Ask the Grumpies: Help me with my unusual(?) sleep problem!

Couchsnoozer asks:

I am in my early 40s, live alone with my pets, and for the past few years I’ve gotten into a terrible sleeping habit.  At night I conk out on the couch, sometimes as early as 8pm.  Like, I set down and I’m asleep instantly.  And I nap for 2-4 hours.  And the nap isn’t good quality sleep.  So then I get up, usually around midnight, and let the dog out and give everyone bedtime snacks, brush my teeth, etc. which takes about an hour.  Then I go to bed and sleep for 4-6 hours.  It doesn’t seem like that last set of sleep is very productive either.  It seems to be bad quality.  I’m tired all the time and I wake up tired.  My dad does this too, so it might be genetic, but I don’t remember him doing it when I was a kid.  I have tried so many times to stop doing this and it’ll work for a few days, maybe, and then I’m back to my old ways.  I don’t have the discipline to fix it!  Setting an alarm to go to bed doesn’t work either– I either sleep through it or turn it off.  I could just get in bed at 8pm, but I don’t want to get in bed at 8pm.  And lately I’ve been having trouble falling BACK to sleep once I get off the couch, and that is a new thing.

I know you’ve got readers who know a lot about sleep problems [ed.  I think she’s talking about you, gwinne] as well as doctors… do you have any advice for me?  I want to be less tired all the time!

Well, we seem to both be tired all the time even without falling on the couch and getting to bed later, so maybe it’s not the bad sleeping habits?  And just general middle-age/overwork/stress from [gestures broadly]?  Vit D helps #1 a lot, especially if she gets into the habit of taking it NOT right when she wakes up but a few hours later.  (I think my body gets used to getting it first thing in the morning and is extra tired if it doesn’t have it yet.)  And sleeping in two shifts was pretty normal before electric lighting, they say.

But it’s entirely possible that not getting a 7-8 hour stretch of sleep is problematic– you obviously know your body better than anybody.

Here’s some information on biphasic and interrupted sleep patterns.  Most of the Dr. Google links seem to think it’s a good thing and the only problem with having a biphasic sleep pattern is not having a set routine for it.  (Though this psychology today link ultimately ends on a negative note.)  Terms that may be useful in your quest:  biphasic, polyphasic, interrupted, segmented sleep.  (Shift sleep just gives a lot of links about people who have to work overnight.)

Anybody in grumpy nation more knowledgeable about sleep than we are have advice for Couchsnoozer?  Help!

Ask the grumpies: Favorite piece of furniture and why

Leah asks:

What is your favorite piece of furniture and why?

#1 and #2 at the same time ready 1, 2, 3:  THE BED!

Here’s why:

Pondering getting a new mattress: Any advice?

I love my DH very much.  But I think I would love him even more if we had a king-sized bed.

Why a king?  I used to think king-sized beds were crazy and extravagant and unnecessary.  As DH has gotten older, he’s started to snore a bit.  He’s got some kind of nasal thing going on (the dentist has talked to him about it) in which if he gets overweight he has trouble doing nose breathing and to fix it he’d either need surgery, a CPAP, or to lose weight.  So far he’s been trying the lose weight option, but it never sticks long-term.  Also in the winter I love cuddling close to him through the night, but in the summer I’d rather be as far away as possible.  He has trouble sleeping without me, but I sleep way better when he’s gone.  That year in paradise where we had a king-sized bed I slept really well.  We also sleep well in hotels when we get a genuine king bed.

Right now our house has 3 queen sized beds of various ages and comfort levels and one twin bed.  The bed we’re currently sleeping on is 18 years old (and is a pretty high quality standard mattress), but spent quite a bit of the time in the interim as an extra bed in an empty room.  DC1 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi Midori twin; it is about 10 years old.  DC2 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi queen that used to be ours, though I forget what kind.  It is ~8 years old, and DC2 (age 5) has been using it by hirself for something like 3 or 4  years.  We were very worried about chemical off-gassing when they were little.  The guest bed was a $300 emergency buy– the cheapest full bed option for right after we’d bought the house, had no money, and DH’s parents were visiting.  It is not… uncomfortable… but it’s also not terribly comfortable either and it’s smaller than our other queens.

We have to flip the bed monthly or I wake up with my back hurting.  And sometimes flipping is not enough.  Often it is enough though.

There are two directions that I see we could go right now.

  1.  We could buy another OMI mattress for $4-8K.  These guys are supposed to last decades, but one of the reasons we gave ours to DC2 was that it wasn’t as comfy after 5 years, even with regular flipping.  I’m fairly sure we could talk them into giving us a platform bed for free (that’s one of their rotating specials).
  2. We could instead spend $700 on a Tuft and Needle online, and then buy a platform bed frame from Walmart or someplace similar for <$200.

Or, of course, we could continue to do nothing.


#2 says:  King-size is 100% worth it.  Just buy a Casper like everyone else, and then you’re done.  You need 2 twin box springs, or a platform.  Casper even sells a platform.

They did not pay me to say this, but you can always paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.

Take one-quarter (or less!) of what you would spend on another mattress and buy a decent CPAP machine.  The difference in life quality (not to mention silence for your bedmate) once you get that sucker properly adjusted is mind-blowing.  Once you get used to it, you will wonder how anyone functioned without it.

What do you guys think?  What are your suggestions for mattress buying?  How did you buy your last bed?  Any suggestions for brands that are still comfortable after 10, 15 years?

A solution for DH’s snoring

This would probably not work with #2’s husband who is all CPAP’d up and whose snoring was so bad prior to CPAP that they once had to have separate beds on *separate floors* of a house.

My DH’s snoring hasn’t been quite so bad.  He’s had a couple things checked for it but it isn’t anything dealing with the dentist or some other thing that the doctor checked out.  It also tends to disappear when he’s in good shape and only creeps up when he tips into overweight, which is most of the time.  Obviously the best solution would be for him to get buff… but as that’s not a realistic forever solution, I appreciate this one weird trick that seems to be working.

Basically he bought this cylindrical pillow.  You can get it for <$25 on Amazon (you can also get it for >$60 on Amazon– choose the <$25 option… it is the same pillow either way).  And it works.  I don’t know why it works or how it works, but I sleep so much better when he’s using it than when he’s using his beloved regular pillow.  He doesn’t find it as comfortable as his regular pillow, but you know the saying, Happy Wife, Happy Life?  That’s a good saying.

(Reminder that we’re amazon affiliates, so if you click and buy we get some small percent.)

Do you have any snoring stories or solutions? 

My body defies science, or else everyone lies.

Ok what is it with this idea that you are getting enough sleep when you can wake up without an alarm?  Who does that?  Maybe if I set my alarm for 11am!  Even when I go to bed early, and set the alarm for 8 – 9 hours later, the alarm always wakes me up.  What is WITH you people and your freakish lack of need for alarm clocks?  That’s why they make alarm clocks!  Because we need them!  Perhaps if I never had a class or meeting before 2pm then I wouldn’t need an alarm clock.  But seriously!  Getting 8 – 9 hours of sleep is NO guarantee that I will then wake up at the right time.  Ha ha.  I laugh upon your alarm-clock-not-needing!  [#2 does not usually use alarm clocks, and even when she does use them, she usually wakes up before they go off.] [#1 sticks out her tongue at #2.]

I *always* feel groggy when I get up.  And there is nothing wrong with my thyroid [#2, using her armchair internet skillz, suspects it’s a difficult to diagnose thyroid problem], I get plenty of vitamin D, I exercise several times per week (which only makes me MORE exhausted, but that’s a separate post).  If I was pulled over on my way to work, I would fail a field sobriety test because I am uncoordinated and usually sleepy at that hour.  I can’t even reliably touch my finger to my nose when stone-cold sober, and I do drive sleepy.  I know I shouldn’t.  But there’s no other way to get to work!  Or, if I’m awake when going TO work, I’m very exhausted when coming home, which leaves the same problem.

Who’s with me?!?!?!?!?

Growing needs

Tiny babies fuss, (murfle, make expressive faces and wiggles,) and cry to communicate, but the communication gets more difficult as their needs grow.  Here’s what seems to be the ticket for us so far (and the order that we check things in… hungry?  wet?  need burping?)

On Day 1, all DC2 needed was milk from a breast and ze was happy.  Ze would fall asleep with a smile, tiny arms wrapped around a ginormous breast.

Day 3, DC2 discovered that wet diapers are uncomfortable.  If a breast didn’t satisfy, check the diaper.

A few days after that, DC2 discovered gas.  Gas problems could be solved eventually by walking, patting, and eventual burps or poops.

Sometime in the second week, DC2 got a bit more existential and came up with two new needs.  The need to direct hir own locomotion, something ze is mostly physically unable to do, which causes a lot of frustration and forces us to be very careful that ze doesn’t just fling hirself from our arms to the floor, and the need not to be bored.  We think these are related.  Initially lights and ceiling fans kept hir from being bored (the trip from the hospital to the car was *amazing* to hir for that reason), but they seem to have lost their initial luster.  It is darned hard to entertain a bright-eyed often awake newborn who is no longer satisfied with the same sights and cannot yet hold onto a toy.  So we do a lot of walking around.  Thank goodness for big sibling, and thank goodness DC2 seems a bit less traumatized by tummy time than DC1 was.  I guess we’ll be going out a lot once I’m fully functional and the two week don’t take the newborn anywhere moritorium has been lifted.  (Also we have a mobile in the mail as DC1’s mobile broke into component parts sometime in the past 5 years.)

I could turn this into an analogy about life-style inflation, but I don’t think it fits.  I think a better analogy is one of ambition.  Needing more than a serving of warm milk can be frustrating because warm milk is easier to obtain than a lot of things.  But having more needs, especially existential needs, can also be a driver for growth.  Ambition can help us do things we never knew existed when we were satisfied with a full tummy.

But still, we’re not looking forward to when DC2 discovers that tummies can be upset by things other than the need to burp or poo.

What evidence do you see of growth and growing needs in your life?  Are you satisfied with being satisfied?

Ask the Grumpies: Sleeping Students

Rumpus asks:

What are the specific steps you take with a student that falls asleep in class? Currently sleeping students are probably the second-most disjoint part of my class. It’s usually just one or two per semester, but I think my technique isn’t quite right because they keep doing it (and it’s not due to the time the class is scheduled).

#1:  Man, I feel for these students.  If I had a class before 10am, that was often me.  I didn’t want to sleep, but sometimes I’d wake up in a puddle of drool, my penciled notes having gotten more incoherent and eventually trailing diagonally down the paper to the desk.

Even so, students should not be sleeping in class whether or not they mean to be disrespectful.  Mainly I address them when they start to nod off and ask them a question.  “So the p value would be… what… Mr. Smith?”  “Huh?  What?”  [frantic whispers from the student next to Mr. Smith] “Oh, uh, the p value would be uh…”  I’m mean that way.

#2:  I ignore it, unless they’re snoring.  It’s not too distracting and they’re only hurting themselves.  I’ve done it, so I can’t carp too much.

Teaching readers, what do YOU do when a student falls asleep in your class.  Everybody, have you fallen asleep in class?  Any memorable moments?

Sleep, she is precious

Some public radio show wanted me to do an interview at 5:30 in the morning.  I just can’t do that.

You know how one of those job interview questions is about what your biggest weakness is?  My biggest job weakness:  I like my sleep.   — ditto me too

My strong desire to sleep in and to get enough sleep and so on has lead to opportunities missed, advancements not made, classes not taken…

In high school I qualified to take a big fancy math exam (the AIME) after getting a high enough score on the ASHE.  I skipped out because it would have required me to get up an hour earlier than usual.  Not worth it!

There are a few things I will get up for:

Flights (so long as I can sleep in the airport, car, or plane)

Giving birth

Occasionally child-related activities if DH can’t handle them.

Having a child has shifted the schedule so 7:30am no longer seems as obscene as it once did.  It’s a testament to how much I love DC that my day no longer goes from 10am to midnight.

I have a super-productive colleague that doesn’t sleep much.  It doesn’t seem fair!  Her normal amount of sleep is around 4 hours per night.  Some nights, she says, she doesn’t sleep at all, and it doesn’t bother her in the least.  She’ll just sleep 4 – 5 hours the next night and feel fine.  ARGH!  I need 8 -10 hours to feel good and at least 7 to function (though having only 7 on a regular basis leads to extreme exhaustion).  Of COURSE she has more grants and publications than I do.  Biology is against me!  Argh!  (That means I have to work harder and smarter…)

“Not a morning person doesn’t even begin to describe it.” ~ Pin from high school.

How do you and sleep get along?  Has general grogitude and refusal to sacrifice ever hindered anything in your life?