If someone came into my house at night, this picture is exactly how I would look peering out into the dark from my bed. Why? Because in addition to being a very high strung Type A personality, I am also an insomniac. I know, just when you thought there was no way for me to be more interesting, you get tossed another curveball. I can tell you without hesitation that there is NOTHING fun about being wound as tight as I am and being unable to sleep. Every night when the rest of the world is winding down for bed, my body decides to reeve up. It’s almost as if the minute my kiddos go to bed, my mind says “great, let’s rock and roll” and my body says “no you whack job, let’s get some rest.” Well friends, my mind usually wins and I am easily up until 3-4 am. On a positive note, lack of sleep has made me extremely effective in my career because I am able to work around the clock. Do you know how much you could accomplish without sleep?
All my life I have battled with periodic insomnia. In my younger days I loved the stillness of the night, particularly around the 2-3am hours. In college I loved to walk campus around 2am or sit outside on the steps of my dorm. I don’t know what it is about that time, but it’s almost as if the earth stops spinning, all the people disappear, and the earth is returned back to the animals. If you just stop and listen, you hear very few sounds other than insects and nocturnal animals. Awful right?? You probably thought I would say peaceful…no, it’s not. I like the stillness of the night…not the creatures of the night. See, I loathe all things outdoors and nature. While I love the feel of the wind against my back, if that wind is too strong and messes up my hair it upsets me. I hate the smell of fresh air and grass, the sound of bugs, the sight of bugs, conversations about bugs, the smell of mulch, flowers, and trees…again, pretty much all the things outdoors. In fact, I even hate the words “outdoors”, “nature”, and “tree bark”. So, it is not surprising that nature sounds do not relax me or induce sleep.
In my 30+ year quest for restful sleep, I have tried mediation (again, we will have to talk about that another time), warm baths, counting sheep/dogs/monkeys/lizards/ninjas (don’t ask…but it’s a thing), and simply just laying still in the dark allowing my body to wind itself down. Well, none of that works. I have even tried multiple sleep aids, and while they may work for a few weeks, they abruptly stop working leaving me more frustrated. Once I tried Target and Walmart after dark. While amusing, neither helped me sleep. When I finally reached wits end, I consulted a doctor. To my surprise, my the doctor didn’t find my insomnia surprising or alarming. Apparently there is a very close relationship between auto-immune disorders and insomnia. Oh joy! Who knew that part of my immune system’s assault on my body included prohibiting sleep? Fun times!
After speaking with my doctor, I found out that when I have insomnia I am also usually experiencing a Crohn’s flare. In order to address the insomnia, I have to treat the flare…then my body can have a few minutes of harmony. This information was actually pretty refreshing because initially I was convinced that Mr. Sandman had declared me his enemy. I spent several nights wondering why sleep hated me…when I loved it so much. I was the child that never protested nap time, in fact I was the exhausted kid eager to go to bed. I was the college student that tried to nap in between classes, and the young professional that tried to take an hour nap for lunch. Despite my numerous attempts at sleep, they were usually unsuccessful and I blamed Mr. Sandman.
Once I understood what was happening, my sleepless nights were less upsetting. The hours I spent wondering why I couldn’t sleep, could now be used in the only way that made sense. Yep, that time could be used for practical jokes on my unsuspecting and sleeping family. Remember that I shared in an earlier post that my favorite holiday is April Fool’s Day…so of course practical jokes made sense. First, I started with my husband. As he slept peacefully next to me, I took a string from my pillow case and dangled it inside his ear. As you might have guessed, it created a sensation that a bug was crawling in his ear. HA! That one act resulted in him repeatedly tossing from left to right while forcibly slapping his ear with his hand. Once he finally drifted back off to sleep, I threw the covers over his head for a nice dutch oven. Friends, I think you can guess how this all ended. While my husband loves a great joke, few people like being kept up all night. Needless to say, I had to quickly find a plan b for the nights I am unable to sleep before I ended up divorced.
For the past 3 nights I have done a routine that has been pretty effective. One hour before my body usually decides it is time to come alive for the evening, I do a written data dump of everything on my mind. I take out my trusty notebook, and write down every single thing in my head at that moment. For example, my notebook may have unrelated words like “soccer, bacon, ink pen, 6am, bacon, and sleep”. Or, my notebook may have useful information like “how to meditate, importance of pain management, or don’t forget to buy bacon”. Sometimes that data makes for a great blog, other times it ends up in the trash. Either way, it is out of my head for the night. After the data dump, I close my notebook and get into bed. Once in bed, I lay still and listen to the sounds around me. When I lay still in the dark with an empty mind, I can fall asleep within the hour or it can take up to 4. There is no pattern or rationale…and I have learned that has to be ok. Although I can never say with certainty when I will fall asleep, I can affirmatively say that Mr. Sandman is no longer my enemy.