The Inner Workings of a Sleep Deprived Brain
Being a mom, wife, and having a stressful fulltime career — then coping with all the responsibilities that come with each role —is extremely taxing. I’m so mentally drained by the time I pick my toddler up from daycare, that instead of answering his 20-minute-long string of nonsensical questions with actual words, I find myself just nodding and making inattentive noises in agreement. It would seem that at the end of the day, I’d collapse onto my bed and pass out for a good eight hours, if not longer.
That isn’t the case.
I wouldn’t say that I suffer from insomnia, necessarily. Sometimes I fall asleep fairly easily, not waking up until I’ve hit the snooze button on my phone for the max number of allowed times I’ve preset. But more often than not, I find myself lying awake past midnight, staring into darkness. Other nights I’ll drift off to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but somewhere around 2:00 a.m., I’ll be awoken by a dream or the urge to go pee, and can’t fall back to sleep. If I do, it’s inevitably an hour before I have to get up. And then there have been times I’ve legitimately thought I was awake…only to realize I wasn’t.
Sleep — or the lack thereof — is a strange thing.
I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis more times than I’d like to even think about. And it is seriously intense. Frightening, to be honest. For those who have never experienced the phenomenon, first off, let me say that you’re lucky. But so that you don’t feel left out from the group of us who have, I’ll give you a brief glimpse. What can I say, I’m a giver. You’re welcome!
I’m asleep; I know I am. But wait…I feel like I just woke up. Or did I? I can see my surroundings. I know I’m in my bedroom because I can see it. I feel it. But for some strange reason, sounds are intensified to extreme decibel levels. And they come in waves, almost a pattern, like I can count down to when the next noise is going to happen. It’s sort of a loud buzzing. And I’m experiencing occurrences that shouldn’t be happening: someone just walked through the bedroom door and crawled into bed beside me. I can physically feel this. But hold up — my husband is at work. Did he get sent home early? Why? OH DEAR GOD — IS THERE A STRANGER IN MY BED? Ok…breathe. Wait, no….it is him, because he starts talking and I hear his voice. I try to roll over to cuddle. Only, I can’t…I am incapable of moving. What is going on here? I feel myself attempting to open my mouth to speak , but it’s as if my lips have been glued shut. Physically and verbally, I’m paralyzed, all the while sensing everything. I then become aware that my eyes are actually closed, yet I can still see. That’s when I realize that I must be asleep, and if I could just force my eyes open, I’d wake up from this. But of course, the damn things are glued shut, just like my mouth. WTF?
And that — my friends — is sleep paralysis, in a scary little nutshell.
One random thought leads to another…and another… I’m too preoccupied with my job throughout the day to think about much else except work. But something happens when I wake up just past midnight and can’t drift back off: it’s as if suppressing my thoughts all day, in an attempt to focus on the task at hand, causes them to spin out of control. A million different unrelated ideas start racing through my head at warp speed, crashing into one jumbled mess.
And these aren’t normal thoughts that I would have during the day if I did allow my mind to wander.
Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., if I were to shift my focus from work to something else, I’d probably dwell on issues like the new house we’re building, and putting our current one on the market. Whether or not I paid DirectTV this month. You know, normal adult stuff.
The sleep-deprived version of myself, on the other hand, could be described as being in a state of obsessiveness over finding answers to questions that don’t matter. Random ideas that — at that very moment — seem worthy of being contemplated.
I wonder what it would taste like if I brewed a pot of coffee with IPA beer instead of water.
Yeah, stuff like that.
So here’s how my I-woke-up-in-the- middle-of-the-night-and-will-be-awake-forever brain functions.
Roxette’s It Must’ve Been Love plays on my “80’s & 90’s” playlist. Obviously, Pretty Woman comes to mind, which makes me think of Julia Roberts. Isn’t she Emma Roberts’ aunt? Yes. Yes, she is. I Googled it. What else has Emma been in besides Valentine’s Day? Oh yeah, she was in the last season of American Horror Story I watched, like, five years ago. I liked that show. Hmm…I used to have a lot of TV shows I enjoyed. What else did I used to watch? Aww…me and the hubs would make a date night out of watching The Walking Dead. We don’t have date nights anymore. I remember our first date…it was at that one Greek restaurant. I think it closed. What other establishments in my town that I used to love are no longer in business? I MUST RESEARCH, BECAUSE I HAVE TO KNOW. RIGHT NOW. Why am I thinking about this? Valentine’s Day. I wonder how many movies Patrick Dempsey has been in. I can’t believe he was such a dork in Can’t Buy Me Love. One of my FAVORITE. MOVIES. EVER. Did Roxette put out any more hits?
This is how my mind works.
Emotions are intensified × eleventy billion. Rational, well-rested Rachel can process emotions in a fairly normal state. The me who wakes up in the middle of the night, however, overexaggerates every feeling to the nth degree. Every occurrence of the previous day gets overanalyzed. Minor details get picked apart until I’m in panic mode and my head is ready to explode.
Rational, well-rested me: My manager sends an email and ends it with “Thanks,". Ok.
Exhausted, crazy me: OMG… sometimes he ends with “Thanks!” Why did he not put an explanation point after “Thanks” this time? Is he mad? Am I getting fired?
Rational, well-rested me: The mortgage on our new house is going to be about $400 more than it is now. That’s kinda stressing me. But in less than a year, we won’t have daycare, so it’ll make up the difference. We’ll be fine.
Exhausted, crazy me: Holy sh*t, we’re not going to make it. I’m gonna have to sell a kidney. And maybe one of my children.
Is this normal? Maybe I’m just weird. Who knows. I’m too exhausted to think about it right now.