busy day and I just couldn’t settle down. I listened to Sarah Raymond all the way through but I wasn’t concentrating on her words or guidance at all. By the end of the 20 minutes, my mind was still racing. What to do now? Without getting frustrated about the clock ticking away, I put the meditation back to the beginning and started over again, and then back to the beginning once again, and then, at some point, my mind and body finally relaxed and settled into her words -- and boom -- off to Sleep Land. 8:30 a.m. wake up. I'd been smart enough this time to schedule clients a bit later, so I had time for coffee, but not for reflection or writing.
I’m well into week three and I realize I haven't worked on my blog AT ALL. So why not stop listening to the Mindful Meditation if I’m losing those early morning hours I relish so deeply? I’ve become addicted. I even try to slip it in during the day if I can find the time. And, as the doctor was hoping, my pain levels are down, plus in general I am just more relaxed. I even listened to it while having my teeth cleaned at the dentist last week. I walked out feeling like I'd been relaxing at a spa.
And that is when it hit me that this would be my current blog topic: MEDITATION MADNESS.
I know we are all busy. We are all overwhelmed. We certainly don’t have time for ourselves. But in writing this blog, I hope I can inspire you to get into bed a few minutes early and listen to this guided mindful meditation (or any other one you find is the right fit for you). I'm truly hoping that those of you who so deeply need it will get an amazing nights’ sleep, your body will have the time it needs to rejuvenate, and your stress and pain levels will decrease.
I apologize beforehand if you end up sleeping late.
For me, early mornings are on hold for now. I’ve settled into a new wake up time of around 7 a.m., which gives me time to enjoy my coffee while prepping for my workday ahead. I’ve adjusted my reflection and writing time to evenings. I’ve been getting such rejuvenating sleeps that I even have time for a bit of novel reading now before I settle into my lying down meditation time. If I do wake up in the middle of the night, I remember to start Sarah Raymond from the beginning, and again if needed, until I drift gently back to sleep.
Good Night Moon…
Here's the Link to Sarah Raymond's meditation, please enjoy if you feel so inclined.
As our busy season begins to pick up, we will be taking a break from the blog. We wanted to get one last one out there, as a common challenge for all of my clients is the impact that sleep deprivation has on all aspects of life. We do hope this will help. Have a cozy winter, be gentle with yourself.