The Mom Stop column: Dreaming of a good night’s sleep
I was standing by the pool in my father’s backyard, staring at a vintage stereo and mentally reminding myself to call my cousin Bobby to see if he wanted it or if I should donate it.
On the concrete edge of the drained pool nearby stood a tower of glassware in various colors, mid-century modern pieces, mostly vases that my grandmother had collected over the years. They stood on a leaning shelf-like tower. It was at that moment that I thought to myself that the vases were leaning too much, that they were going to crash. And then it happened. The glassware tumbled in shards into the cavity of the empty pool with a loud crash.
And then I woke up.
Like a lot of people these days, I’ve had a hard time sleeping lately. I don’t know if it’s the stress over trying to balance working my full-time job from home while homeschooling my kids, or the anxiety over the threat of the pandemic. I guess it could be any or all of the above.
I’ve always been an easy sleeper. But now, I find myself wide awake well past midnight, not tired whatsoever. I watch TV as my “me time” after the kids have gone to sleep and the house becomes quiet. But I now have to set an alarm to remind myself that it’s time to go to sleep.
Once I do, my dreams now run wild. Last week, I had the vases by the pool dream, mind you, my dad’s backyard doesn’t even have a pool and all that glassware was sold in a yard sale last year. Another night, I dreamed that we discovered my dad’s house had a hidden wing that nearly doubled the home’s size. The wing was seemingly expansive, overlooking a lake, but the one caveat was that the hidden wing was filled to the rafters with things my grandmother collected.
Only, in real life, the California house is vacant, newly renovated and we are about to put it on the market.
I also dreamed recently that my mother, who is in her 60’s, was remarrying and had a 28-year-old fiancee. I woke up feeling miffed at my mom, not for getting married or the fact that my new stepfather was 10 years younger than me, but that she was engaged to someone so good looking.
Again, my dreams are senseless. It was while discussing my dreams on the phone with a friend last week that I came to a realization. Although I don’t feel particularly anxious during the day, I realized that my sleep issues are likely related to stress. I, like probably a lot of other people right now, am having anxiety dreams. Considering the stress of everything we have going on at home and with the pandemic, stress or anxiety dreams are perfectly normal, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they are healthy, especially if they are ongoing and cause sleeplessness or other sleep issues. Although we can’t control what we dream about, there are some steps we can take to try to gain better sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
- Spend time winding down before bed: Incorporate a “buffer zone” to wind down and allow your sleep system to take over - usually about an hour before bedtime. Engage in relaxing activities, read or listen to music.
- Schedule “worry time”: If you are a worrier, try to schedule a time during the day when you are allowed to worry. But limit your worrying to a specific amount of time and plan something else to do that is enjoyable afterward.
- Think of your bedroom as a place just for sleep, not anxiety: Try to limit the time you spend in bed worrying or being anxious. If you find yourself lying awake in bed stressed out, leave the bedroom and spend time in another room until you feel sleepy.
- Practice relaxation techniques: If you still have trouble relaxing before bed, try breathing exercises, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation movements. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are free apps that help guide you through these exercises. These techniques can be used close to bedtime or throughout the day.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.