In 2016, no MEL writer bared their soul to us more than Jennifer Sanchez. The married mother of a toddler, she embarked on a four-part series called, “Sleeping Together” that attempted to look at all the evidence about what sleep (specifically the lack thereof) does to your sex life and the emotional well-being of your relationship. And while all the science she cited was certainly compelling, none of it resonated quite like the brutal honesty she offered about her own marriage and her chronic issues with insomnia.
After the first post went up, I got a few calls and texts from family and friends who read it, asking me if everything was okay at home. “We’re fine,” I laughed, “I mean, not really, but you know, we’re getting by.”
Next came the unsolicited tips for better sleep: A special drink that my mom’s Dutch friend told her about; links to other articles about getting better sleep from my dad; brewing organic bananas (skin and all) into a tea for a jolt of potassium that helps you sleep right away that my brother-in-law had heard about.
It was sweet, really. It didn’t change the fact that we were broke, alone and in desperate need of a babysitter so I could get some uninterrupted rest, but sweet nonetheless.
I wish I could say I’ve taken all the knowledge I gained from writing the series and applied it to my struggles with insomnia. But while it was an excellent exercise for me to examine a main force behind the bulk of my current issues — mental, physical and romantic — knowledge isn’t the only thing you need to change your shittier traits and behaviors. Take this small example as an example: The bottle of natural sleep medicine my doctor gave me months ago after I openly wept in her office when trying to talk to her about how poorly I was sleeping remains unopened.
This is despite my husband’s constant reminders, and the fact that I’ve taken said bottle on two cross-country trips with somewhat good intentions of ingesting its contents. The truth is, I have no idea why I’m so paranoid about it. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid it will make me too groggy to hear my son when he needs me. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t work at all, so what’s the point in even trying. Or maybe I’m afraid it will work perfectly, leaving me with no excuse for my behavior:
“I’m so tired.”
“But you slept.”
“Oh, right. Shit.”
One thing I’ve done, however, is embrace a few of the realities of my life. Chief among them: When my son started fighting sleep again after months of peaceful bedtimes — he still wasn’t sleeping through the night, mind you, but at least he went down easy — I accepted that this is what my nights were going to look like again. And since I didn’t have the energy to fight it, I just went with it. That honestly helped. After my initial panic attack on the third night he refused to go down — hyperventilating while trying to tell my husband that I. Can’t. Do. This. Again. — I decided to just ride the wave, which got less choppy over time.
The same cycle is true of my marriage. Sometimes we get along; other times not so much. But now, I can (usually) link those ups and downs to when we’ve both had shitty nights of sleep. That helps put things in perspective when my mind is clear enough to have perspective. My inability to sleep coupled with a few other struggles actually had us on the brink of divorce this year, but a few radical changes have helped (or are starting to help) repair some of the damage. The tough part about relationships is that you get what you put into them, and in our case, there’s a whole lot of baggage that we’re constantly trying to unload and put in its place on both sides.
But I guess that’s everybody.
Though I’m not really sure how things are going to look in the future, one thing I absolutely know is that I can’t get a clear look at anything without getting the sleep I need. I’ve had glimpses of how I feel when I do get some decent rest, and it’s a beautiful thing. So while I don’t generally do New Year’s resolutions, come January 1, I’m finally opening that goddamn bottle.