There are nights, though rare, when I turn out the light and fall fast asleep right away. Too often, it goes another way. I read in bed until I can barely keep my eyes open or hold my head up. I take off my glasses, turn off the light, arrange covers and pillow, and settle in. Then a million thoughts come wandering through my brain, Keeping me company. Keeping me awake.
I try relaxation techniques to calm my mind and my body, to allow me to drift off to sleep. I use methods that are helpful in meditation: notice the thought, and let it pass on. Breathe. Think only of the breath. I lay still,, reminding myself how tired I am, willing myself to fall asleep.
I rearrange my position. I start to analyze the bothersome thoughts in detail, supposing that a closer examination might rob them of their power. I review each worry, every idea, all concerns. Some, I am able to discard as nonsensical. Others, I try to work out solutions, or at least a direction to pursue. Time marches on. Still, sleep doesn’t come.
Then, restlessness sets in. How long have I been laying here, anyway, wide awake? I shift my position, rearrange my pillow, stretch out my legs. I give one dog or another a good rub down. I turn the lamp back on. According to the little clock, I have been lying in bed, wide awake, for three hours. I allow myself to read for a bit.
When I turn the light off again, I am sure I’ll be able to drop off to sleep…but no. Now, along with all of the other cares that are disturbing my rest, there is one more problem. Now, if I don’t fall asleep right away, INSTANTLY, I will be exhausted tomorrow. That added pressure does not help.
I start reviewing possible scenarios. If I get up, use this awake time to do something useful, I will probably be ready to collapse at just about the time the alarm goes off. If I just lay in bed, not sleeping, I will be just as miserable at work tomorrow. Maybe if I got up and had a bowl of cereal. If only I had cereal in the house. Maybe oatmeal.
Finally, I get out of bed. It is raining outside. The house is chilly. I put my robe on over my pajamas. Each of the dogs goes out and comes back in. I make myself a cup of “Sleepy Time” tea. I am sipping it as I sit here at the computer. Rosa Parks is resting in my lap. I don’t know if I should count this sorry bit of writing as accomplishing “something useful,” but at least I have gotten to the point where I think I might be able to sleep. I’m going back to bed!