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Sleepless in Portland - Real Women Speak

Elaine Freisen Strang (2)

By Elaine Friesen-Strang

The title of this blog series, "Real Women Speak", is aptly named. We share, converse, chat, and can yammer on about almost anything. Being verbal is generally not a problem. If the series was entitled "Real Women Sleep", that would be debatable, especially for women old enough to be interested in perusing this website. We toss and turn and lament our sleeplessness with our female friends. Settling down for a long winter's nap sounds easier than it is.

Early in my childhood, my mother's voice would grow hoarse pleading me to leave my hibernation. Once awake, I would jump out of bed and bound down the stairs for my morning Cream of Wheat. Or in that nomadic third decade of life, my body would mold to whatever surface was available and wouldn't waken until the sun nudged me to start the day: a sleeping bag on the ground in Greece, standing in a crowded train car headed for Provence, sitting in a smelly bus traveling across country, couches too many to recollect. It didn't seem to matter--I was tired, so I slept. But something happened along the way. I haven't found a bed in recent years that can pass the Goldilocks' test and I certainly haven't bounded anywhere lately, especially in the morning. How did eight hours of restful repose get so elusive? Why can't I go gentle into that good night?

Anyone reading this blog can prattle off "Ten steps to better sleep". We've read the articles seeking new nuggets of advice, in fact, we probably recount them every night somewhere between 2:00 and 4:30 AM. We also know the "Ten reasons you need to get more sleep." Unfortunately, knowing we can protect our brain health, promote emotional balance, and prolong our lives by getting more shuteye just compounds the insomnia. We don't need the added pressure.

Comfort could be taken by the number of people who share this nocturnal dilemma. I know it's a common malady because I've brought it up at social events when I'm supposed to be mingling, but instead doing private research for personal gain. Thus, the subject came up at a dinner table of eight highly respected, accomplished individuals. The strategies we employ to entice unconsciousness are creative and plentiful. One woman said she recalled love scenes from favorite movies, one said she got up and walked on cold tile flooring so when she got back into bed, the warm coziness would relax her. One gentleman said he kept a shot of single malt liquor on his bed stand, another said she listed trees beginning with every letter of the alphabet. Then she went on to animals, then politicians, then...well, I doubt that's a working solution. Remembering performers of the Lawrence Welk Show came up as well as counting backwards by seven. The only person who claimed he never had difficulty sleeping was a college president, but then again, he was a man.

A 2002 National Sleep Foundation Poll found that 63 percent of women (54 percent of men) experience symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights every week. If the problem is that wide spread, maybe we're overthinking it. Maybe it's like the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, or the fourth stage of enlightenment: most of us will never attain it, so let's not lose sleep over it. Tonight, I'm going to think about all the people on my block whose houses are dark, but whom I suspect are practicing deep breathing techniques. I'm in good company. I may think about my "promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep", but a new day will begin with a glorious sunrise, regardless of the depth of my slumber. Sweet dreams are made of this.



Welcome to Real Women Speak, where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by  Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger: My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I have played multiple roles in my personal and professional lives. While I consider how I intend to shape my sixth decade, I am involved with several organizations, including serving on the Executive Council for AARP Oregon.


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