Thursday, August 27, 2009

sleep deprivation

I understand now how sleep deprivation can be used as torture.

I have never been a good sleeper, but somehow I have been able to get by on little sleep over the years. Waking up every hour to pee during this pregnancy leaves me pretty exhausted in the morning, but I have been able to push through it and function pretty well. This week, though, I hit a wall. I was up most of Monday night, having strong Braxton-Hicks contractions; I've been having more of them lately, and they were feeling more intense than usual. I got myself into a bit of a tizzy that night, worrying that I was going into preterm labor, so between the anxiety and the contractions and the constant peeing, I got maybe an hour or two of sleep at the most. Tuesday, I was a total wreck. I was pretty much in tears the entire day, aside from moments when I pulled myself together enough to get some work done. I cried when I wasn't able to nap. I cried throughout my prenatal checkup, even though it ended up being reassuring--my cervix was tightly closed, not thinning; the baby's hearbeat sounded good; aside from being a sleepless wretch, I was healthy and not in labor. I cried on the way home, unable to stop the flood, even though I felt deeply relieved. And later that night, when, after a series of miscommunications with my daughter, I had to shop for camping supplies after 10pm, and the only place that was open was a WalMart--which I normally boycott--20 minutes away, I lost it. I was so tired at that point, I could barely keep my eyes open as I drove, plus I was sobbing, and once I stepped into WalMart all red-eyed, I was completely overwhelmed by the florescent lights and the rows of gaudily colored synthetic fabrics and my own moral distaste at being there, and I could barely move.

Fortunately, I was finally able to reach Michael by phone--he had been at a rehearsal--and he drove out to the store to join me. I sat on a bench in a daze while he knocked items off of Hannah's list and did whatever he could to get me to smile. When I got home and saw that Hannah hadn't done what she had promised to do to prepare for her school camping trip, I lost it all over again. Michael gently led me to bed, where I wanted to be able to just fall into oblivion, but instead I kept crying, softly but insistently as Michael tried to comfort me. And just as I thought the tears were subsiding, a giant wail ripped through me. Suddenly, all sort of inhuman sounds flew out of my mouth--I felt like a wild animal as I cackled and squalled and keened, totally out of control. I've never felt anything like it--it was as if some pocket of grief and pain opened up inside me and came rushing out through my throat. I could almost see it leaving my body, like a fire breathing dragon. It felt wonderful and horrible all at once, cathartic and terrifying. Afterwards, I felt much better and was finally able to sleep. I'm still exhausted, but I feel like a human being again; a sense of calm has returned to my center. I'm not really sure what happened that night, but it was clear that something needed to be released.

I'm taking calcium and magnesium now at bedtime, which is supposed to help both quiet the contractions and quiet the mind; hopefully it will do the trick. My mom asked if there was anything she could do to help--I told her she could hit me over the head with a frying pan, but surprisingly she won't take me up on my offer. Last night, I actually had a three hour stretch of sleep--the longest uninterrupted span I've had in a while--and even though I was up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, I slept another couple of hours after that, so I think I'll be fine for the day. Hopefully whatever demon I unleashed Tuesday night is gone for good (maybe I had been briefly possessed by an evil spirit in the Miley Cyrus section at WalMart; it seems plausible--that store has some nasty energy!) I hope everyone out there is rested and refreshed; I hope one day I will be again, too!


  1. Oh Gayle! I'm so sorry you've been so sleep deprived. It sounds like your hormones are wreaking havoc. I remember pregnancy doing some wacky things to me emotionally, too. And I think anybody in their right mind would cry if they had to brave Walmart at 10pm -- it's scary enough in broad daylight.

    I'm glad you're feeling better. When you're up for it let's meet again for breakfast, my treat, anywhere you want to go. I've missed you!


  2. ((((((hugs)))))))))

    Sleep deprivation is THE WORST THING. Ever. I spent the first two years of Remy's life like that (and still am fairly sleep deprived, though nothing as bad as before, I'm surprised I could stand up back then!)

    Calcium magnesium was exactly what worked for me (for anxiety/ irritability and helping me sleep better). I really need to find some for kids, cause I think Remy would benefit a lot, too!

  3. Oh honey! I had such serious sleep deprivation after Ben was born that I thought I had post partum depression, but realized in retrospect that it was just pure exhaustion. Hang in there!

  4. Melatonin (the human hormone responsible for sleeping) helped me sleep during college, as well as now.

    People in sunny places oftentimes don't produce enough melotonin for themselves and don't sleep so well.

    I know I dont, and I suggest you give it a try. I get mine at Vons. It wont put you to sleep, but I find it calms my mind down a bit before bed and I can fall asleep. Otherwise my mind refuses to shut down.

  5. Yeah for the fire-breathing dragon that left your body calm and centered. Sleep deprivation can make you crazy.

    Love to you.

  6. Thanks so much, everyone! It helps a lot to have all of your support. I'm not sure whether Melatonin is safe during pregnancy, Brian, but I'll check--right now, the calcium/magnesium and rescue sleep remedy (made of flower essences) seems to be helping. Now if I can only figure out how to tell my bladder to stop waking me up every hour or so!

    Thanks again for all of your commiseration and love, everyone,