So, sleep has never been what you might call my “strong point.” My whole entire life, I’ve struggled with sleep. My earliest memories of abnormal sleep begin around 5 years old…I’ve just never known what it’s like to be someone who sleeps well.
Until I found tizanidine. Tizanidine, or it’s brand name Zanaflex, is a type of muscle relaxant that is not addictive, nor is it mood altering. I was first prescribed it by my rheumatologist to treat the pain of my scoliosis and my diffuse muscle pain from having Familial Mediterranean Fever (look it up, it’s super weird!). He told me to take it at night in case it made me sleepy and all I could do was roll my eyes; if Lunesta and Ambien and Restoril don’t make me sleepy, surely nothing will.
So I took it once, and basically passed the fuck out instantly. Woo! Except, the thing is, I have Bipolar II Disorder. I’m a fucking wreck 99.99% of the time. Getting to sleep was great, but my depressed and anxious mind wanted to stay asleep constantly. I struggled so much with getting out of bed after my daughter was born. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew I had to get up to feed her and change her and play with her, I’d have never left my bed.
Sleep is a complicated subject for me, especially for being something you’re biologically mandated! So fine, I’ll force myself to be a member of the waking world for my daughter, but I’m going to sleep in until the moment she wakes up, and that’s just how it’s going to be.
But one day it dawned on me: if I wait until she wakes up for me to get out of bed too, then I start my day with crying. I start my day by being needed. And honestly, it doesn’t get easier from there. She’s throwing food, she’s falling down and bumping her noggin, she’s chasing kitties, I’m doing laundry and dishes, I’m trying to make dinner–it’s not really great that my day starts out with crying.
I decided to wake up a full 90 minutes before she usually does, just for one week. Just give it one week, I told myself, and I’ll see how it feels. Spoiler alert: it feels fucking awful. But just at first! I made a routine of it–force myself out of bed, look at my planner, take my meds, wash my face, brush my teeth, make a cup of tea, put away the clean dishes, and watch one episode of a new TV show, not one of the ones I’ve watched a hundred times over.
I started to notice something. I was–dare I say–happier? When my daughter woke up, I was ready to take on the day. I felt rested, restored, calmer, quieter, nicer. Those 90 minutes felt good! They kind of just mellowed me out, and gave me that “me” time that I have always craved.
And then a funny thing happened. I started sleeping easier. Instead of getting in bed at 1am and not falling asleep until 3, I was getting in bed at 10pm and falling asleep by 11. Not only that, but I no longer had to drag myself out of bed. Beyond that, too, I eventually stopped needing the alarm clock all together, as I would wake up on my own a full three hours before she gets up.
It’s like magic. I’m getting the exact same amount of sleep, but I’m falling asleep faster, sleeping better, and waking up easier. I’m not a zombie anymore. I’m happy(ish), I’m calmer with Ren, I’m more patient with her meltdowns and tantrums, and I’m enjoying the time we have together.
One thing I’ve found is that it’s important for me to have a routine. Part of that routine needs to be productive in some way (washing my face, brushing my teeth, unloading the dishwasher, etc.), but part of that routine needs to include literally scheduling time to do nothing. If my planner says “do nothing” from 8-9am, then that’s what’s on the schedule and I won’t feel bad about it. But if it’s not literally on my docket, then I will feel guilty about every second not spent on something productive.
I don’t know if changing your morning will change your life, but it has changed mine.