To the Mattresses!

As sleepers go, I’m rather more interesting than is at all helpful, to me or those around me. I’ve frequently struggled to fall asleep, and to this day, if it’s warmer than 73 degrees, I just can’t do it. On the hottest nights of the summer, I have to put ice packs on the small of my back, to manage. As a child, once I did fall asleep, I moved around a lot, and sometimes did bizarre things (one night, I went to bed in a pair of red pajamas and woke up freezing in my underwear, the pajamas in a heap across the room.)

When I got a little older (high school and college), I didn’t thrash and strip quite so often, but, staying over at my BFF’s house, we did have a conversation in our sleep that terrified us awake at the same time. One of my college roommates swears that I delivered an hourlong lecture on the history of Ireland at great volume, one night. Another college roommate and I had our beds (her regular bed at the foot of my loft bed) in an L-shape, and startled awake simultaneously, arms cocked above our heads, because she was, in her sleep, standing on her bed about to smash my alarm clock quiet, and I sat up, still asleep, to smash it quiet.

As a child, I’d sleep through every one of our family road trips. My mother dreaded it, because I’d sleep for 12 or 14 hours driving, and she thought I’d be up all night. More often, she’d wake me up, I’d stumble into our motel, and sleep the rest of the night, for however long we were on the road. (This was a bigger blessing than she realized, at the time, as we’ve discovered that I tend toward motion sickness, sitting up in the back of a car.) I’ve typically done pretty well sleeping on buses, planes, and trains, but, in a cruelly ironic twist, the only flights I can’t sleep at all on are transAtlantic ones. I’m not nervous about being over the water, I can’t explain it at all. I’ve just never been so awake in all my life. Even when I take Tylenol PM, I just can’t bat an eye. I get off the plane and fall asleep in a foreign terminal, no problem, but if you need someone to monitor a situation in the passenger cabin of a transAtlantic flight, I’m so your girl.

As an adult, I’ve been a much less interesting sleeper. I’m told I no longer lecture or thrash. Because I sleep on my side, I make sure to align my spine with pillows at my knees and to keep my shoulders from hunching together as I sleep. I use a firm pillow to keep my head in alignment with the rest of my spine.

My brothers are older than I am, so I hear about the delights of aging about 10-13 years before I have to confront them. Several years ago, my youngest brother said “I can only sleep 4-5 hours a night, because then my back starts to hurt enough that I just get up.” That sounded insane to me. But over the last couple of years, I sleep just fine, but when I get up, my lower back is locked so painfully it’s difficult to move. Once I get up and move around a bit, I’m fine— my back (knock wood) doesn’t really bother me except for those first few minutes I’m awake.

I think, beyond aging, the culprits, in my case, are easy enough to identify. Suspect number one:


sleeps, when he can, under my chin, on the left side of the bed. This was much easier on my neck when he was a kitten. He’s now a long cat, who frequently stretches out, knocking my head off the pillow in a hyperextension of my neck that is really, really pleasant. He growls when I move at all, at night.

Suspect number 2:

girl-cat in the middle of a project
sleeps most frequently against the small of my back, on the right side of the bed. Sometimes in the crook of my knees. She likes it even better when I sleep on my right side, because she likes to play with my face when I’m asleep. As a result, I tend to sleep with one hand in front of my face, on my right side. She takes my motion during the night in stride, but it took her so long to be this affectionate that I try not to disturb her unnecessarily as I fall asleep.

As a result, I have unconsciously stopped moving much at all, at night. I know, because I’ll wake up in exactly the position in which I went to sleep, sheets and blankets undisturbed. It’s kind of creepy, really. I had a relative with a condition that made bedsores a real danger, and I know that not moving at night is not a good thing. You’re supposed to spread the pressure on your skeleton out, by adjusting your position several times at night. We’re built that way.

So I’m sure that my failure to move is contributing to my morning near-paralysis. But I’m also sleeping on a mattress whose age and quality I don’t know. So last night, I added one of those egg crate things to it. I woke up in significantly less discomfort this morning. $25 well spent, as long as that lasts!

How about you? Any tips to get me moving again, at night? Theories about what is wrong with my mattress? Have you encountered this lower back horrific pain thing, and if so, how did you exorcise it?


5 thoughts on “To the Mattresses!

    • I’m sorry. I’ve suffered only intermittently from insomnia, and it’s *the worst*. It would be bad enough if it were only the long slow march of the night, but the unremitting low buzz of daytime exhaustion is just horrific. I hope there is relief for you.

  1. Pingback: Road Warrior | Adventures of Auntie M

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