What Dreams May Come

I’m well aware that this post title is co-opting a rather famous Shakespearean soliloquy. The one where Hamlet contemplates suicide. And, instead of writing about suicide, I’m being quite literal with this line and talking instead, about sleep.

Frankly, the whole issue of sleep, for me, is just as, if not more, important than than the issue of suicide ever has been. Because lack of the former leads to the conditions that, for me, can exacerbate the conditions that cause the later.

Have I confused you enough? Let me be clear. I take sleeping very seriously.

And if you’d like to know the only asinine thing in my life that causes me real grief and pain, then this post is for you.

My thesis is this:

I have a very hard time accepting the differences in value Tyler and I place on sleep and sometimes it nearly breaks me.

*Disclaimer*

I have absolutely no idea how people with infants and small children function with lack of sleep. Are there secrets you all follow to survive? Are you actually just zombies roaming the earth?

Also, this post is an extended writing exercise, spattered with sarcasm, birthed from the prompt “What is your pet peeve?” Do with that knowledge what you will.

The Problem

I’m a light sleeper. I have violent and disturbing nightmares frequently. I am very cold when I sleep. I am very cold all the time, my fingers are nearly always ice. I probably get up to pee and average of three times a night. With all my trouble sleeping, one might think I don’t like sleeping. But I’ve come to value sleep more than any other health-related decision or choice in my life because it really makes that big of a difference in my day.

Tyler is a heavy sleeper (though slightly less since we’ve had Gus). He does not dream, or does not remember them if he does. He sleeps hot. Well, he’s a walking furnace actually. Always hot. I don’t know how he does it, but whether he gets four hours of sleep or seven, he continues to put in full days, that often involve hard, manual labor. He just has that special ability to power through and be a sheer beast, regardless of sleep or food or his health.

We are very different people.

For the first few years of married life we had a queen size bed that was a few years old that I used in grad school. It had broken pretty much right after we moved into our first apartment. The metal frame underneath slid out of alignment and was bent, causing the mattress to dip.

After we moved into the house, I purchased a new sturdy frame to make the sleeping situation better, but that frame also bent and broke almost immediately. So I was done with metal frames. We put the mattress straight on the floor on top of the box spring.

Then, I started to feel I was getting old suddenly. My hips and legs ached in the morning, regardless of how much sleep I was getting. Was it all the walking with Gus? Just the cold air? Was I actually turning into an eighty year old woman a bit early?

Besides the aching legs and hips, there was a pup issue with the bed as well.

The Second Problem

In his early days as a Pedersen, Gus had repeatedly marked the corners of the queen bed with his strong smelling piss. He did it when he was scared and delivery men would knock on the door. When his people (us) were hanging outside without him and when strangers came to the house. He also did it when his routine would change. His routine changed a lot in the beginning. I worked several jobs with fluctuating hours, and changing my whole schedule in a moments notice was common.

The peeing (and anxiety Gus felt) quickly became exhausting and another obstacle to sleeping. I was waking up constantly to take him outside. We worked on potty training and re-potty training and continued potty-training and I argued with Tyler about potty training and having a set Gus routine for continuity. But nothing stopped Gus’s bed marking.

At night, Gus would nudge me…just to check I was still around…and at first light, he would start whining to go outside. Some nights he would whine by my head throughout the night to go potty-and he never lied. Every time I took him outside, he did go potty.

Irritation with my lack of sleep began to turn into an all out rage.

I moved quickly beyond rage. I felt like I was losing my damn mind.

So I started researching. And I spoke to some friends. Because that’s how I roll with problems….research, plan and action.

The Plan

I purchased two extra long twin mattresses. One, a cocoon by Sealey, a foam mattress that was firm to trap in heat for me and help my aching legs. And then I searched and searched for a box spring in an extra firm that would be the same height for Tyler, because a box spring is considered a “cooler” mattress.

They both arrived by January 2018. I pushed them together to make one large bed.

Then I began to work out the Gus pissing situation.

I covered the wood floor around the edges of the beds with cardboard to protect the floor from possible Gus piss. I then took the big plastic bags the mattresses arrived in and covered the box spring and platforms with plastic, so that if Gus had an accident, it would be easier to clean and there would be no lingering smell that would make Gus think the bed was an acceptable restroom.

For the first three weeks we had the new beds in place (after I trashed all objects, rugs, blankets, etc he had pissed on), I put him in his kennel whenever he was alone upstairs (first I tried a baby gate to keep him away from the beds, but he broke through it multiple times) and took him outside every two hours to a designated pee spot by the mailbox where he received treats for peeing. I changed my entire work schedule to work on his potty-training and for setting up a routine schedule. And after his routine was set, he had surgery and was neutered. By February, Gus had stopped peeing inside and I was in charge of keeping him on a strict schedule so that he never peed inside again. To this day, Gus has been on a strict schedule to avoid accidents. (Which has also helped with his anxiety a lot).

Then, with the beds, I had to make a few more purchases. I fitted my bed with a thick jersey fitted sheet. Tyler’s has a low thread count cotton fitted sheet. I have a fleece blanket on top of my fitted sheet. Tyler has no extra blankets.

We have a lightweight quilt that covers both beds. And in the winter, we have our own very thick and heavy fleece blankets.

The Results

After the first week in the new bed, my hips stopped hurting. They haven’t hurt since! My legs on the other hand? Some days they really still do ache. But it’s not every morning, I’ve been keeping track and it’s down to once a month. So….possibly related to hormonal changes?

The bed is wide enough (two twin XLs equal the size of a King bed) that Gus even sleeps on the bed. He sleeps so soundly now that he’s allowed on our bed and feels confident in his routine, that some mornings I have to wake him up to get him to go outside. This has been a huge win for me. I know having a seventy pound dog sleep next to you….and sometimes nearly on top of you…may sound counterintuitive. But when Gus sleeps better, so do I. And if that means he has to lean his back against my leg or shoulder or foot or whatever at night, I can handle the trade off.

The changes haven’t worked miracles. I’m still a very light sleeper and wake easily to light and the sound of voices. But, mostly, the non-transfer of movement on my mattress and the space and separate blankets have been immensely helpful.

I’ve downloaded a ten hour recording of a thunderstorm to relax to when I feel the rage building inside me when I wish I could be sleeping…and…by having beds that can pull apart, I feel relief in knowing that if it ever gets really bad again, I can physically move my bed to another part of the house in order to catch up on some sleep for a couple of weeks.

I’m convinced Tyler will never value sleep the way I do. He will likely never experience sleep (or lack of sleep) in the same way my body does. But I hope he can at least value the improvement in my mood since last winter when this plan went into action. And then, at least, it won’t matter what dreams may come, because I’ll be rested.

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