More on the sleep stuff: Temperament

So, yesterday I was reading more out of my Sleepless in America book and holy cow it was like finally I had a little revelation about Stephen and myself.

In the five years that we have been married, my bedtime routine has been the source of many frustrated sighs, are-you-done-yets, and just-go-to-sleeps.

Anyone that knows Stephen knows that he can pretty much fall into a very deep sleep almost anywhere. I’ve often been annoyed at his ability to just fall asleep so easily in the middle of the day or after a day of chaos. And Stephen has often chided me, “You just need to calm down,” or “You should try praying,” or “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect Lisa, you need to let it go and just go to sleep.”

Usually these statements just leave me feeling more frustrated.

All this time I’ve thought to myself and been made to feel as if I was crazy, had OCD, was being too particular and that I just needed to relax. The thing is, I’m not really that OCD about anything else (I did go through a phase where I had to wash my hands four times in a public restroom and use two paper towels or two presses of the auto dryer, but I was able to make myself stop finally).

So as I’m reading yesterday, I am happy to discover that there are plenty of other people in the world out there just like me. Thank God! I’m not crazy. According to Kurcinka, I’m just intense and sensitive.

“A child who is temperamentally sensitive not only notices all of the sights, sounds, and smells around him, as well as the tension level, but also must sort this information and decide what it means. Telling him to ignore the strange smell of a new detergent on his pillowcase is like telling you to ignore someone pricking you with a needle. He can’t do it, even when he wants to…”

“The highly sensitive child is keenly attuned to her sensory world and struggles to block out disturbing stimuli. As a result, she must sort through huge quantities of sensory information before she can feel safe and calm enough to sleep. She can hear the drone of the traffic outside the window. The slightest ray of light can awaken her in the morning. The story of the princess who could feel a pea under twenty mattresses is not a fairy tale to a highly sensitive individual. And the breathing of her buddies at the slumber party really does keep her awake.”

“I had always assumed that my son had gotten his spirited tendencies from my husband’s side of the family until one night I shared a hotel room with my mother. I watched as she very carefully pulled all of the blankets, except for the sheet, out from the foot board and then folded them two feet up from the end of the bed. Then she pulled a small pillow out of her suitcase–one I knew she’d had since I was a child– and tucked it under her chin as she crawled under the covers. When I asked her about her tactics, she said, “I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot, and I need my pillow.” When I asked why she had to bring her own pillow along, she patiently explained that the hotel’s pillows did not “smell” right. When your sensitive child declines the new nightgown you bought her because the lace “scratches” her neck, or complains that she can hear the television even though her brother is listening to it with earphones–believe her. Truly, the world is a much richer source of stimuli for this individual. She is not trying to stall. She needs you to understand that her sleeping clothes have to feel right. And that she needs help blocking offensive sounds, smells, lights, and textures.”

The “nest” for the sensitive child has to include pleasant sensations AND block disruptive stimuli. What may surprise you is how negligible the offensive sensations may be that still upset your child. If there’s a choice, give him the bedroom away from the street, on the quiet side of the house. Take special note of the weight, texture, color and smell of his bedding. It’s very important to him. Often he needs a heavy blanket, or just the opposite, no blanket at all. He needs to know that the doors and windows are locked. The room needs to be the right temperature. The light has to be just right, either completely dark or slight enough that he can discern the shape of objects yet not so bright that he is distracted by them. When it comes to night clothing, plan to cut out the tags and check the waistband for the correct fit–that’s if he will sleep in pajamas at all. Forget pajamas with the little feet in them. They’re cute, but it’s unlikely that he’ll like them. He may prefer his favorite pair of socks and even a “night cap” that provides just the right input for his system.”

“And if you think this is all a bit unusual, check with a few highly sensitive adult friends. You’ll discover that they have a very defined approach to “nesting” for the night, from a ritual checking of the doors to the turning off or on of lights, the massaging of a special lotion on their face and hands, or to the sensation of their partner’s hairy chest against their cheek. Those individuals who are less sensitive may find all of this information verging on ridiculous, especially if they can fall asleep on an airplane during takeoff, the couch in the middle of a family gathering, or, for that matter, any flat surface. Their ease in blocking sensations is an example of temperament, not willpower.”

I can’t cuddle and sleep. The sensory input is to much for me. After about five minutes the limp arm on my shoulder, ribcage, hip, etc. starts to feel uncomfortable and annoy the heck out of me.

I really can’t sleep if my PJ bottoms get twisted or are catching on the sheets and feeling pulled. For this reason I hate flannel and jersey sheets. Sometimes I can’t even stand the feeling of pajamas on me. It just will annoy me the whole night and I won’t be able to sleep.

The pillowcase cannot be wrinkled under my face. It has to be perfectly smooth. My cheeks can feel those wrinkles and they bug the heck out of me. I also cannot stand pillowcases with embellishments like ribbon or lace or different textures across them. The textures will annoy me. If I try to take a nap during the day with one of the couch pillows the zipper side cannot be near my face and niether can the pretty textured side. One time when I was sick last year I fell asleep on the couch with one of our couch pillows that had this really thick binding all around it. I woke up an hour later really grumpy because my ear hurt from being pressed up against the binding.

I sometimes can’t fall asleep if my legs are prickly. Or I have to wear pajama pants to bed so that my prickles don’t actually touch me.

The sheet has to come out longer than the blankets and fold over them creating a smooth even edge at the top. They have to come to just the right spot on my shoulder so that I don’t feel chilled on my shoulder and they also are not touching my face. This is a very fine line. Also, even in summer I have to have at least a sheet covering me. I can’t sleep just on top with nothing.

I have to find the right position. I can’t just fall asleep in any old position.

My hair cannot be touching my face or my neck, but it also cannot be in a pony tail.

I have to have a pillow between my legs or it feels like the bones in my knees and ankles are grinding together.

I have to vent either in written or spoken form if it has been a particularly rough or busy day. Otherwise my thoughts will grow louder and louder in my brain keeping me awake.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, Parenting

One response to “More on the sleep stuff: Temperament

  1. Somehow I’m a month behind here… but this post on sensitivity and sleeping is SO me, too, Lisa! LOL. From the sheets to pjs to the pre-bed chattiness. Exactly.

    See, we’re not freaks. Or else, we both are. đŸ˜‰

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