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Margaret - Interview 32

Age at interview: 72
Brief Outline: Margaret is a retired Day Centre Manager and formerly a social worker. She spent long periods of her childhood in hospital where part of the routine was to put children outside in the fresh air. Margaret believes this still influences her now as she likes to wake up to daylight in her room. Margaret noticed her sleep started to worsen about 10-15 years ago, and used to worry about not having enough sleep, but has now found a way to cope and feels content with the amount of sleep she gets.
Background: Married, 2 children, retired Day Centre Manager

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Margaret has found her sleep has changed over the last ten to 15 years. She is usually in bed by about 10 pm and catches up with the news. She then finds she sleeps very deeply until about 2 am, then wakes up and feels wide awake. She deals with this by reading boring books which send her off to sleep, and she can repeat this up to 2 or 3 times a night, on a bad night. Margaret originally used to read interesting books at night to stop thinking and worrying about past events, but found the book kept her awake, whereas a boring book will send her to sleep in about ten minutes.

Because Margaret is busy and on the go all day, she finds she needs to take a nap during the day, usually after lunch, or in the evening before supper. This helps her to keep going and is a good investment as it gives her more energy to do the things she wants to do. Margaret doesn’t believe napping during the day affects how she sleeps at night and firmly believes sleep is very important, Margaret is content with the amount of sleep she gets now, even though it is considerably less than she used to get. If her sleep does worsen, Margaret would consider going to her doctor.
 

Margaret doesn’t normally watch television, but likes to be in bed in time to watch Newsnight.

Margaret doesn’t normally watch television, but likes to be in bed in time to watch Newsnight.

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So the first thing I usually say to people is if you could just describe for me now what a typical night’s sleep is?
 
Well I usually, I’m in bed by 10 o’clock in the evening mostly to listen to the news, or have the television news because you know, my life’s so busy I don’t really have much time for that and I really don’t enjoy television that much. It’s not something, I’d rather read than use the television.
 
I go to bed and I’m always asleep by the time Newsnight stops. But then and I believe I sleep quite deeply although I’m not sure because you don’t really know what you are like when you’re sleeping. But then I can wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning, lively as a cricket, ready you know, to go and face the world again. And that can be a bit daunting because I can then get strapped into thinking about the family, and the history of the family, and my Mum and all this sort of thing. It gets very emotional, it’s the wrong thing to do. So I’ve managed to move on from that and now I read. I’ve got an incredibly boring book. An extremely boring book, which is very good. It’s all about the medieval history of England and it’s just a series of lists of things that happened in the country with barons and knights and stuff. So within ten minutes flat I’m out.
 
However, and that works quite well, but then come 4 o’clock in the morning by then I need a wee and damn me it starts all over again. So that’s basically, and then of course come six or seven o’clock I’m lively as a cricket again. So that’s basically the way I sleep.
 
So you are in bed between sort of ten, half past ten?
 
Well certainly ten on the dot I like to be in bed to listen to the news so I’m right there.
 

Margaret spent several years in hospital and still remembers the rules and disciplines...

Margaret spent several years in hospital and still remembers the rules and disciplines...

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So getting back to your question about sleeping, you had to know about the hospitalisation because you know, I can’t really tell you. But when I got back from hospital eventually at 13 my Mother was living with her Father, my grandfather and looking after him. He was getting on a bit and needed care so she lived with him and I went to live in that situation with my grandfather.
 
He’d had six children and he was fed up with children so you can imagine what it was like. It was not very good for a thirteen year old and I can’t really remember, I think, I think hospital was very, very, very good for me in respect of learning routines, systems. Disciplining, being disciplined. Living within your own world, but also within a bigger community. And so I gained a lot from living in hospital because you have to live to certain boundaries, and you have your own boundaries inside you as well. It’s a bit like being in jail really, you know, you have quite an extensive internal life, but not such a good external life.
 
So I think that the disciplines of hospital were brought into my family life and I still was sleeping pretty well because that’s what you did, you were meant to sleep. But having said that I’ve just remembered, that when I was, between the ages of ten and thirteen I was in hospital and I was extremely unhappy and I think it was because I was aware at that time I had had two years or so out of hospital and I knew what life could be like and here I was back in jail again. And I devised a method of sleeping, its sounds funny, but the rule of the hospital and there was a kitchen window and here was the door to where, the veranda, we were all outside in the air underneath a veranda. And so this door had a space for one bed and I went into that, I used to ask if I could be, so I could read to my heart’s content and at night the kitchen light would be on because people would be working in there making breakfast and stuff and things, so I would read by the light of the kitchen at night. So if I couldn’t sleep that’s what I did. 
 

Margaret believes that sleep can be emotional, and connects you to your home and life. Being away...

Margaret believes that sleep can be emotional, and connects you to your home and life. Being away...

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And how do you sleep when you’re away?
 
Better than I do in my own bed.
 
That’s interesting. Why do you think that is?
 
No idea.
 
From the minute you get there, the first night you sleep okay?
 
Yes. I never have a problem. I’ve hit the hay. In fact I can sleep the whole night through sometimes, you know, some of the time, we are going off to the [place] in a few week's time and I will expect to zonk out.
 
 
I just wonder whether this business of sleep is an emotional thing, you know, emotional touch, contacts with where you live and what happens in the house and in your life.
 
Hm. Could be.
 
You wonder don’t you. I mean when you are on holiday you are somebody else, you’re somebody different, you’re somewhere else, you know, you still eat and do all the other stuff, but it’s different.
 
Yes, there is something about sleep isn’t there that it’s a large part of your life you can’t stop doing it and yet if you don’t get it?
 
In a way when you go on holiday you go on holiday from everything.
 
That is true?
 
Your whole life. You can’t do anything about the things that are worrying you.
 
Some people have different ways, but some people sleep worse when they’re away?
 
Yes. Yes. So I understand. 
 
 

Margaret feels guilty about having a sleep during the day, but is aware that she as she gets...

Margaret feels guilty about having a sleep during the day, but is aware that she as she gets...

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So how long have you been doing that, the day time sleep?
 
Very shortly. I would say the last two or three months. I have never been a person who sleeps in the day, but I just wonder. I suppose its old age coming on. It’s needing more sleep and I have a real belief and you know, this sleep is extremely good for you. And I think ‘oh how awful I mustn’t do this’. It’s guilty. I think it’s just an episode in the day when you’re building up for the rest of the day so that’s good.
 
So that was going to be my next question really is how do you feel about having this day time sleep?
 
It’s filled in time, its investment time so that I can do something else. For instance I need to practice my recorder. Well I never have time in the day. But I have enough energy in the evening to spend about a couple of hours practising. Because you do need to do that, if you are going to play with other people. You have got to be able to come up to scratch. 
 

Margaret bases her idea of a perfect night’s sleep on going to bed at 10 pm and getting up at 7...

Margaret bases her idea of a perfect night’s sleep on going to bed at 10 pm and getting up at 7...

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So if I could say to you have a perfect night’s sleep what would that be for you?
 
To sleep from 10 o’clock till seven.
 
Okay so right the way through then?
 
Hm.
 
And that’s nine hours?
 
Yes. May be that’s too high an expectation.
 
No it depends really what you base it on. Where do you get the idea of the nine hours from?
 
Well by the time 10 o’clock comes I’m absolutely shattered. I just need nothing but my bed. Sometimes I am so tired I can hardly take my clothes off. So I must go at a fair old lick most of the day. But 7 – 7.30 seems to be a civilised time to get up and get ready for the day.
 
It’s not about, is that a sleep you have ever had, nine hours right the way through?
 
I don’t know if I’ve ever done that.
 
Okay and it’s not about what you’ve heard. Have you heard what a good night’s sleep might be?
 
Yes I’ve heard a good night’s sleep is probably eight hours.
 
I’m just interested in where people, why people think, I ask them that question well where does that come from? There seems to be a variety of … you have given me a good time to go to bed and a good time to get up?
 
Yes, that’s really what I’m talking about, and what happens in between you know, how many hours or whatever is not really that important. It’s just that I need to go to bed at ten. Seven o’clock seems to be a reasonable time to get up.  
 

Margaret often wakes up in the night and reads, sometimes two or three times a night.

Margaret often wakes up in the night and reads, sometimes two or three times a night.

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So you’ll wake up in the night and do you do anything before you pick up the book or do you say to yourself, or do you try and get back to sleep, then pick up the book, how does it work for you?
 
Well first of all we are lucky because we have lights over the bed. [My husband] has one, I have another one and they are both very subdued. So I fish around and find the light, being very careful not to wake him up. Mind you I’m so lucky because I can’t wake him up. It's lovely. Then I put the light on and then I’ve always got the book within hand. So that’s what I do. I don’t get up and go to the loo. I don’t do this. I don’t do that. That’s what I do, and then fortunately after about a page and a half or three I am like this and I can hardly see a thing and I think goody I’m off. And then I think about what I’ve read. I don’t think about anything else. I think about I’ve read and then within seconds I’m off again and I can do that as I say twice a night, sometimes three times a night when I have a bad night, not a bad night, it feels as if it’s bad, but of course I do get back to sleep again. 
 

Margaret finds the best strategy for getting back to sleep if she wakes up in the night is to...

Margaret finds the best strategy for getting back to sleep if she wakes up in the night is to...

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That’s very interesting because you may have had this experience, things seem dramatic and terrible at night, you wake up in the morning and think oh I can cope with that.
 
Yes, what was all that about?
 
Yes. You actually do.
 
And you have these arguments in your head with people and you wake up in the morning and you think well what would be the point of that really, why did I make a mountain out of a molehill?
 
Absolutely and that’s this same situation, with emotional ups and downs that we’ve all been through. We all go through. And I think there’s nothing, absolutely nothing you can do about it. It’s gone, it’s finished, you did your best at the time and that’s it. And it’s taken a long time, it just doesn’t happen you have to think about it. Make sure that you don’t get worked up about stuff.
 
Do you think you’ve reached that point now then?
 
No, not totally, not totally. That’s why I have incredibly boring books to read.
 
It’s a really good strategy that. When did you find that out that that worked?
 
Oh not so long ago, although yes, come to think about it, some time ago, about just three years ago. My brother died and that caused a lot of emotional stress. And it was driving me bananas thinking to myself what can I do with all of this, because as I said there’s nothing else you can do, once he's gone he's gone and I know I’ll get a book and unfortunately I have got an extremely interesting book which led me to read the whole book in one sitting. So I never slept at all.
 
You just stayed up at night and read the book?
 
Yes. I got through it and had a thoroughly miserable day. Dragging through the next day. So I thought no, the thing is to get yourself really boring books. But I’m very, very lucky because he died having left a huge amount of books, most of them history and actually they are quite interesting but some are very, very boring. So I find the boring ones, really boring books. 
 

Margaret wonders whether drinking coffee and wine in the evening might be affecting her sleep.

Margaret wonders whether drinking coffee and wine in the evening might be affecting her sleep.

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Do you avoid things like alcohol and coffee and tea at all or …?
 
No I don’t and I wonder whether I ought to but then we have our evening meal which is our main meal of the day at about 6 in the evening. And we certainly have wine, we don’t mind having wine, and sometimes if we have company, we will open another bottle, not so much if, when we have company we’ll open another bottle and that knocks me out and I imagine I snore then. Almost certainly, but not, I’ve forgotten what the question is.
 
You eat early in the evening but would you avoid eating later in the evening?
 
If I could yes. Because the tummy is working too hard at that time.
 
And then alcohol is something that fits in, but then what about coffee and tea?
 
Well we will have a cup of coffee somewhere at about 7.30.
 
Okay.
 
And that would be the last drink we have. But I think that’s probably too late for the way the bladder works.  
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