Sleep does not come easy for me lately.

This has been an ongoing problem for much of my life.

As a child, I battled bedtime, and then fought sleep, as if my very life depended on it.

My sister, Brenda, and I chattered away under the covers through all of our teen years. Dad’s arrival home from his second shift around midnight was the only thing that forced us to stop talking, so we could fall asleep.

During my first pregnancy, my sleep patterns flipped wildly back and forth. The first weeks, I felt like I could sleep twenty-four hours a day. I’d often crawl into an empty bed for a nap during Sunday visits to my parents house. I’d drop off to sleep whenever I was a passenger in a car. I didn’t dare sit down in the middle of a project, or sleep would overtake me while dinner burned or water overflowed the sink.

Then, suddenly, I could hardly sleep at all. For months.

Apartment living prevented me from noisy endeavors like vacuuming or machine sewing, but I’d scrub and wax floors through the night. I patched my husband’s blue jeans by hand, and sometimes embroidered the patches. I crocheted for hours. I played hundreds of games of solitaire. When the alarm went off in the morning, my husband would find me wide awake with coffee waiting. I’d kiss him off to work, then settle in for a nap on the sofa.

There was a time, when my oldest daughter was a baby, that she and I would rendezvous every night at three AM. She’d have a bottle; I’d nibble left-overs from dinner. Together, we’d watch old episodes of Charlie Chan.

Generally, though, having a working husband, children, classes and jobs forced a schedule on me that helped to diminish the problem. I still had the occasional sleepless night, and suffered through the effects of it in the following days, but insomnia did not have the same hold on me.

Now, once again, it does.

Often I can cite too much caffeine, unresolved issues or legitimate worries as the cause.

Some things are within my control, some are not.

It’s hard to shut down a busy mind.

Lately, it’s very hard to fall asleep.

Last night was a perfect example.

I had worked in town, walked the dogs morning and evening, wrote, made dinner and tidied up, worked several hours in the studio, answered a couple letters and went to bed exhausted at eleven o’clock.

And lay there, wide awake.

I try all the regular things: I tense, then relax my muscles one by one, from forehead to toes. I allow every thought to enter my consciousness, then gently release it until my mind is clear. I count backward from one hundred, to keep concerns and worries at bay. I toss. I turn.

I lay there.

At one AM, I turned on the lamp and read a couple chapters.

Could hardly keep my eyes open.

That’s the way it is these days. Though I could vacuum to my heart’s content without anyone complaining, and heaven knows my floors could use a good scrubbing, I don’t have the energy. I wish I could roust myself to at least accomplish the chores that I know I’ll be too tired to tackle the next day, for lack of rest. Awake in the middle of the night, all I want is sleep.

I turned out the light…and sleep would not come.

At three-thirty I came downstairs to let Rosa out.

Tried the sofa…no better for sleep.

Turned on the computer.

I checked the news and e-mail and a social networking site, played two games of on-line scrabble and researched a children’s art project for Cinco de Mayo.

At six AM I went back to the sofa where I slept like a baby for almost two hours.

I’m up for the day now, but without much stamina for the day ahead.

Though a nap sounds lovely, I force myself to resist, so that sleep will be possible tonight.

For now, onward…I’m awake!

18 responses »

  1. Like did’nt seem quite appropriate on this post. Must be horrible not sleeping all the time. Sometimes at Full Moon I don’t sleep well for a night or two. Leaves me feelin wrecked….

    • I notice that many times when I’ve had a sleepless night, the full moon was out. I think the quality of light (or our inner tides)must react to it, whether or not we see the moon. Thanks for reading, Bridget, and for your comments!

  2. Oh, Cindy, I can so relate to this! Lately, some nights, it’s all about being wide-eyed wide-awake way too many times. Do you remember hearing that this is an age-related thing? I find when I’m not stressed it’s easiest to get a good night sleep. It’s hard to talk ourselves out of stress, though…

    • I think stress is a definite factor. I know, too, that I need less sleep than when I was younger. Though I feel tired and lack energy, I make it through the day much easier on no sleep than when I was younger. Thanks for reading, Kathy, and for your comments!

  3. Cindy – I have terrible insomnia – and have had for years. The only thing that will put me to sleep reliably is listening to something like a podcast or book ‘on tape’ – something interesting, but not too interesting – and definitely not the news which is usually full of moments that cause anxiety. I’m sure you have tried things like this before – but I thought I would say it anyways. Hope you feel better. Nothing worse than feeling like a zombie through your work day.

    • Thank you for the suggestions, Martha! I used to think trying to get through that next day “like a zombie” was the worst. Now, I think it’s the long wakeful hours lying in bed without the energy to do anything else. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  4. I’m a night owl by nature, but my routine requires me to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. in order to get eight hours of sleep before going to the day job. I’m rarely sleepy enough to fall asleep that early and spend my early in-bed time reading. I wouldn’t say I have insomnia, but my routine is against my nature. I look forward to the day when I can sleep when I want and be awake when I want without someone else dictating a schedule for me.

    There is nothing worse than knowing I should be sleeping but am not sleepy. Unfortunately I can’t run the vacuum in the middle of the night. It would be the perfect time to get those rugs clean!

    • I would be a night owl, too, if there were no other factors involved. That is part of the problem, I’m sure. Sometimes the more aware I am that I’m not sleeping when I should be, the more stressed I become about it, and then that keeps me from sleeping even more…a vicious cycle! Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your comments!

  5. I know just how you feel. It is BAD. I admit to insomnia. Inherited, I think, from my mother. I’ve been taking anti anxiety med at night for many years so that I can sleep. Both my children have THE PROBLEM.

    I wish that I could give you an answer. I just know that medication was the only help for me.

    • Well, I’m fortunate that it doesn’t go on and on…a few night of poor sleep will be followed be a couple good night’s sleep. It is frustrating, but manageable. Sometimes I do think – especially when it seems to run in families – it has something to do with our natural patterns of sleep and wakefulness not fitting the norm. I know if jobs and other things didn’t demand it, I’d sleep late and stay up late most all the time. Thanks for reading, Yvonne, and for your comments!

  6. Sorry to hear you have such trouble sleeping. My sleep patterns certainly changed over time…for the worse. I miss those teenage years when I slept through anything!

    • Oh, I’ve heard that suggestion before; I’ll be anxious to hear if it helps. I know I’m often to tired to read, even when sleep won’t come. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  7. hey always-smiling cindy!
    someone mentioned that they had lost many of their ‘follow’ prompts and were having to reselect them. i am finding that i have ‘dropped’ some as well without knowing – one is /was yours. boo boo BOO! now i’m back on the follow list…

    hope the weekend is good to you!

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