I feel like, when I don’t get enough sleep, I completely lose my mind. I’m lethargic or moody or inconsolably irritated by everything. Do some people require more sleep than others?
“Many highly sensitive people (HSP, not to be confused with Henoch-Schonlein purpura- a disease involving inflammation of small blood vessels). walk around in a perpetual state of exhaustion. You have a nervous system that is wired differently, and a brain that seems to miss a filter. Moreover, you live in a society that feeds you with information 24/7.”
It continues to say that when your brain is in a constant state of alert (which is how I know I’m an HSP), it will feel fried at the end, and sometimes even the beginning, of the day.
HSPs need more sleep and more self-care: meditation, yoga, spa time, walks in nature, music, alone time, animal time, cooking, art making, writing. How do I kick this feeling of being a zombie and return to my full potential which, being highly observant and aware like a true HSP, can mean extreme alertness and intelligence. He first step is to CHILL. Netflix and chill. Ice cream and chill. Painting and wine and hot yoga and chill. Doesn’t matter. I need to prioritize self-care and I need to prioritize sleep. Turn off my phone, TV, iPad, and go to bed an hour early.
Create my life around feeling less anxious about where I left my library book and what I’m going to be when I grow up, and get more sleep. And chill again. This means chocolate, exercise, meditation, bubble baths, and my king sized mattress with silk sheets and down comforters. While I may not need as much sleep as my 8 month old daughter, I do need more sleep than the non-highly sensitive person.
I knew this. I could feel this even when I was in high school and my dad was sprinkling cold water on my face to wake up and get my ass to school: this will never end; I will never have a high-pace, time-oriented job; getting out of bed will always be difficult; it will always be a challenge to turn my brain off and sleep; it will always be a tall hurtle to feel rested.
In The New York Times 2011 article, “Why Some People Sleep More Than Others”, Dr. Ana Krieger of Weill Cornell Medical College, says, “Sleep duration, or quantity, varies widely and may be genetically determined”. Some people are considered “long sleepers” and need to make sure they get enough sleep to function normally during the day. They may also be more prone to infections if a lack of sleep interferes with their immune systems.
Oh my fuck, this is me. My mom could work 12-hour night shifts as a nurse, and then watch me and maintain the house and do the taxes. I can’t complete a sentence to another human with less than 6 hours of sleep.
This is where it gets scientific. Differences in cognitive performance can be understood in terms of two primary biological processes. The first is the body’s circadian rhythm. The second is the “sleep homeostatic process”, which is the pattern of being sleepier and slower the longer we’re awake, only to recover the more when we take a melatonin and sleep.
Sleep homeostasis is due to an accumulation of sleep-promoting chemicals in the brain while awake, such as adenosine, nitric oxide, and cytokines. Psychological factors such as personality (neuroticism, introversion), social support and perceptions of control also play significant roles in how much sleep an individual needs to feel 100% (an infinite amount?).
I’m neurotic as hell, an introvert, and totally flailing in other areas of my life. I even just lost a cat. Getting a restful sleep is not in my brain’s subconscious planner right now. It’s no wonder I often feel like I’m floating through space or trying to move through water to get to where I need to be. As I write this I’m in the process of staying up late and not getting enough sleep. My little dog Lady is nosing in under the blankets and my baby is waking up for milk. It’s 1 am.
Charley and I are doing what we often do when we aren’t sleeping or arguing or generally even awake: looking at maps. Specifically, fumbling on gadgets to look up potential future homes.
“What was that town in Minnesota you liked?” I ask.
I look up Lutsen. “What about Duluth?”
Duluth has a population of 280,000 people, so it might have a job for me; it has the Great Lakes Waterway and Saint Lawrence Seaway that extend to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known as the Twin Ports in collaboration with Superior, Wisconsin. Everyone has a cool Fargo accent. I love this idea. Lasts week it was Moab or Colorado. Yesterday it was Oregon with a distant plan of settling in Ireland or Wales to pursue our long lost roots. Today it’s Duluth or Lutsen, home of fresh water ocean, light houses and dog sledding, just miles from Charley’s dad and the mythical Lake Wobegone. We’ll move to Minnesota.
Life stress, illness, huge life changes or losses all contribute to insomnia. My cat just got hit by a car and my husband is an alcoholic who needs the summer to find himself and sure I’m a little stressed about money and my daughter and death just hanging over me and my baby cat Ham Sandwich Blueberry Pancake is gone forever. But that’s why I need to meditate and cleanse my head of all these maddening what ifs and how comes and why when wheres.
Put down the gadgets. Envision a stream. No not a stream, a waterfall. No not a waterfall, an ocean. Envision a massive ocean that extends to the edge of the Universe and past its edge is a world of magical creatures and painted valleys and mountains that transform at your desired. Envision that you’re enveloped in love and everyone is there for you: your Nana, your husband, your daughter, your cat. Everyone you’ve ever cared about is there, and they’re healthy and time no longer exists because you’re all there together experiencing the most beautiful moments you’ve ever known.
Highly-sensitive people need eight hours or more of sleep per night, and time to chill because they see, hear, feel, smell, and taste things more intensely than the average person. Being an HSP has been compared to wearing 3D glasses through life, and when everything is more in your face, and under your skin, everything is more exhausting.
I remember being able to FEEL my dad’s thoughts. I could swallow his moods and they would consume my body like a parasite. And then I did this with friends, and coworkers, and teachers, and boyfriends.
Envision that you’re not moved and swayed by every person and every mood. You are your own. You are not anyone but yourself.
HSPs are creative, spiritual, conscientious, loyal, kind, strong, focused, and compassionate. We believe in truth and justice. We love art and beauty. We sense danger immediately. We connect to animals. We usually have strong intuitions when we pay attention to what we feel.
So it’s just about getting some sleep, because otherwise all those skillsnof perception turn into staring at a wall and drowning in self-loathing in the moonlight while your husband snores and your dog has an asthma attack and you think, “I can’t stop thinking about death”.
Maybe my social anxiety is also what makes me a talented empath (with advanced right brains that can perceive or scan another person’s thoughts, feelings, intentions, motivations) and keen observer of human nature and what makes me sleepy is also what makes me keenly alert after sleep. Just a swig of NyQuil and a hot bath should do it. Some milk, I am a little tired actually I guess I could sleep now I guess.
So HSPs can concentrate deeply, notices subtleties, process material to deeper levels and feel others emotions. That means we could be terrific FBI agents, spies, Ninjas, and judo masters, we just need plenty of sleep, yoga and calming Lavender mist room spray.
Charley left the room to avoid Dakota’s morning banter: joyful screams, gurgles, high-pitched baby wails. This is on me and I feel like I could sleep more, as usual, but I’m not a bus driver or a doctor or a pilot or Tiger Woods. I can be a little off my game. I just wish you could see me on it.
You know, I love writing for a bog because I can write about whatever the fuck I want and it doesn’t matter. I can write about when I was having sex and in the middle Charley tells me about a story on Reddit where a guy’s girlfriend wanted him to talk dirty and he said “harder you fucking retard” because he had no idea what to say and then we laughed until we couldn’t have sex anymore. I could tell you about the lady at Walmart today who said I had to have another child because it sucked being an only child and I said I had complications with my first pregnancy and I was an only and it was fine and she said I could get “healing” and I had no idea what she was talking about so I just looked away. See, I can talk about fucking anything on here. It’s great. If you read it or don’t read it, it doesn’t matter.
So I’m bored of talking about Charley and all the disappointments attached to him. Today he took off for Moab again for a few days. He just does whatever the fuck he wants and he will probably never change.
This is my husband.
I ask myself again, “is it ok to be upset?” But he lied about where he was going until I demanded to know. And he’s going to see that damn friend THAT DAMN FRIEND who always helps him relapse; who helped him miss Dakota’s birth; who picked him up in the middle of the night to go get fucked up in Arizona. I hate his friend! I hate this pattern! These lies and this thoughtlessness.
“He didn’t want to see me,” my mom says, dismissively. No, he will be back in a few days. Or that’s his plan. Who fucking cares. I wish I’d married an adult. He would say, “Your mom’s coming sweetie? Let me get some flowers, help you clean the spare room, I love you so much, I want to rub your feet.” Well, I did get a post-it.
What does it mean to be married to a highly sensitive person? I want to contemplate the meaning of life 24/7. He wants to chill out and get a McDouble. He doesn’t seem too keen on seeing the other side, or working. My God, he’s the antithesis of what an HSP needs, and yet I think his own drinking is a form of coping for a very similar problem.
But I’m not a psychologist, merely a highly sensitive cross between Rainbow Britt and Dostoevsky.
It’s taken me until I am 34 years old to realize that I’m “highly sensitive” (about 20% of the population). I had notions of what my problem was, and some were pretty legite, like introvertedness and OCD tendencies, all self-evaluated issues. But I’d never heard of HSP, not exactly for what it really was and what it could mean to me. Was I depressed? Was I anxious? Was I drowning in black bile? Vitamin D deficient? Dealing with some thyroid ailment? No. No no no.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve read for HSPs involves fights. If I’m right and Charley and I are both highly sensitive then it goes without saying that arguments, (of which we have had more than a liberal in Louisiana), are always a crisis. To avoid fights or handle them with some sense and sensibility, Dr. Aron (author of Yhe Highky Sensitive Person in Love), recommends that when you get to the point where you’re really over aroused, you force yourself to stop and take a 20-minute break. Also, suggests staying on the topic of what you are discussing. “Don’t start bringing up the other things you’re mad at your partner for,” she says. Oh god, that’s what we always do and what always leads to actual flames spewing from our nostrils and hours of cold shoulders or fuming tempers or both. “If you’re discussing how your children should be educated, you don’t want to bring up the subject of how their mother didn’t do things right.” If you start throwing in what Dr. Aron dubs, “the kitchen sink,” then everything escalates. We basically live in the kitchen sink, and that’s why he’s going to Red River. If he ever gets back from Moab, anyway.
I’m watching “The Girl on the Train”, which I read in the hospital Pregnant with Dakota. The manipulation and the lies between the husband and both of his wives just made me ill. I felt like maybe there are good men but most are selfish and while women are going through literal hell to birth a healthy child and to support their families and keep everyone healthy and alive and content, men are like “oh I need to see the red rocks and feel free”. Fuck them.
The only man of the house tonight is my dog Duke and his squeaky pig. And they are perfect. I love off a busy street with regular sirens and drunk drivers. That’s probably how my cat died. I’m glad I have a real man around even if he has four feet and licks his own balls. At least he has balls.
It hurst to love someone who’s so lost. It makes me feel lost. But my mom is coming tomorrow. My baby is here. She’s healthy. She’s beautiful. Enough overthinking everything and worrying. I want to feel he way I did when I was five trying to save he environment with ice cubes (it was a brilliant metaphor for global warming for a five year old). This is a ducked io world and here I am, aching for my dead cat and stressing for my husband hat he won’t relapse and yet I am in a beautiful beautiful home with this beautiful family of animals and a child and I can’t wait for my mom to see her and I am blessed.