Posted by: Jamie Stamm | October 10, 2008

Three Stamms searching for a good night’s sleep

I’ve never been a great sleeper.

When I was Cera’s age (and even a few years beyond), I was a sleepwalker – of the scary kind.

A few examples:

One time, a still-sleeping Jamie wandered into the bathroom of our three-story home and turned on the hot water in the shower. My mom awoke to a second floor filled with steam – with me fast asleep on the bathroom floor. Thank goodness I didn’t decide to climb into the tub.

On another occasion, Mom and Dad woke up in the morning to find the front door wide open and me gone. I hadn’t actually left the house but had curled up in a small space between the living room couch and a wall and then covered myself with a blanket. My mom said she was just about to call the police when she and Dad finally found me.

Then there was the time that Mom woke suddenly in the middle of the night to find me sitting cross-legged beside her pillow (in her own words here) “looking like you were going to kill me.”

The problem got so severe that my parents would double-lock and then tie shut the door that led to a balcony attached to my room. They made sure my windows were locked each night (which must have been brutal in the summer since we had no air conditioning) and placed gates across my doorway and the top of the steps.

I eventually overcame my nightly sleepwalking after a doctor advised my parents to promise me something I wanted very badly if I could stop (rather embarrassingly, it was a copy of the album “Chipmunk Punk” – hey, I was like 5 or 6). But Mom says that even after I moved up to the third floor of our house when I was in junior high school, she would sometimes hear me walking around the night before a stressful event, like taking the SATs.

I now know that what I suffered from has a clinical name – night terrors (you can learn more about this sleep disorder at http://www.nightterrors.org/). And how do I know this?

Because I typed the symptoms into the Internet after Cera started sleepwalking at age 2.

It’s weird to be on the other side – as the parent who is witnessing this bizarre behavior. Sometimes Cera seems terrified, crying uncontrollably and even shaking, and others she has a silly smile on her face and talks jibberish (all this with her eyes open, although she is clearly not awake). We’ve found her in the corner of the master bathroom, the kitchen and curled up on the couch. Thankfully, we don’t have stairs, but Cera has on occasion walked into the living room and gone straight for the front door.

And the next morning, she doesn’t remember any of it.

From what I’ve read, night terrors are statisically rare – but they also run in the family. So I wasn’t too surprised when a few months ago, Anthony started experiencing them, too, although his don’t seem to be as intense – or frequent – as Cera’s.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our family’s sleep disorders for the past several days because I seem to have encountered a new one.

Insomnia.

Try as I might, I can’t fall asleep at a decent hour. I toss and turn and toss and turn and get increasingly frustrated as I listen to the even, restful breathing of my husband and anyone else who has joined us in bed – Cera, Anthony, the cat. So last night, I tried staying in the living room until I started to feel truly tired. I was up until 2:30 a.m., clipping coupons and watching home improvement shows (how pathetic is that). But even then, when I climbed into bed, I watched the minutes click by on the clock until well after 3:30 a.m.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me or how to solve it. I have one cup of tea each morning, so I don’t think it’s too much caffeine. I’m a little stressed about money, but, honestly, I’m always stressed about money. My sister theorizes that I was so exhausted when I was working that my body can’t adjust to being at home and actually getting to rest on occasion. And a friend said what I need is a good round of acupuncture, which, although it sounds appealing, simply isn’t in our budget right now.

It’s truly frustrating, but I figure that eventually I have to get tired and crash. Right?

Or maybe something embedded in the back of my mind is simply holding out for a new copy of “Chipmunk Punk.”

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