My nontraditional relationship with sleep

You could say I have an on again/off again relationship with sleep. There are stretches where I sleep like a milk-drunk baby for weeks and then there are stretches where it seems like I can’t get a good night’s rest if my life depended on it. Come to think of it, if my life depended on a good night’s rest, that would probably be too stressful for me to get a good night’s rest. That’s unfortunate.

Seriously, who would threaten someone for not getting a good night's rest? That's like telling someone not to think about purple elephants.
Seriously, who would threaten someone for not getting a good night’s rest? That’s like telling someone not to think about purple elephants.

But this is a running blog. So why are we talking about sleep? Because sleep is awesome. It makes me well-rested and keeps me from punching random people in the face (I’m looking at you, Jeff). Exercise also helps sleep. One, you’re less stressed, which makes sleep easier. Two, you’re so freakin’ exhausted you can’t help but pass out.

While I like option one for helping me go to sleep, sometimes it’s option two that does the trick.

I try to let ideas for posts emerge from life, so I’ll tell you how option two snuck up on me this week.

Sneaky like a ninja

It’s been a long few days from work and travel. I haven’t been great at exercise, but I have been trying. I’m finally getting back in the swing of things, so I decided to go to yoga the other night.

Class was great, nothing eventful. I went home, at dinner (a pizza ‘cause Fatty’s making decisions again; seriously, he ate three donuts today), did some laundry, and then goofed off on the Internet like a proud member of my generation.

It was getting close to when I was going to bed, so I shut down the computer, set it aside, and then passed out cold. There was just one problem: I hadn’t actually meant to fall asleep. I still needed to get up off the couch, shower, and brush my teeth. You know, actually get ready for bed.

Seriously, look how many Z’s there are. That’s some serious sleep.

But no. I just passed out cold in my yoga gear. I was lying back on a pillow and I had a blanket over me, so I guess my body overruled my routine. I woke up about four hours later, noticed that I was on the couch and all the lights were one, and then went right back to sleep for another hour.

Oh, what's this? I've fallen asleep with all the lights on. I should probably rest a bit more before I exerting myself to flip those light switches.
Oh, what’s this? I’ve fallen asleep with all the lights on. I should probably rest a bit more before I exerting myself to flip those light switches.

On the second go, I did manage to get up and turn the lights off, but I didn’t want to have trouble going back to sleep, and sometimes a cold bed does that, so I just crawled back on the couch and tried to go to sleep. Of course, this time it took me a few minutes to go back to sleep, but I woke up about another 4 hours later ready for the day. Mostly. I still just wanted to be asleep. Hell, I still want to be asleep now.

Side note, Fitbit’s really good at guessing when you’re asleep. I usually set the manual timer so it tracks start and end, but I didn’t when I acted like a narcoleptic. But I did remember when I turned the computer off and obviously knew when I woke up, so when I synced the Fitbit, it was cool to see that it guessed when I went to sleep within about 5 minutes.

Of course, this isn’t the only time I’ve fallen asleep when I shouldn’t have (at least not per societal norms).

I’ve fallen asleep a lot of times in odd scenarios.

One time I was doing yoga at home and got to savasana (corpse pose [how delightful is that name; seriously, that’s supposed to be like the best part of yoga, and they call it the corpse pose]). 45 minutes I woke up on my yoga mat really confused and achy because sleeping on a yoga mat on a tile floor isn’t the best plan.

I like to think I was just in a really deep meditative state. I know, put my earmuffs on the cookie.

And of course, I actually fell asleep in a yoga class this week. I only drifted for a minute or two, but it’s still a bit jarring.

Same as before, just imagine waking up in a crowd of strangers who are dressed in tights for some reason
Same as before, just imagine waking up in a crowd of strangers who are dressed in tights for some reason

One of my favorites was falling asleep in the laundry room the first year in the dorms. I’d had a laundry basket stolen (roommate borrowed it and left it down there, so it walked off; roommate replaced it, so no harm no foul) and heard too many stories of people messing with clothes in the washer or dryer, so I just stayed down there. I didn’t usually take a book for some reason. No clue why. Maybe I was afraid a book would put me to sleep. One day, I laid back on a bench and then startled awake when I heard the toilet in the laundry room’s restroom flush. The thing that’s creepy about this is that I was initially alone. I never heard anyone come in. I was out like a light. Someone walked in, went to the restroom, and I never noticed.

Another time, I feel asleep on the edges of a concrete foundation for these little houses when I was working a summer job. There was maybe two feet of foundation that stuck out past the wall, and I laid down and passed out. My coworkers didn’t know where I’d gone during the 15-minute break. The best naps are the ones no one expects.

In high school, I was reading Tale of Two Cities for fun (because what 14-year-old doesn’t want to read Dickens?). The book was a slow starter. Once I got going, I loved it, but man those first couple of chapters were killer. I fell asleep while reading.  I had the book open, and just conked out. And then got made fun of because this was in the middle of a classroom.

And my last falling asleep randomly story may be the oddest. I was sitting on the end of my futon (‘cause I’m classy) and reading something for work or class. I was exhausted. I finished a section or chapter, and just leaned over so I could rest before continuing. I can’t even find a picture of what this looked like, so I’ll do my best to describe it (and I made a picture). Imagine you’re sitting, and just rotate down to the cushions, leaving your hips and legs where they are. Shoulders and head on the couch like you’re laying down, but your hips, legs, and feet positioned like you’re sitting up. And then I fell asleep for an hour. That was a weird wake up. Not because I feel asleep (I knew I was exhausted) but because of how I fell asleep and how long I managed to sleep like that.

I still don't fully understand how this happened and how I slept so long.
I still don’t fully understand how this happened and how I slept so long.

There are nights I can’t sleep without finding the perfect position, and then there are times where I’ll pass out at the first opportunity.

And this is my weird relationship with sleep. Even though all those odd instances jump out as abnormal in most contexts, I actually sleep better in new situations. I have no clue why; I’ve just noticed that it occurs.

Sleep is hit or miss for me. Sometimes I go to sleep immediately and sleep through the night. Sometimes I wake up intermittently throughout the night for no apparent reason. And a couple of times a year, I can’t sleep until about 3 in the morning randomly.

But when I’m having trouble sleeping, my hack is to move. The more I get used to something, the harder it is for me to sleep, so I sometimes just move to help me sleep.

I currently have 4 different places I will sleep the night in my apartment. I try to stick with the bed, but if I know I’m going to have issues sleeping, I just start somewhere else. If I can’t go to sleep within 30 minutes, I usually move my sleeping location. And I’ll move in the middle of the night if something is mentally waking me back up (ever have a dream so vivid and cutting to your core that you feel like you have to reevaluate things? Yeah, on those nights, I have to move).

And it all comes back to sleeping better in new places, beds, etc.

I’ve always noticed on trips that I slept really well. Partially it was fatigue from travel, but a lot of it stems from being somewhere new. Even if I just crashed at a friends house, I always slept better than I would at home.

I did it as a kid without realizing it. Sometimes I would get up and move to the couch (and freak out my parents in the morning when I got up and moved after they’d been up a while without realizing I was within 20 feet of them without them knowing it). Other times, I would just sleep on the floor in my room.

Comfortable beds don’t hold that much appeal for me. I sleep wherever I sleep.

OK, maybe this is a bit extreme.

I’ve even deliberately fallen asleep in two chairs (sitting in one, legs propped up in the other; if you angle them just right, you can kind of lengthen the surface so it’s not too cramped) because I didn’t want to sleep on the floor. I did this for 4 nights. I regret nothing.

So I have no real idea how this is relevant to running, but it seemed like a fun story to tell. And you know what? YOLO. Yeah, I said it. Deal with it. I’m impressed you made it this far. I wouldn’t have even made it this far if I wasn’t the one writing. Hell, I’m not entirely sure I did. Someone else may have finished this for me.




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