Last May, I had a heart attack. Hint: I didn’t die. But if I hadn’t thought “this couldn’t be a heart attack….could it?” and used the internet to figure out it probably WAS, and called 911, I wouldn’t be here to write this.
Over the course of the two weeks or so leading up to that, I’d become increasingly exhausted due to my inability to sleep properly. I’d go to bed, fall asleep, then wake up after about two hours, still tired but not able to sleep more. Repeated night after night, I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life. At the time, I had no idea that unusual sleep disturbances and extreme exhaustion could be warning signs of an impending heart attack, especially in women. (For more information on heart attacks – especially in women, read my post at Home Ec 101: Obvious as a Heart Attack? Know the Warning Signs, Save a Life)
Now, knowing what I do after what I went through last May, it was only natural that my recent inability to sleep – which started on Wednesday night – had me a bit concerned. I wasn’t sure if it was a sign of another cardiac issue, or just my tendency to have trouble sleeping when I know there is something I absolutely must be up for in the morning. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that I’ve had for years – the harder I try to sleep, the less likely it is to occur.
For example: when I worked a temp job that required relieving the prior shift at 5:45 a.m., I knew I had to be up no later than 4:30 a.m. in order to be on time. I’d lay in bed, exhausted, but unable to will myself to sleep. I was lucky if I could sleep a few hours before I had to be up, showered, steel-toe-booted and uniformed, breakfast and lunch packed and coffee drunk (drank? drinkeded?) and out the door in time to be on time. Packing lunch AND breakfast? Yep. I’d take a light breakfast I could eat quickly on my first break, because I can’t make myself eat that early in the morning. Oh, and homemade unsweetened iced coffee, because the only available coffee was both from a vending machine and appalling.
So, back to the can’t-sleep-if-I-know-I-have-to-be-up-early thing: if I don’t absolutely HAVE to be up for whatever reason, I don’t set an alarm. It lets me relax. I am a writer, and I help my husband with his business out of the house, but I don’t have a job I have to go to (except on Saturdays, and that’s not until 11 a.m.) so I can avoid alarm setting on most days. I try to get to bed at a reasonable time, and sleep as long as my body needs. I wake up, usually no later than 7:30, without an alarm – if my sleep is undisturbed. But last week, beginning Wednesday night, the insomnia set in, and it wasn’t induced by I-have-to-be-somewhere-early worry. That had me worried, which panicked me more, and made sleep even more difficult.
It’s not that I didn’t sleep at all, but that I could only sleep for an hour or so, and I slept like I didn’t really mean it. It was not restful sleep, and soon I’d be fully wide awake, yet utterly exhausted. And worried, and then slightly panicked that another cardiac event was on the way, even though I had no other symptoms. I managed to get through work on Saturday, by drinking lots of tea and trying to keep moving. I based this on the scientific law that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest won’t be able to get out of her chair again.
Upon arriving home, I sat in my recliner and put my feet up, pulling an afghan over myself — then woke up 2 hours later, wide awake, still exhausted, and worried yet again. I told myself that this time it was from the caffeine I’d had during the day to keep myself going, which was an not unreasonable explanation, so I mostly believed myself. It was past supper time, but not hungry, so I made a cup of Numi Dry Desert Lime Teasan (an herbal tea which, if you like lime, you should totally try) and watched a couple episodes of Doctor Who. Tenth Doctor, in case you were wondering. (This post is not sponsored by lime tea, or by The Doctor – I just really like them both. A lot.)
At about 10 p.m., finally feeling not merely exhausted, but like “Hey, I could sleep now,” I put myself to bed and did not set an alarm, despite the next morning being Sunday, and church. I figured that f I woke up, I would go, because if I’d forced myself, I’d have fallen asleep during the sermon. And snored. So, all sense of urgency set aside for the time being, I slept.
And slept some more.
I finally woke up Sunday afternoon, about two o’clock. I’d missed morning worship, and in fact, the entire morning, however I was no longer dead-tired and bone-weary, but rested after about 16 hours of blessed, refreshing sleep. Panic and worry had left the building, calm and serenity had moved in.
I’ve been sleeping pretty well in the few days since. Vicious cycle broken.
Good rest to you all.
Favorite Word of the Post: refreshing
Least Favorite Word of the Post: cardiac