Throughout our marriage, Billy has experienced bouts of insomnia. He rarely suffered alone because he was fidgety or he turned on the television or lamp to read. I was usually aware of his inability to get to sleep, but he would apologize for waking me, and I would turn over and get back to my sleep. Sundowning is nothing like insomnia for Billy.
I've mentioned in previous posts that Billy doesn't always remain asleep, but over the last few months, these episodes of sundowning have become more frequent and extreme. This past Saturday night was a particularly long night as he kept me awake most of it. He becomes agitated and unreasonable when he's in the midst of it, and he doesn't understand why I won't get up and "get ready" for whatever it is we are about to do. When we went to bed Saturday night, he went to sleep very easily, and I've not been giving him the Ambien unless he wakes up and seems to need it to get back to sleep. On this particular night, he woke up around 11:45 and got out of bed. He took a shower, and got fully dressed, then woke me up and told me it was time to get ready. I told him over and over it was bed time, and he argued that it was not. He repeatedly said that he just didn't understand. I'm not sure what he didn't understand, but he was frustrated with me for not getting up and getting dressed. I would plead with him to let me sleep until 6:00, and he would walk away a bit. I would doze off, and then I would be aware that he was standing over me, or I would hear him pacing the floor. He was trying to make the bed, and he told me I was in his way. It seems funny now, but in the middle of it, it's very frustrating. I knew we needed to get up early because we were traveling to Nacodoches the next day. I gave him a dose of medicine to help him sleep, but he wouldn't lay down. He complained of being cold, and I told him he would warm up if he got into bed. He did get into bed for about five minutes, and then he was back to the pacing...asking questions....telling me to get up. He had a sense that we were going somewhere, but he couldn't articulate where that might be. I think he finally settled down for about an hour, and then the alarm sounded. He was awake immediately. Nothing prepares you for this behavior, and I read differing philosophies on how to handle it.
I was certain he would be exhausted the next day and would surely sleep in the car. He did not. He was too busy worrying about each person who drove, where we were going, and if we were going the correct way. When we finally got to Nacodoches (to attend my nephew's senior recital), he didn't really understand why we were there, and he wanted to know if we were going back the same way we came. He kept asking if we were missing someone. We were traveling with my parents and sister - all in one car. It was quite an adventure with Billy - one I'm sure they will not forget. After such a busy day, no sleep the night before, and his high anxiety, Billy slept like a baby that night. When he sleeps, so do I, and it was blissful.
I'm amazed at the changes that I see in Billy almost daily. His speech is being affected more than it ever has. He loses words or combines them to make new words. He says things that make no sense to me, and I try not to respond. I give him a task, and he cannot complete it. This morning, he got dressed and asked me how he looked. I told him he had worn that shirt on Thursday, and he needed to put it in the dirty clothes hamper. I also told him to find a short sleeved shirt because it was to be 90 degrees for the day. He went into the closet for a moment and came back to ask me what I thought about his clothes now. I told him it looked exactly like the same because he had not changed. I realized that I gave him multiple steps to follow, and he cannot do that. I backed up and told him to take off the shirt and put it in the hamper. He did take off the shirt, but I found it hanging in the closet later. All the years I tried to get him to hang up his clothes, and now I can't get him to stop hanging up his clothes. One task I need to complete this week is to move all his long sleeved shirts to another closet. He is drawn to them, and it's too hot for them.
We are now in our own home, and it feels great. I have no idea when I will ever get completely unpacked, but even with boxes everywhere, it's great to be "home." I miss my niece and nephew terribly, and they miss us, too, but they are just five minutes away. I hear steady sleep breathing, and I'm taking my opportunity to join in on that! Pray for fewer episodes of sundowning.