Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Sleep Apps and Weird Dreams

I’ve been trying to improve the quality of my sleep. Nothing new here. I’ve played that game off and on for years. My latest attempt started several months ago when I gave up on my then new $129 Fitbit from ever talking to my android cell phone and I got a cheap $35 fitness watch that does sync properly like two old friends at a back street bar. I had an older model Fitbit that worked as it should with non-Apple products and every morning when I sat down to my computer I could view my sleep pattern on my monitor. Until I couldn’t anymore. Fitbit did a firmware update and there was no going back. Not only do the new Fitbits not work peacefully with computers but they don’t like androids cells phones. Trust me, I’ve investigated the depths out of that quagmire. 

Before I bought the second Fitbit I, of course, checked its compatibility with my android phone and supposedly it would work with an abbreviated app but pairing and syncing them up only works when you cross your fingers and toes during a full moon and you're headed south in a slow moving brown van. In two months of trying I was only able to do it three times. I hated abandoning that second Fitbit but it was time to call “Uncle” which I should have done before the cut off date to send it back for a refund. Yes, I’m stubborn; I hate it when tech stuff gets the better of me. It makes me feel old which I am but let's not talk about that. Let's instead bask in the glory of having a dependable sleep app back in my life again.

When I get up, the first thing I do is make my bed---well, it's the second thing I do if you count peeing as the first. Then I put on the coffee pot and walk to my office where I’ll open my sleep app and wait for it to download a night’s worth of stats. Last night, for example, I got up three times to pee, had an average heart rate of 65 and a stress level of 30. It took me ten minute to fall back to sleep after my trips to the bathroom and I got 4 hours and 48 minutes of light sleep and 2 hours and 44 minutes of deep sleep. My sleep quality score was 89 which was in the ‘good’ range and in the past 60 days I’ve only made it into the ‘good’ range four times---all with the aid of an ambient sleeping pill. In June I averaged 6 hours and 3 minutes of sleep a night and so far in July I’m up to 6 hours and 41 minutes a night. People who get less than five hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to get dementia according to lots of sleep studies like this one from Harvard. Sleeping pills aren’t the answer, either. You don’t get the right kind of sleep when you take them. I only take them when I toss and turn for more than two hours and haven’t fallen asleep yet.

Not surprising is that my longest stretches of uninterrupted sleep are towards morning and often times I wake up with a dream hanging around. Sometimes----like today----I’ll jot down a few notes before walking to the bathroom. (It’s the only thing that works to help you remember dreams and I’ve been doing it off and on since Kennedy was the president.) Today I wrote down: Tiny Don. Matchbox. Swamp. Boat. Map. College kid.  I was dreaming that I found my husband in matchbox where he was all eyes and grinning when slid it open, as surprised as I was at our reunion. The matchbox was on an old Army cot and the cot was in a cottage in the marshlands only accessible by boat. Last week I’d seen the movie Where the Crawdad Sings so it was easy to figure out why my brain came up with that setting and at one point in the movie the main character opened a matchbox just like in my dream. Her’s was empty.

They say the actions in our dreams--not the settings---are the important part, telling us something that our conscious minds don’t/won’t and if that’s true the fact that in my dream I didn’t take the box with my husband inside with me when I left speaks volumes. It’s a sign that I’ve moved on, right? Instead I promised to come back to visit. The dream ended when I got upset because I didn’t think I could find my way back through the marshland to visit but a college kid on the dock promised to buy me a map at the campus bookstore and mark the cottage’s location. That’s when I woke up. 

Sometimes I do miss my husband even thought he’s been gone ten years now. I think it's because there are couples here at the CCC who occasionally remind me of my caregiver days. Like yesterday a guy was trying to help his wife transfer into a car---she'd recently had her foot amputated---and I came close to saying he'll have to bite the bullet and trade that car in for something easier for her to do transfers in and out, but I didn't. When the time is right an occupational therapist will suggest it if one hasn't already done so. Watching them struggle brought back a day at a car dealership, trying transfers to find the right combination of seat height and grab bars for Don's transfers.

It’s a process of letting go in steps to see your spouse’s mental or physical health deteriorate. At least here, those caring for their husbands or wives are never far from supportive words or kindnesses shown. It might be just a brief meeting at the trash room or at the formal, monthly caregiver support group. I’d call it a blessing that they don’t have to experience the caregiver loneliness that I went through but ‘blessing’ is not really the right word. They chose to move here; it’s not divine intervention. They took control of what little they can control. And in at least one case, a terminally ill guy insisted on getting his wife 'settled in' where she could make friends before he left this earth. He lived a month here before passing away and our widows rallied around her just like he figured we would. ©

34 comments:

  1. Good Evening ~ I love sleeping and lately just two trips to the ladies room. I get 9-10 hours most nights. I don't feel guilty after years of no sleep with a child that have nonstop ear infections for 8 years and pneumonia 3 times. So I'm rebuilding my reserve.

    One thing I've changed is I now take Benadryl at night as it makes me drowsy. Zyrtec in the morning. It seems I sleep much longer between breaks and I fall right back to sleep.

    But if I don't get minimum of 8 hours, I'm crabby!

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    1. I have major sleep envy!!!! I'd love to get 8 hours of sleep. I don't like the way Benadryl makes me feel and taking Zyrtec when my allergies are not kicking up would worry me that I'd have nothing to control them when they do.

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  2. I've said it before and I'll say it again--The Universe puts people in my life to teach me and to connect with me. Two very important points to your post--1) I have had trouble sleeping for YEARS and didn't know about the sleep apps. Now I do. 2) My husband has Alzheimer's and reading about losing your loved one a bit at a time completely connected with me. My husband has had Alzheimer's related dementia for over 7 years now, and I'm nowhere near the end of this long, lonely road.

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    1. It does help to know that others have traveled that same, lonely road. When I was on the Caregiver Highway I don't think I would have made it if not for the internet.

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  3. Oh my, a good night's sleep is often hard to come by. Fitbits really do offer tons of info but I haven't purchased one yet. When our grand daughters came along and we decided to move in order to help care for them, our days became so much busier, that I literally fall into bed at night. On the days we do not watch the girls, we try to get outside for a morning and evening walk, and that seems to help us, too. I'd like to study dreams. Fascinating. I know there are times I dream and assume I'll remember the details, but I seldom do. I need to jot them down before I get up, like you do, Jean.

    Ten years without your husband is a long time. I think it's a tribute to your relationship that you miss him. We never know what life holds for each of us. Some require care; others give that care. It can be scary, but also bittersweet. Like the story you shared of the terminally ill man who made sure his wife was moved in and settled at your CCC. In my mind, that is the definition of love. I'm glad that his widow has all of you around her.

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    1. That guy was such a sweetheart and you could tell he spent his whole marriage taking care of her. And helping her downsize their lives was such an act of love...and you've got it right, it's the definition of love.

      I don't miss the caregiver years but for a long time 'caregiver' defined who I was. I've transitioned well from those days except for the occasional reminders I see in other couples.

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  4. It's 7 am, just had my first cup of coffee and read your post. Now the day can begin as your posts always brighten my life. Twice a week you give my mood a boost. Thanks.

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    1. Now, that's pressure! But writing brightens my moods too and with this post I'll never look at a match box again without thinking of a tiny Don smiling inside.

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  5. You just removed a ton of guilt for buying and using a Garmin smartwatch instead of a Fitbit. It's big and ugly and 4x the price but I bought it when I identified as a hardcore athlete. It's almost a point of pride to avoid the Apple universe, so Fitbit was out.

    I so identify with the loneliness of caregiving. You've done your share of sacrificial caregiving, in my opinion, but I view your writing as caregiving, too. Your thoughtful responses to our comments are acts of care. So many bloggers don't respond to comments. Your back and forth conversations with commenters are so interesting. I read your entire comment section as well as your posts.

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    1. If I could do life over I would find me a sport I love like you have done. It would have had a positive effect on my health and weight. I'm so impressed by your hard core athlete stasis.

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  6. Does the app tell you how to improve your sleep? I used to own a Fitbit and it tracked my sleep, which gave me one more thing to worry about 🤣 but I don’t remember knowing how to improve it. Now I have an Apple Watch (thanks to my supplementary insurance plan) and I take it off every night to recharge so no sleep tracking for me!

    Deb

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    1. My watch started telling me it was bedtime which I quickly changed the settings on that nagging feature. But I got the point and now go to bed at the same time every night which has improved my stats. My watch only takes about an hour to charge from 20% to 100%s so I usually charge when I'm sitting at my computer in the morning. I'm kind of obsessed about sleep, never getting enough to suit me.

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  7. I was just asking my Nurse Practitioner about sleep yesterday! She said I should take a half of a Tylenol PM and then if I don't fall soundly asleep in about an hour, then I should take the other half. It worked last night but I think that was because I was exhausted after 2 nights without sleeping!
    AARP just had an article about sleep anxiety so that was a timely read too!
    Hope you solve your sleep problem, Jean!
    Your mentioning transfers into a car brought all of my memories of loading my parents into the car for all of the doctor visits I escorted them to. Wow, it was a workout! But I miss them so, now that they are gone...

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    1. Tylenol PM never worked for me but I really wish it did because it would also help with joint pain. I did buy myself a foot roller to sued before going to bed that has helped with my feet being too cold and 'jumpy' for the first half hour in bed. So many things keep me from getting a good night's sleep.

      Taking parents to doctor's office is a rite of passage none of want to go through but we do it out of love and for payback for all the stuff they did for us. I still miss my dad. He made so many things for my art projects, and his quiet kind of wisdom are written on my soul.

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    2. I also just had a thought - you should take an empty matchbox and glue a sweet photo of your smiling hubby inside! It will be a nice reminder for you!

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    3. Aw, you are just as sentimental as I am. Sweet idea.

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  8. I had a lot of trouble with sleep until my neurologist gave me this advice: start wearing sunglasses at 7PM and get off electronic screens (computers, tablets, phones) by 9PM. It has really worked for me. I can still watch television or read or whatever while wearing sunglasses, but it helps my brain to wind down and prepare for rest. I get 8 hours a night on average. Maybe it would help you.

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    1. I've heard that about screen time before but not about wearing sunglasses. I don't do much with electronics in he evening but my Kindle has the setting to change the screen to be sleep friendly. I can't imagine wstching TV with sunglasses on. I'll try it though.

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  9. I have enjoyed listening to audiobooks at night! It is relaxing and I drift right off to sleep as I am being "read to". Most satisfying is when an autobiography is read by the author! It is like they are right there with you telling you their story. The next night, I pick right back up where I fell asleep. It stops the monkey mind which keeps one awake and helps focus on something else.

    I too look forward to your twice weekly posts! This is my first comment but I have been reading for several years when I was considering a CCC.

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    1. Welcome!

      I've tried audiobooks very recently and have fallen asleep before the timer quit so thanks for the reminder that I need to do that more often. But I chose a book that I'd listened to before and didn't like. I figured if I liked the book I was listening to I wouldn't fall asleep wondering what happens next. I love your term 'Monkey Mind' because that's exactly what keeps me awake...not being able to stop thinking.

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  10. The terminally ill fellow...what a sweet, considerate husband!

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  11. I think those forward thinking Couples that chose the CCC and could manage to afford it were Blessed actually, it's just the right environment IMO. Caregiving is indeed an isolating and lonely path to journey thru, Multigenerational Living is my alternative that is 'affordable' for the entire Family, combining resources and having many Hands, makes the burdens of Life somewhat Lighter. As for Sleep... I'm relying on Naps at weird times of the day to get me enough rest. I don't do much with electronics, it's all I could do to figure out Blogging.

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    1. Multi generational living is the way it used to be before nursing homes and assisted living places came into existence---and with good reasons because they haven't always been abuse free multi-generational families doing it. (Like you suspect is going on at your neighbors.) For most families, like yours though, have found a way to make it work and everyone thrives. Times are too hard know for young people starting out.

      I try not to nap and haven't done it until this past year when I find myself doing it with ball games. Everyone around here talks about taking afternoon naps so I figure it's an age thing.

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  12. For me, the secret to a good night's sleep is control of light. The blue light in most screens and LED bulbs triggers the body's wakefulness cycle and prevents the production of melatonin that prepares us to sleep, so I turn off all screens and LED lights at least 30 minutes before I go to bed. I live away from serious light pollution, so I am able to have natural daylight coming into my bedroom to wake me up in the morning.

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    1. I have to have a black out shade in my bedroom because the parking lot lights where I live stay on all night and light up my apartment like it's daylight. So no sun up or sun down clues for me. I miss seeing the stars and the moon. I have to walk to the other side of the green space before I can see them.

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  13. I generally sleep between 6-7 hrs a night and I read that is not quite enough. I fall asleep so easily, might wake in the night briefly occasionally, but rarely with tossing and turning insomnia. But regardless of when I went to bed or how I slep, I'm rarin' to go at 5 a.m., making myself stay in bed until 6 when my coffee pot switches on and brews for me as I get ready for the day. I don't take any sleep aides because I hate how any sort of sedative makes me feel, so the nights when I can't sleep I just chalk it up to "whatever" and assume I'll sleep the next night. Since I've been recovering from Covid I've given myself permission to lie down and rest during the day (unheard of!) and I might just hang on to that little pleasure once I'm fully recovered (which I probably am, but I'm milking the "I need to rest" therapy. LOL)

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    1. No, you're not milking it. You need the naps with Covid. I hear everyone say it hangs on forever.

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  14. Also, I had 3 Fitbits as each one gave out for one reason or another and I had tech issues, and got to be on a first name basis with the tech support guy at one point. I really liked the feedback, but I ended up several months ago buying an Apple Watch and it syncs with my life since all my other techie stuff is Apple too. I wanted to stick with Fitbit but by the time I kept replacing them, I decided to go with Apple and not worry so much about the cost. I used the sleep app part of Fitbit for awhile, but lost interest and I don't use the sleep thing on Apple at all. Mostly I'm just bugged by wearing it all night. Undressed for bed means undressed! LOL

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    1. I have one Fitbit short out on my medical bracelet. And one didn't make it with one of their famous software upgrades that make all the settings go wacko. I'm finished with them. But I can't justify me getting an Apple phone and watch. I just don' use a phone enough.

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  15. Everybody's offering good sleep tips to try. What helped me through a tough patch was a child's projection night light with soothing music. Cloud b tranquil turtle at Amazon.

    Also another tip I find useful is working with one's natural circadian rhythms. Lots of good info about them on YouTube. For instance, I altered my evening eating schedule to benefit my body's rhythms and my blood glucose. I actually sleep more soundly on an emptyish stomach. As for triggering natural circadian rhythm in the morning one guy advises getting outside first thing and walking. His claim is that this forward ambulation in natural light awakens something in our eyes and brain. In the absence of natural light this might help set the wake/sleep cycle and sleep may come more easily.

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    1. I've heard that too, about getting outside in the mornings will help with sleep. I don't know if I can bring myself to get dressed as soon as I hop out of bed, at least on a regular basis. I already know I sleep better if I don't have snacks at night. The kids like is an interesting solution. Glad it works for you.

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  16. Well, I really screwed up last night. I made the mistake of visiting blogs to comment and lost track of time. I haven't done that for months as it's counter to my regaining control of my sleep metabolism. It is now morning and I'll pay for this all niter for several days. I know better so don't know why I allowed this to occur.

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  17. I do that too, on occasion but try as a general rule to stay off the computer after 10 PM. We do always pay for ti when we break out of a sleep schedule...just like babies do. LoL

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