It’s little things that make all the difference in the quality of life. Long before my knee operation family members were nagging me about how little sleep I get. I agreed with both their analysis and the importance of changing that aspect of my behavior.
With the help of my handy Fitbit, I began the process of tracking my sleep pattern. I made a decision to not only plan to regulate a constant bedtime but to put that decision into action by adding the time I thought I should go to sleep (1100 pm) and how many hours (7) I wanted to remain asleep. At approximately quarter after ten, my watch will give me a little zap and something cute like, “Time to wind down,” will dance across the screen. If I am working at the computer, a similar message will pop up as an alert.
During my first year in college in a beginning psychology course, I learned how to form habits. This has proven to be one of the best things I got out of my university years. Habits can make life either easier or more difficult depending upon whether they are positive or negative traits. Lately, I have been developing several positive actions. It takes time and determination but it is amazing to see the results.
For instance, after wasting probably months of my life looking for them, I have taught myself to always put my glasses in their case on my desk. If necessary I have walked back downstairs to do so when I discovered I was wearing them in my bedroom. Simply putting them back when it is convenient does not nail the compulsion that a habit depends upon. Constant vigilance is required to establish this kind of reaction to something you are doing.
Getting to bed by 11 o’clock was difficult at first. We usually watch television in the evening, after which I have a few wrap-up things I do on the computer. It is easy to be led into a variety of correspondence, checking financial transactions, playing a game or two to “unwind.” But, this kind of extra time wasting does not fit into the schedule.
There was the impact on my family, too. Would there be time to watch another episode of something? Could we take a phone call from the West Coast? Eventually, my fetish with the end-of-the-day time has been accepted.
The most important thing I have learned from the sleep experiment is the various types of sleep that Fitbit can rudimentarily track, and their impact on the following day. There are values for total sleep, time awake which might include the slight awareness of rolling over in bed, light sleep, deep sleep, and Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The last is the time we are dreaming. One can be easily woken during light sleep but it is hard to pull someone out of deep sleep, the phase that has proven to have the greatest impact on my feeling of being rested.
Since my operation, Fitbit has rarely been able to record the fine-tuned results, but only the total amount of sleep and the total amount of wakefulness. I spend a lot of time awake during the night.
I have experienced very little pain with my healing. But, I experience a little pain almost constantly. Except for brief seconds of sharp shooting pain within the knee, it has never gotten above the 3/4 level. I am aware of it (3) but it is rarely bad enough to distract me from my activities (4). Since the third day after surgery, I have hardly taken painkillers during the day and switched from the prescription to otc drugs after the first week. Still, the level 3 pain is almost always with me, and I am thrilled on those occasions when I feel nothing.
Pain makes it hard to fall asleep, and wakes me often during the night. In addition to the healing knee, I prefer to sleep on my side and get very uncomfortable lying on my back. So, I don’t get much sleep, although I am obeying the rules I set about when to go to bed.
Sleep deprivation is an insidious opponent. It drains ambition, creativity, and energy. It makes it hard to do the simplest things. It destroys interpersonal relationships. It strips the joy from life. No pun intended, but I am really tired of not getting enough sleep.