Friday, October 17, 2008


I can sleep on my left side.

I hadn't been able to do that in years - so many years that I can't remember when the first year was, or how long it took to realize that I might never sleep on that side again. All I know is that I used to try to ignore the clicking in my sternum, or near it; and I used to shift around and try to find a position where I could breathe without that soft click-click, shift-release, on and off with each and every breath; and it didn't hurt, exactly, but it felt very wrong, like it would certainly be hurting later if I let it carry on.

My theory was that some cartilage had been damaged somehow, so my rib cage wasn't quite as solid as it should be. And I didn't think cartilage could heal. So I slept on my right side.

I have never been able to sleep on my belly. On my back, yes, long ago, and still sometimes when I let down my guard. You see, a long time ago I woke suddenly, frantically, sitting straight up in bed from a dream of falling backwards, backwards, into blackness. I think it happened more than once, and then I just didn't sleep on my back unless I rolled there in my sleep without noticing. These days it's not that dreadful dream that wakes me, but the sound of my snoring.

It troubled me a little, having only one position to sleep in, especially when a limb would sleep longer, numb and prickling. Still, I lived with it.

And then I made a change in my life, a change that had nothing to do with the clicking in my chest - at least not as far as I was aware.

And some months later (a year, maybe?) I noticed that I was lying on my left, and my chest wasn't clicking. The click came back sometimes, gently, and I was patient, just trying that side for a little while each evening, turning back if the click returned. Finally it stayed away.

What a sweet moment that was, when I woke and realized that I was lying on my left side.


Tim Hodgens said...

Hi Laura,

Fascinating association...the ticking / clicking subsided after you made the change which decreased, according to your research, your risk factor.

I used to have some dreams - thankfully infrequently - in which I was swimming under water. Much deeper than I had expected, and then I was panicking that I wouldn't have enough air in my lungs to get to the surface. Let me tell you, it was a really scary dream.

Well, anyway, I woke up with a grand start, loud gasp and suddenly sitting up.

At first I was really puzzled by this dream. Was it a dream of death? Was it an omen of something really threatening which was coming, etc.?

Eventually I figured it out. Interestingly it was related to my arm, or ribs also. My wife would shake me, or shove me, or elbow me if I was holding my breath, i.e., having an apneic episode (later confirmed by a polysomnogram).

After I realized what it was, I became better at using my snoring as a signal to wake up, and of course sleeping on my stomach or side was also very helpful.

So the dream was actually a message to me during sleep to wake up, get to the surface - NOW!


arcolaura said...

Tim - I suspect that my dream of falling backwards was very similar to yours - a signal to wake up and get some air! As for the clicking, it was a real physical sensation and I think it actually was due to cartilage damage that had occurred, not suddenly, but over time due to the constriction, and until I fixed that, it could not heal.

Paul said...

Laura, I just read this and the associated post. Isn't it wonderful to get older, wiser and less concerned about arbitrary expectations and propriety. I find life to be healthier and happier when I choose to be myself even if not socially proper. I'm glad you've had a healing.

arcolaura said...

Paul - I have always been a bit contrary, but yes, with years and experience I have become much less concerned with what others may think. I noticed a big change after childbirth - I think when you go through a basic, life-and-death experience like that, nothing else seems as important afterward.