Perchance to sleep?

I have always been a bad sleeper.  The family story is that my mother had to sleep with me until I was six-years-old because I was afraid of the dark.  I feel almost certain that I was the only ten-year-old in 1979 using my construction-worker father’s earplugs to help me sleep.

Those who have struggled with insomnia may agree that the suffering is twofold.  First, there is the exhaustion, and frustration, that comes from being sleep-deprived.  Worse, I think, is the time.  Time to think.  Time to reanalyze and reevaluate – and, if you are like me, reevaluate and reanalyze.  Several months ago, I ran across an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s “The Concept of Anxiety” that brought to mind precisely how I feel during my nighttime wakefulness:

And no Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety . . . choosing the instant when [we are] weakest . . . [it] never lets [us] escape, neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work at play, neither by day nor by night.

When I find myself awake in the middle of the night, I search for things to comfort me.  A warm pillow for my always-frigid feet.  A snack.  I believe the number of Ritz crackers I have eaten in the middle of the night may have positively impacted the overall profitability of Nabisco.

If my daughter isn’t home, sometimes I crawl into her loft bed.  I love the way it smells.  The cheap wooden ladder creaks, threatening to splinter with every step.  One rung hangs at an odd angle in an unspoken dare to climb.  But, the promise of comfort is stronger, so I continue up the ladder.

Her twin mattress is covered with too many pink and purple pillows.  Ponies, kitties and bears form a plush menagerie.  All is illuminated by grey light that forces its way around the edges of the polka-dotted curtains.

By the time I lie down, I have been awake too long.  I can feel the ache in my shoulders slide down my back and settle, oddly, in my knees.

Maybe sleep will find me here.  Like a faithless lover, he flirts, sometimes allowing me to briefly doze, but always moving on to greener pastures, leaving me with only bruised, bloodshot eyes and a heavy soul.

What he doesn’t understand, however, is that in my pastel, stuffed-animal fortress, I am strong.  Love protects me from the whims of fear and worry, my breathing slows and I drift off to sleep.

  6 comments for “Perchance to sleep?

  1. heatherschaeffer
    April 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    I wish I had a loft bed that had such an effect on me. As you know, I too have often spurned by the fickle Sandman.

    • April 7, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      The next time you are here, you can try it out! It isn’t foolproof, but it is worth a try! 🙂

  2. April 8, 2014 at 1:55 am

    I stopped sleeping the day after my twins were born. They’re 15. I appeared on a CNN segment in 2001 about insomnia because I was the worst case Northside Sleep Clinic had ever seen. Ever. My insomnia is rooted in the knowledge that no one will hear my crying child (or barfing dog) but me, and a snoring husband. (Lorena Bobbit’s story comes to mind now and then.) But I do now find slumber with my Hello Kitty Pillowpet, a stuffed tiger from Disneyworld, and my Kindle. I totally get the loft, and when my kids are gone, I sleep in my daughter’s bed. My son’s room smells like, a, well…teenage boy. :/

    • April 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Yes, Lisa, I could see that we share the characteristics that lead to insomnia! So nice to hear from you. I love keeping up with you and your family on FB.

  3. Hedy
    April 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Ladies, something I have known for a long time but didn’t always use, may be helpful here. In addition to avoiding foods that promote wakefulness, screens that are right (tv, computer, phones), the following technique is most helpful. Settle down in a place which is a good temperature. Put all electronics on ‘hold’, at least in your mind. Tell yourself your are going to sleep and get up at a certain time (unless there is a real emergency (need) to arouse). Very slowly and gently let the inside feelings begin to flow toward and out your feet (the feet will warm up), off the bed and down through the house and as far as you want to describe their travel. Repeat these steps as needed. If you would like to learn more, look up the Silva Method. This has been out there for decades and is based on techniques much older.

    • April 12, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      I appreciate the great suggestion, Hedy!

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