Talk to me about good sleep/bad sleep

I don’t really know where to start with this, I’m just hoping for some input and to hear your experiences with “sleeping well” or “not sleeping well”.

My SO isn’t sleeping well, in a really… nebulous way. Or possibly not getting enough rest.

He will claim he “barely slept”, when he always falls asleep before I do and he is soundly asleep for hours before I fall asleep. Yet he is sure he barely slept. It’s sort of hard to interpret for me. The result is that he is always tired. He’s started going to bed at about 9 PM and gets up at 7.30, but he’s constantly too tired for things.

There are lots - I mean a shit ton - of things that contribute to this. Asthma, for one. It’s badly controlled, and something we’re working on with doctors. He’s just recovering from septoplasty to get rid of a persistent infection, which should hopefully start helping soon. Anyway, breathing is one problem.

Another thing might be depression. He’s been depressed before and been on SSRIs before. He’s been off the SSRIs for a few years now and is doing ok. I do ask, but there is honestly so much going health-wise that it’s difficult to gauge. He isn’t in the pits, at least. I just wonder if it might be affecting his sleep or sense of rested-ness.

Lately he’s been saying it’s the mattress, but I doubt it. It’s a new mattress, and perfectly fine. He can’t articulate what would be wrong with it. Since he can’t say what’s wrong, I doubt getting a different mattress would help. We tried tons before settling on this one, and even returned one we slept on for a month. If this isn’t comfortable we might spend the rest of our lives trying mattresses for a month, with no guarantee we’ll find something he likes. And anyway, when it isn’t the mattress it’s a noise coming from the boiler, or mosquitos, or a sound outside or the fact that he “just hates this house”, or the bed is too small. I think it’s just frustration at his tiredness, that he is trying to pin on something.

Anyway, it’s not so much a specific diagnosis of what it is with my SO that I’d like to hear (as that’s impossible anyway), but rather your experiences with the quality of your sleep.

Tl;dr: What does “sleeping well” mean to you? Do you ever “sleep badly” even though you do sleep? Do you feel like you don’t sleep, when others say you do? What things influenced how you have slept?

I’m not a doctor, but I can’t imagine that not being able to breathe properly and having asthma would help his sleep at all. Is this something that just started with his surgery or something he’s been experiencing for years?

I think he should visit both his current physician(s) AND a sleep specialist. And is he doing anything at all to help with his depression? I’m generally not one to recommend a lot of medical visits, but it sounds like he’s got a ton going on as you noted that he needs to fix. And not just for his sleep, but for overall wellness and satisfaction.

Perhaps it may be a combination of the above. Speaking for myself, if I have a very stressful day, the next day I wake up tired. I go to bed at the same time every night, so it must be stress related, when I wake up unrefreshed. Anemia can be a cause of fatigue, even slight anemia. Also, caffeine should not be consumed after 12:00 noon, and it is best to have an early dinner, to give time for the body to start with digestion. If one eats around bedtime, the body has to spend a lot of time processing the incoming food, which can interfere with sleep. I am sort of in the same boat, I would give anything to wake up refreshed every day, as I have had to alter my schedule, (can’t do as much when fatigued).

Thanks overlyverbose and Whitney!

The asthma is something we’ve been working on for years. One reason it wasn’t under control may have been that persistent infection, so that might finally improve now. I don’t think he’s actually depressed at the moment, and he’s not being treated for it right now. The SSRI’s previously messed with his sleep and his breathing though, so as he’s not actually feeling depressed I think we’d better wait with that until some of the other things are sorted.

I think it all must contribute, and of course we’re working on all of it. That’s why I’d like to hear some experiences of people who feel they “sleep badly” in various different ways and with perhaps different causes (or no real cause at all). Do other people get sleep, but not feel rested?

I don’t sleep well when I have to get up earlier than normal and set two alarms just in case. I tend to toss and turn and wake up often for some reason, even though I know the best thing to do is just go to sleep and get as much as I can before I have to get up early. Of course, logic doesn’t work, so I just try to keep those times as few and far between as possible.

I also don’t sleep well when there are small consistent noises (like a clicking ceiling fan), or intermittent sounds like people going in and out of the building if I have a window open. My solution to that is to run a white noise CD on repeat all night. I can’t even tell you how much it helps. I have cats, and it helps mask noises they make that could wake me, like using the litter box or grooming themselves in the bedroom. (one of them makes a persistent smack, smack, smack sound that makes me crazy when I’m awake, and really pisses me off if she does it while I’m sleeping - the CD keeps the peace)

Anyway, just giving a couple things that make me sleep badly if you’re looking for personal anecdotes. The big one for me was the white noise, I definitely don’t sleep as well if I forget to turn it on. I have a remote for the CD player in the nightstand so it’s an easy reach and I don’t have to get up to turn it on or off. There are white noise machines that are small and sit unobtrusively on the floor, tucked out of the way, if that could be another solution.

Sometimes I just don’t sleep well. If there is a draft by my feet I will wake up often during the night due to feeling cold. If I am hot to the point of sweating I won’t be able to sleep well either. If I am sick, I can’t sleep well. If I am in a hotel or someone else’s house I won’t sleep well. If there is a bunch of light in my room, or worse, moving or changing lights, I won’t sleep well. My husband won’t sleep well if a low pressure front is moving into the area.

And some nights I don’t sleep well for no reason at all! You simply wake up and feel like you didn’t sleep properly. Everything simply feels awful. It just happens.

However, it sounds as though health problems are contributing to his sleep issues. I’m not surprised that he isn’t sleeping well if he had a persistent infection and asthma. Difficulty breathing is a huge cause of not sleeping well.

So that’s kinda interesting. I wonder what that is. Is it sleeping lightly, is it tossing and turning or is it not going through the sleep stages properly?

It’s exactly that that I want to understand better. To me, sleep is sleep. I don’t know what “bad sleep” is. And that’s what I find confusing too: that he says he didn’t sleep, when he did. But it’s “bad sleep”.


SeaDragonTattoo, I’ll suggest trying white noise, thanks!

You’re describing me for most of my life. Depression was definitely a factor, in some sort of chemical/hormonal sense, not in a “the world is so bleak” sense.

Sleep medication helped a lot. It helped me sleep more deeply and for controlled amounts of time.

When you sleep, you’re not doing one, monolithic thing. You will cycle from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep (that’s supposed to be where you dream - which may have a function) back to light sleep. Some people, either always or sometimes or more often as they age, will wake up during the light sleep portion of the cycle.

This is normal, but given that sleep messes with your sense of time passing, it can leave a person with the perception that the spent most of the night awake. I listen to audiobooks to relax into sleep. Some nights it feels like I’ve dozed and missed a few paragraphs. Then I go to reset the ipad and find out that I’ve missed many chapters and have been asleep for hours. If your husband used to have a pretty good feeling of time passing while he was asleep, and now that’s gone, he’ll miss it.

If he’s still cycling properly, it’s possible to just accept waking up during light sleep and let yourself sink back into sleep to continue with the next cycle. There are usually two to four cycles a night. If you fret about waking up, it can disrupt the next cycle, so that you get fewer cycles a night.

If something is interfering with his breathing, though, he might not be sinking as deep during the deep sleep portion of a cycle, and he might not be getting enough cycles or enough REM in his cycles. One thing that can cause that is desaturation, or a lowering of the level of oxygen in the blood. That’s why overlyverbose recommended a sleep study, and I’ll second the recommendation. If that’s happening, he’ll be prescribed a CPAP machine and may find a good deal of relief from using it.

Getting used to wearing the mask can be its own annoyance, but if low oxygen has been disrupting sleep and causing fatigue, it can be a wonderful annoyance. A CPAP with an attached humidifier means never waking up with a dry mouth again.

So we have: learning to relax through broken cycles, checking to see if he needs a CPAP, and a third possibility is that he’s healing from the infection, the surgery, and the strain of the asthma. Healing takes energy. Nine to seven thirty is more than ten hours, so that’s a possibility. That’s just going to take time.

I wouldn’t look into depression until I’d looked into the possible physical causes first. But that’s just me.

Edited to add - some folks feel like crap if they wake up in the middle of a cycle instead of at the natural end of one. Ironically, sometimes waking earlier, at a cycle break, instead of later and disrupting a cycle can leave a person more awake.

The ideal sleep is the deep, uninterrupted sleep of childhood. You turn out the lights, and the next thing you know it’s morning.

My sleep has deteriorated as I get older. I have more and more dreams. I’ve had periods of my life when I slept in two shifts with a regular period of wakefulness in between. Having a lot on my mind always disrupts my sleep, whether it’s good stuff or bad stuff. I have thyroid disease, and my dosage of Synthroid definitely affects how deeply I sleep. Exercise can mitigate all this to some extent, but not totally.

And then there are just some nights when I can’t stay asleep. I wake up every hour or two. Those are my crappy nights of sleep. Oddly, I don’t feel particularly worse the next day, just pissed off that it took forever to get through the night.