Help me help her sleep!
July 26, 2008 7:21 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep my wife from fidgeting while we're going to sleep?

Every night, when we're trying to go to sleep, she'll fidget uncontrollably. Tapping my arm with her fingers, rubbing her feet together, tapping her feet, etc. This drives me crazy, and I can't remember the last time I had a completely restful night - I'll get frustrated and we'll end up fighting.

What's worse is that now I'm nervously anticipating it every night, which certainly isn't helping me relax, and is probably making me notice it more than ever. I like cuddling with her as we're going to sleep, but I can't take this anymore!

Any suggestions for things that might help her fidget less, or help me ignore it?
posted by clcapps to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
perhaps she should go to bed a few minutes before you do? I am a bit like your wife. It takes me much longer to go to sleep than it does my bed mate.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2008

I do this too, much to my wife's extreme displeasure, and our problem is I almost never go to bed before she does. A few things have helped us though:

-If I can, I avoid taking naps before bedtime unless I'm really sleep-deprived. This makes me extra sleepy at bedtime, and less likely to fidget.
-I'm on a medication that makes me jittery, so I'm really careful to take the last dose at least a few hours before bed (not along with brushing my teeth before bed). Ditto for caffiene-- none within a few hours of bed.
-I fall asleep somewhere else in the house (couch, spare bed) without a blanket on top of me. I usually wake up within an hour or so (after my body cools down and I'm in need of a blanket) and join my wife in bed then, already groggy and able to go right back to sleep.

YMMV depending on your & her sleep patterns, habits, etc., but this has worked for us so far.
posted by Rykey at 7:44 AM on July 26, 2008

Could she have Restless Leg Syndrome? People with this condition kick and twitch and fidget and move their limbs to relieve unpleasant sensations. Have her visit a doctor and get a sleep test done.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:48 AM on July 26, 2008

My wife does this as a way to get her to fall asleep. As her husband, I love her all the same and just ignore it....
My wife shakes her legs to kinda rock the bed a bit to help her sleep...after 8 years of marriage, I have totally accepted it and honestly, I thought it was a quirk that would have passed.....but still hasn't.

Regardless, I am against, not going to bed when she does...its not a good thing for the long term marriage. But perhaps ask if she can hold of (in kindness) until she knows your sleeping...maybe?

Good luck man....
posted by TeachTheDead at 8:02 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The problem is not. "Help my wife stop fidgeting," it's "help me get to sleep peacefully." Thinking of it the latter way may help you come up with answers that were not part of the former.
posted by winston at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why not just sleep on the couch for a few nights, so at least you can have a conversation about this that isn't fueled by sleep deprivation?

Things to consider over the long-term:

* Have her visit a GP and/or a sleep specialist, to rule out anything obvious and medical.

* Consider separate beds but in the same room, like in those 1950s TV shows; some people (with happy, loving, and intimate marriages, no less) do even better with separate bedrooms, often because of sleep issues like what you describe.

* Try out one of those super dense "memory foam" mattresses, the kind where they do the promotions with the wineglass on the bed that doesn't tip over when the bed is jumped on.

* Stagger your going-to-bed times, to let one of you fall asleep before the other one comes to bed.
posted by Forktine at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2008

Whoops, hit "post comment" one bullet point too soon.

* Talk with your doctor about a prescription for a sleep aid for you, so that you can fall asleep no matter how much she is wiggling around.
posted by Forktine at 8:37 AM on July 26, 2008

My girlfriend also needs much more time to go to sleep than I do. I agree that not going to sleep at the same moment it's not a good thing. What we sometimes do is go brush our teeth together (this really helps her start the ritual of going to sleep). Then I go back to the living room for some digg/metafilter/etc. computer fun. Half an hour later, we're both ready to go to sleep.

As for the fidgetting, it's kinda common how women need to have someone to listen to their thoughts, while men are more like "yeah, whatever" (John Gray, Mars/Venus, blah-di-blah). So how about asking her what she feels just before you go to sleep? Let her talk. Be the ear that listens to her problems. Ask good questions. Be supportive. Don't try to give suggestions or solutions.

Good luck and sleep well!
posted by hz37 at 8:51 AM on July 26, 2008

Why does she fidget? Does she do so consciously, or unconsciously? Why she fidgets is, I think, what you should be addressing here. Does it keep her awake, too? Why isn't she calm and sleepy at night?

If she's on caffeine, she could cut back and see if that helps. There are also some mild herbal relaxants, which come in tinctures and teas, that she could try to calm down a bit before going to bed. Consult a knowledgeable herbalist about this.
posted by entropone at 9:17 AM on July 26, 2008

I didn't realize that I was a "fidgeter" until I got married. Mr. Adams was very nice about it and made jokes but I knew I was keeping him up (or waking him after he'd just dozed off). I mentioned the problem to our doctor (no organic reason found for my fidgets; it just takes me a while to get comfy for some reason, quite possibly because I suffer from OCD and can't get comfy if, say, one hip seems like it's higher than the other) and she suggested that Mr. Adams take a Tylenol PM 30 minutes or so before bed. He tried it and snoozed soundly while I found my comfy position. After maybe a week, he forget to take his pill and still slept soundly while I settled in. Perhaps he'd "learned" to ignore my movements. Maybe something like this is worth a try for you?
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:50 AM on July 26, 2008

Seconding the "memory foam" (visco-elastic) mattress. Buy a king, for maximum distance separating the two of you. Then, as an experiment, place the mattress on the floor, sleeping on it as you would a futon. This cuts the box-spring shakiness out of the equation.
posted by Gordion Knott at 10:12 AM on July 26, 2008

I was going to tell you how I deal with my girlfriends fidgeting, but I see you want to help HER not YOU, so I'll cut it short.

My girlfriend does this. She also waits until the precious moment where I've just fallen asleep slightly to being jabbering about her favorite color, or that one time when she was 6 how she was allergic to that honeydew melon, or what ever.

Best answer: Valerian. Pill form. Send her to bed 15mins ahead of you, or WITH you but plan to chat or whatever for about 15 mins. She'll be OUT!!!
posted by TomMelee at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2008

I've been known to be quite the "active" sleeper, and on occasion complaints have been lodged about my fidgeting whilst falling asleep. I try to make sure that I'm good and tired, and if I notice myself fidgeting, I politely relocate to the couch and read for a bit until I'm *really* tired. That usually works.

My bed-mate often does the same thing, that is, if my fidgeting is bothering *him*, he gets up and reads for a bit.

It's probably the only real solution - if she's fidgeting a lot and you can't sleep, get up and do something quiet for a few minutes (probably 20 should do it) and then when you return you'll be more tired, and more ready to fall asleep, and she'll probably have fallen asleep and thus stopped fidgeting. You probably can't train her not to fidget - the things people do where sleep is concerned are really, really ingrained. (For example, I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep ever since I had teeth and no amount of bed-mates shaking me awake can stop it.)

If it's truly keeping you awake, it's best to get up anyhow as studies have shown that if you don't fall asleep within half an hour, the anxiety of *not* being asleep will make it even harder to do so.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2008

this is random, and may not work, but I was a fidgeter, and found it very hard to get to sleep - until I started listening to audiobooks on my ipod when I went to bed; I have crappy earphones for this purpose which are comfortable to sleep in (and don't notice when they fall out, which they invariably do during the night - I wear them behind me so they don't strangle me if you get my meaning!). I invariably fall asleep within five minutes of listening (I know this because when I get to the 'last remembered bit' it's never very far along from where I started!), provided I have it at the right volume for me (it also has to be a good narrator), and I don't fidget at all anymore either. It's also handy for getting me back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night. You may not like this suggestion, cos let's face it, it's a little anti-social if you have a bed partner, but it could let you both get the sleep you need!
posted by nunoidia at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2008

If separate beds is too old fashioned for you, you could always try a bigger bed. My girlfriend is a flailer and we sleep on the far opposite sides at beginning of the night. But we always end up finding each other in the middle of the night.
Try wearing some ear plugs before you start taking any prescription substances. No sense in doping yourself unnecessarily.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:07 AM on July 26, 2008

I did this in my past relationship... Part of the problem for me was that I was trying to hard NOT to fidget while he tried to cuddle me to sleep that it just sort of kept forcing its way out. I just need to be free!
Does she fidget as much if you two don't cuddle to sleep? For me, that solved most of the problems! With the fidgeting, that is...
posted by at 11:20 AM on July 26, 2008

(dittoing entropone) Can your girlfriend cut back on caffeine? I wriggle a lot before I go to sleep, but more so if I've had coffee *any time* during the day.

I envy my wife's ability to lie down and then be quite still; I think I'm doing something like dogs do, walking round and round to make a nest before they sleep.
posted by anadem at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2008

I'm a bedtime fidgeter; it helps me relax and fall asleep. I've tried cutting back on caffeine to one coffee a day and that didn't change things (I'm just saying that this may not make a difference to your wife either). I'm currently taking sleeping pills and they knock me out quite suddenly so I don't fidget, but I don't recommend that to help your wife unless she has other sleep-related issues.

Is she actually having trouble falling asleep? I don't actually see the fidgeting as a problem, it helps me fall asleep. It may only be a problem for you, not her. I think your best solution is the memory foam mattress, and ask her to get into the habit of falling asleep away from you -- I generally move away from my hubby if I think I'm being too fidgety. Not a separate bed, just with a bit of space between the two of you.
posted by tracicle at 1:47 PM on July 26, 2008

My fiance and I have separate bedrooms (and have had, for all the time we've been living together), and a big part of the reason is that I toss and turn and fidget for ages before falling asleep (and never fall asleep if any part of my body is touching his). I know a lot of people wouldn't be happy with this arrangement, because they'd miss that closeness of falling asleep together, but it works great for us. We can keep our own schedules and not worry about disturbing the other person if we go to sleep late or wake up early. We get the cuddling and closeness in at other times--he'll often climb into my bed in the morning, so we can wake up together, for instance.
It's not for everybody, but don't rule out the possibility of having separate rooms or at least beds.
posted by smoakes at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2008

Have you considered sleeping apart? I know couples who choose to sleep in separate bedrooms and still appear to have close, intimate relationships. In Diane Rehm's book, toward commitment, she admitted to sleeping in a separate bedroom from her husband because of these same types of problems. She also said that they still had an active sex life (after some forty years of marriage). She was ashamed of this for years, until she realized that there was nothing shameful about it. She just needed a good night's sleep. It didn't mean she didn't love her husband. There was a recent NYT article about couples who sleep apart that might be of use.
posted by bananafish at 4:37 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try rubbing or scratching her back for 5 minutes. It may provide the little bit of movement that she needs to feel "settled in" and relaxed. I know it puts me to sleep right away. And as a bonus, giving nightly back rubs earns you a lot of goodwill.
posted by folara at 12:06 AM on July 27, 2008

put a body pillow between the two of you when you're ready to sleep. she'll still fidget, but you'll be partially insulated.
posted by jrishel at 4:54 AM on July 28, 2008

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