are we sleeping yet?


Sleep is a precious commodity – as one learns when it is disturbed on a regular basis. I am a night owl and Mom used to be an early riser, though now tends to sleep in a bit more. Sometimes it is apparent that she hasn’t slept well, as she is exhausted in the morning and sleeps in longer than usual. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to get up for work, unlike some of us! I have not been sleeping well either, so we have two grouchy people living in a small space – not a good scenario. 

I have an old Fitbit that I haven’t used in quite some time, so I charged it up and started assessing sleep patterns. Since then, I bought another device so that we can both wear them and track our sleep. On the plus side, we haven’t been imagining a lack of sleep. The bad news, of course, is that we haven’t been having particularly restful nights.

animal-2027159_1280My biggest problem can be summed up in one word, ur, name … Oscar. He sleeps most of the day, so is ready to play at night and has decided that he enjoys having a playmate. He also finds that night is a great time for me to focus on him, as I’m not on the computer or knitting or reading at book or watching TV. If he can get my attention, we can cuddle! The problem is that he likes to cuddle in increments, so he wakes me up so we can get into a comfortable position … he purrs, I fall asleep … 30 minutes later, he’s had enough and gets up, waking me in the process. He jumps down from the bed, gets something to eat or drink, runs around for an hour or two and – just when I’ve fallen asleep again – decides it’s time to cuddle again. Wash, rinse, repeat … all night.

When Mom came down to live with me, I started bringing Oscar into my bedroom at night and closing the door. Before that, he had the run of the apartment and rarely woke me up. But, I was afraid that he would jump up on Mom’s bed in the middle of the night and give her a heart attack. In the past two years, he has shown no signs that he would do this so we decided to try leaving the door open so he could roam. It’s working! The night before I opened the door, I got 3 hours and 40 minutes of actual sleep over 7.5 hours in bed. The night after I left the door open, I got 6.5 hours – not great, but a vast improvement.

As for Mom’s sleeplessness, we are still working on that. It is fairly well known that older people have changes in sleep patterns, more restlessness, less “deep sleep” at night and more napping during the day. This certainly is the case with my mother. In addition, she started becoming anxious about sleep – “I hope I can get some sleep tonight” were often her last words of the day and “I wish I had slept more” were among her first words of the day. The good news is that her sleep has been improving too.

Mom’s biggest problem had been extended periods of being awake. Each Fitbit sleep “session” ends if you’re awake for more than an hour. Mom’s sleep pattern indicates that she is waking up for more than an hour early in the morning, so she has multiple sleep sessions per night. For example, overall, she was getting about 6 hours of sleep spread out over 8+ hours in bed, but she had one segment of about 3.5 hours and another of 2.5 hours. We saw this pattern over three nights. Last night, though, she slept more than 7 hours all the way through!

So, we both are making progress and feel great today! Hopefully, we can keep this going and settle into better sleep patterns. The Fitbit has been a great addition to help us see what is happening.  It provides comfort to Mom in demonstrating that she actually is getting some sleep. That news, in and of itself, relaxes her, so she is less anxious about sleeping (or not) and more open to activities during the day.  It’s one less thing to worry about.



2 thoughts on “are we sleeping yet?

  1. deb May 2, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    I come from a family of poor sleepers, so your quotes to one another are familiar to us. My husband sleeps from midnight to around 8 am, now that he’s retired. He’s been a regular sleeper his entire life. On the other hand, i have not. Because i didn’t work outside the home, i never considered it a huge problem, even when i had kids at home, as i nap easily. But it can become a challenge when you realize you just aren’t getting the rest you need.

    Like your mother, i sleep in two batches. First is a five hour solid sleep. Then i’m awake for a couple of hours until i go back to sleep for another two hours or so. All the actual sleep is good sleep and i feel rested when i awaken the final time. My key to good sleeping was not trying to continue sleeping after that first 5 hours. Again, i’m fortunate that i do not have to work outside the home. But allowing myself to get out of bed and read or whatever, instead of tossing and turning, seems to have been the key.

    You are smart to use the Fitbit to good use. Congratulations on that front. One question, which you probably has already been addressed by you, is about caffeine. Even a little bit nowadays keeps my husband awake, so he doesn’t even drink iced tea after 6 PM.


    • alphacatonline May 2, 2018 / 3:30 pm

      Thanks for the insight – I think my mom will appreciate the message that she can read or whatever, rather than “trying” to sleep. Her hearing that she actually was sleeping more than she thought has actually relaxed her and made her feel better. I’ll pass along the notion of embracing the gap!


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