At 4 a. m. last week, I woke up in excruciating -- and confusing -- pain. I was lying on my back and for some reason, my left hand just above the wrist throbbed.
I held it in my right hand, found the tender spot and tried to massage out the pain. I only made it worse. I felt like someone had broken into my bedroom -- without waking my husband, mind you -- and stabbed my hand with a paring knife.
I’ve been through this late night pain routine before. A couple months ago, I started waking up with a horrible sharp ache in my left ear. I’d awake just after adjusting my position. When I lifted my head off the pillow, the pain would radiate from the outside of my ear through the left side of my face. So as not to wake my husband, I’ll usually stretch my mouth wide in a silent scream as the pain slowly subsides.
During the day, I can find the tender spot in the cartilage. It never goes away.
So now before I fall asleep, I have to remind myself that my left side is off limits, lest I wake in the night in agony. So far, my hand hasn’t pained me again; my working theory is I laid on it as I slept.
And I haven’t even starting complaining about the morning. If I worked the night before (six hour shifts on my feet) the soles of my feet hurt so much those first tentative steps are like walking on a bed of sewing needles. My back will also ache -- from the strain of sleeping I can only imagine. It takes me a couple minutes to unfold myself and walk out the kinks.
My dog is starting to do the same thing: She’s four, and that’s 32 in human years. Coincidence? I remember a comedian joking about the same problem. When he told a friend about the cramp in his neck, his friend sagely told him that he probably slept wrong. Slept wrong? How on earth can you sleep wrong?
That’s what I’d like to know!
Sleeping methods haven’t changed since the dawn of mankind. And it’s not complicated either, not like reading "War and Peace" or understanding string theory. When did I forget how to sleep right?
I’m beginning to think I need restraints, strategically placed straps and door-jam like wedges under my body to keep me in one place all night. Or maybe I should buy a case of ace bandages and wrap my joints like an injured football player so I don’t pull a hamstring while I sleep.
My bed is my favorite place in the world, but sleep is slowly becoming a chore and my options for positions are dwindling. No left side to avoid ear injury, no back to avoid muscle strain, and no tummy because of my GERD.
Perhaps I should buy one of those special adjusting beds reserved for nursing homes, the ones that let you flip a switch and suddenly your feet are above your head or vice versa, to accommodate your most recent injury.
Wish me luck sleeping tonight.
JH Mae is a Banner columnist.