When I Can’t Sleep


I have struggled with insomnia for most of my life. I didn’t always see it as a problem.

As a child, I didn’t worry about the consequences of not getting enough sleep. I would beg to be allowed to stay up later; I’d concoct all kinds of reasons for needing to get out of bed. My sister Brenda and I would secretly stay awake, playing games and whispering for hours past our bedtime. Whenever friends stayed overnight, our goal would always be to stay awake all night.

As an adult, some of my most productive times were the hours when everyone else in the household was asleep. Before we had children, my husband would often wake up in the morning to find that I hadn’t been to bed yet. I sometimes worked on a craft project; sometimes I cleaned house. After he left for work, I’d lay down on the couch for a long sleep.

Having small children gave me a good reason to attempt more regular hours, but I still struggled with being able to fall asleep. Back when television went off the air at around 2AM, I was almost always awake for it. Of course, my days no longer allowed time to make up for the sleep I’d missed. No matter how much discomfort it caused me, though, I was still wide awake through the night more often than not.

I’ve always been kind of a loner, and I used to think that was why I liked to be awake at night. When everyone else was asleep, I had time for just myself. But, through the years, I got divorced, and my daughters grew up and moved away. That theory doesn’t make sense anymore. And, with age, I’ve found that a good night’s sleep is much more necessary. I can’t function the way I used to, on little or no sleep.

I’ve worked hard to maintain a routine that makes it more likely that I’ll be able to sleep. I exercise and meditate. I limit caffeine and computer use. I stay away from scary movies, or news that will keep me awake. No matter. There are still a few nights each month when I just can’t fall asleep.

Last night was one of them. I’d had a quiet day and a relaxing evening. I felt tired when I climbed into bed at 10PM. I read for a few minutes; when I turned off the lamp I could barely keep my eyes open. But then, sleep didn’t come.

I changed position. I tried, variously, to quiet my mind, then to just run through thoughts and worries to get them out of my system. I reviewed ideas for art classes. I went over the news of the day. Was I too warm? Too cold? Hungry? Nothing seemed urgent enough to force me out of bed. I continued to toss and turn. Until I had to make a run to the bathroom. That was four o’clock in the morning. Enough! I put on the coffee. There’s no sense in fighting it any longer!

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

11 responses »

  1. Sad to say, I can’t offer more than my sympathy. I’m thinking of trying some melatonin as a last resort. I’ve done all the things on the list that you’ve named, and still can’t get a decent night’s sleep more than half the time. Living alone affords me the luxury of naps, but I often long for more nights of 8 hours’ uninterrupted restful sleep. If you find the answers you’re looking for, let me know.

  2. Oh Cindy, I’ve always been one of those lucky people who can turn out the light and almost immediately fall asleep. However there are occasionally nights when I wake up in the middle of the night wide-awake and wondering what happened. And at these times usually get up and make a cup of tea and take it back to bed with a book and very shortly there after I go back to sleep. I still sleep seven or eight hours uninterrupted sleep most nights.

  3. I started replying to this post a couple of times today, but each time I got distracted because I’m tired from not sleeping. It looks like I am not alone! So when we’re up early in the morning (still, or again) we can know there are a lot of other women out there doing the same thing.

  4. Often have the same problem but I put on or rather microwave a cup of cocoa. Sometimes it acts as a comfortable soporific – doesn’t always work but at least it’s delicious

    • yes, sometimes simply something comforting like that will do the trick. I avoid chocolate in the night for fear of the caffeine making my sleeplessness worse. And yet, sometimes I can fall asleep for a mid-day nap after several cups of coffee! Thanks for reading, Lynne, and for your comments!

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