Sleepless in Chicago

By Lloyd Graff

Sleep and lack of it has long been one of life’s biggest mysteries to me. Some days it feels so easy and comfortable, an effortless, pleasant activity, and the next night it is an elusive phantom that I mentally grab for and continually miss.

I used to find it much easier. Wash up. Light stretch. Hug my wife. Casually discuss the next day’s plans. Turn over, and sleep would easily take me. Not so anymore.

For years, after being told I had sleep apnea disorder, I struggled with an annoying breathing apparatus that was supposed to provide me with a healthy, peaceful night’s rest. Over time, I doubted that analysis, and finally decided that at least for me, sleep apnea was a sleep industry fraud. I slept better without the infernal breathing apparatus that I used to schlep everywhere when I traveled around the country.

I gave up the machine after my heart surgery 12 years ago. I do not miss it at all.

Like many men, I suffered from prostate enlargement for decades, which impaired my sleep. Surgery solved that issue, though one interruption for urination is normal for me after four hours sleep. That is the tough one for me. It usually happens between 2:30 and 4 a.m. These days, slumber all too frequently eludes me.

I get back in bed and nothing feels quite perfect. The quilt is in disarray. Risa may be snoring. Light sneaking past the window is annoying.

And the thoughts, the challenges, the fears, the things I should have done better the day before, the Cubs bullpen collapse. It could be anything. Lately it has been a troubling dream, or the inability to remember the number sequence of the burglar alarm disarming code. Other nights I struggle to remember whether the name of the high school English teacher I hated was Rosenstein or Rosensweig. A lot of dumb stuff, but they are stealthy and persistent intruders.

I use my tried-and-true tricks, counting 1 2 3 4 5 while breathing in, 6 7 8 9 10 breathing out. I put tape over my mouth these days to eliminate mouth breathing. Other nights I envision shooting free throws and enjoying the imagined feel of the leather basketball releasing from my fingertips.

I usually swallow a melatonin pill before going to bed, but now I add a few sprays of melatonin if sleep feels distant. Unfortunately, a couple times per week, I stay up for two hours and occasionally never reenter the sleep state.

I pay the price during the daylight hours to come, and often the following day. It also tends to increase migraine symptoms like scintillating scotoma, the half moon shaped floaters that interrupt vision for around 25 minutes.

Hopefully your sleep is always peaceful, me and the other sleep deprived world would like to know your secret.

Question: Are you a successful sleeper and do you have any advice for the rest of the world?

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4 thoughts on “Sleepless in Chicago

  1. Tom Snow

    Lloyd —

    I always enjoy your articles, which I have read since we met at an MDNA convention in the 80s.

    I also gave up on the infernal CPAP machine after being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. Fortunately, losing weight solved the problem.

    However, like you, I often find it hard to go back to sleep after a bathroom break during the early hours of the morning. It seems there’s always something to worry about.

  2. rosi

    So far at this stage in my life, sleep is pretty regular and easy. Sleeping in a cooler room helps, and a good quality mattress is important. Prior to a hip replacement in 2016, I did have nights when pain kept me awake and uncomfortable. When I do wake up during the night, sometimes I think it is a God-prompting, to pray for whoever comes to my mind. So I do, and somehow, I end up falling back asleep.

  3. alan bjork

    Lloyd, my current goal in life is to sleep 8 hours every night. here is what i am doing. i have no ties to this company other than purchasing their product about a month ago. i bought a Withing sleep tracking mat. it goes under your mattress and you cant feel it at all. it is sensitive enough to tell you what your heart rate is during the night. every morning i get a grade on how long and how well i slept on an app on my phone. i never liked wearing a watch or tracking device to bed and this mat has been great. it will also let you know your breathing disturbances and when you snore. it has been a huge help for me. now i just need to figure out how to fix the 3 am bathroom break. i also have an elaborate system in evernote to eliminate the thinking that used to happen during the night. i know everything is written down and organized and that eliminates all of the night planning that i used to do. that is very calming.


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