I come from a family of good sleepers. Mom and Dad are both in bed by 9:00 each night and, as I understand it, they’re asleep minutes after their heads hit the pillows. My brother is the same way. He doesn’t even need a bed; a couch or a comfy chair works nicely for him when he’s ready to doze. He doesn’t go to bed as early as the folks do, but he seems blessed with their uncanny ability to nod off at the drop of a hat.
I’m not so lucky. I’m prone to bouts of sleeplessness, usually due to stress or excitement, and it’s been in high gear for the past couple of weeks.
The last time I had extended insomnia was over three years ago, in the summer. I was working full-time during the day and doing some pretty intense socialization on most evenings and weekends. I was about as far outside my comfort zone as I’d ever let myself go, and although there were definite benefits to that experience, it also created an ongoing sensory overload that made sleeping all but impossible.
Those days are behind me. Lately, I socialize very little. So what’s keeping me up at night?
Well, there are several factors. First, there’s the move. It’s over two months away, but it’s a constant presence in my mind, like background noise. I don’t feel stressed about it during the day – we’ve booked a (highly recommended) moving company and we’re well organized – but the moment the lights go out in the bedroom, I find myself rattling through an endless mental checklist all the same.
Sleeplessness creates an unfortunate cycle for me: I wake up exhausted, so I usually try to nap at some point during the day. But the naps are short and unsatisfying; they really only manage to ruin my nighttime sleep. In the morning, my energy level is non-existent, which makes it all too easy to skip my morning walk. That walk would help me sleep better, I’m told, but that knowledge usually isn’t enough to get me going on days like this.
Last night, I took a page out of my parents’ book and went to bed a bit after 9:00. I had done all the supposed right things throughout the day: I made sure to drink lots of water, and avoid caffeine, and turn off the TV and computer by 7:00. I nestled under the covers in a completely dark room, did some breathing exercises, and waited for sleep.
Oh, how I waited.
Everyone says you’re not supposed to check the clock when you’re trying to sleep. I did my best to resist the urge, but ultimately failed. The clock read 12:04 AM the last time I looked at it. I tossed and turned for hours after that. Mediocre sleep came in dribs and drabs throughout the night. By the time I mastered the elusive beast, my alarm was going off.
I woke up feeling completely wrecked. I really, really, really just wanted to stay in bed and sleep until noon. But instead, I got up, ate some oatmeal with my lady, laced up my brightly-coloured running shoes, and trudged outside for my morning walk. I enforced a strict Peppy Tunes Only policy on my iPod playlist, and got moving. The brisk air and movement were refreshing, the music was energizing, and my legs felt pleasingly tired by the time I got home.
That was a few hours ago, and now my head wants nothing more than to rest gently on the table in front of me. It’s hard to refuse. Part of me thinks I should take whatever sleep I can get whenever my body presents the opportunity. After all, who knows how long it will be before I’m capable of it again?
Another part of me knows that naps are my enemy these days. The wise thing to do is to power through, and have faith that today is the day I finally break the sleepless streak.
If it’s not, you can probably expect some hilarious typos in my future posts.
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