Jeez, it’s not like I haven’t been here before: Laying in bed, eyes wide open, alert as hell, (You know, “5 cups of coffee” kind of alert) wondering why I’m stuck here, now, when instead I should be gently floating on a dreamy cloud of billowy nothingness, eating cheesecake lollipops and listening to Pachabel’s “Cannon in D” performed by the cherubs flying around the heavens of my brain… I wish! No, instead of enjoying a deep, dreamy sleep, I’m lying in my dark quiet bed, where my body is hot and sweaty one moment, then cold and itchy the next. I’m anxious as hell, and becoming more and more fidgety with each passing moment; I’m also getting more and more annoyed with each one of my stupid thoughts, and keep glancing at the mother f@#$%&g alarm clock every five f@#$%&g minutes wondering when, oh when, will the Sandman come and release me from this f@#$%&g nocturnal nightmare of being wide awake at – what time is it now? 2:13 a.m.? AYFKM? Seriously, where is he? When is he coming? No, seriously, WHEN?! F*@K!
The reason I’m freaking out and rambling like a crazed, sleep deprived and potty-mouthed fool, because at this very moment I feel like one; this is the 4th time this week I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and realized my body has no intention of getting back to sleep anytime soon. I feel like Trevor Reznik, but without the skeletal frame, airport diner pie or Jennifer Jason Leigh to share my nocturnal wide-awakeness. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s still bad enough: Tonight’s edition of “Insomnia” finds me here, now, at 2:18 a.m. (and on a weekday to boot) after a paltry 4 hours, and once again, I can’t get back to sleep. I’ve been trying for the last hour to convince myself that if I lay still enough and don’t open my eyes, I will actually fall asleep… Nice try, Sucker!
So what gives? Why can’t I sleep? I’m not completely sure what tonight’s reason is; it’s not like (at the moment at least) I have some pressing work deadline worrying me, although such things have often kept me up in the past. I don’t think I’m going through any particular “life” stresses (at least no more than usual) or have some crazy-ass things dominating my thoughts (ditto) that keep my grey matter buzzing like an overactive bee hive; all I know is that I’ve been down this road many times before, and already know that no matter what I do / try, it never gets any easier.
How I Deal With Insomnia
I honestly don’t know why I’m awake, and it wouldn’t really matter if I did – the bottom line is I’m awake and can’t sleep. If my past history is any indication, I’ll eventually doze off around 5:50 a.m., a mere 40 minutes before my 6:30 a.m. alarm goes off. I’ll drag my sorry ass out of bed, be exhausted all day, and at around 2 p.m. I’ll be pray for quitting time (or Armageddon, whichever gets me horizontal first) then suffer through the next few
years hours until my head hits the pillow, and I can finally – FINALLY – get some sleep. And sadly, this scenario is about as good as its gonna get; or is it? The truth is that yes, insomnia is never a great situation; but after having been an “on-again/off again” insomniac for about 20 years, I’ve learned a few things, and have a few tricks on how to deal with it. Here’s what I do:
If I definitely know I won’t get back to sleep quickly, I accept it as fact, get out of bed, and then figure out the best way to spend the next couple of hours productively – which by the way – don’t include surfing the net, updating Facebook or watching T.V. – personally, these things piss me off for essentially wasting my valuable time. No, I said use the time productively, which is the point here: I figure if I’m going to be awake anyway, it only makes sense to use the time in a way that helps ease some of my daytime activities, you know, just in case I need to sneak a nap in at 3 p.m. without feeling the pressure of having too much left to do. Maybe a bit of sleep will also help clean up my dirty mouth a bit; either way, my advice to those awake in the middle of the night is to get busy doing something that that will (a) pass the time, and (b) lighten your workload for the following day.
Address Whatever is Worrying You HEAD ON:
If the reason for your insomnia is worry, then what are the thoughts /situations keeping you awake? My suggestion is don’t avoid them, or “hope” they gets better; make a plan to tackle your problem(s) head on, and work to eliminate them from your life; because if you do, it will allow you to get back to sleep! Debt problems keeping you up? Make a plan to cut spending and/or earn more. Unhappy at work? Update your resume and start searching for a better job. Worried about your health? Go to a doctor, improve your diet and get some regular exercise. Behind on your blog posts? Get writing!
Look, I don’t mean to sound glib or obvious here, nor do I want to dummy down serious issues because that’s not at all my intention – quite the opposite in fact. I want to make the point that worrying incessantly night after night about the same things without taking any kind of action is simply crazy and will keep us stuck. We need to make a plan to work through our problems and challenges, and then constantly work that plan until we feel more comfortable with our situation, regardless how long this takes.
Make a Plan
Hey, since you are up anyway, write down all the steps you need to take to get started to tackle your problem: For example, if you have debt problems, use this time work to develop a realistic budget, identifying ways to cut your expenses, and then look for other ways to create additional income. If you are unhappy at work, then work on your resume and research online for companies where you might be happier to work at then where you are now; make a plan to contact them and then, when all the sane people are awake, call and schedule interviews. Same goes for your health; commit to seeing a doctor, then start drawing up an exercise and diet plan to help you achieve your goals. Blah, blah, blah… you get the idea.
What about me? Here’s some of the things I do to be productive during bouts of insomnia:
• Read a book
• Go to the gym (At my 24 hour gym, I see people at 2 am every time!)
• Make a list of all that you want to accomplish that day
• Do research for any projects you are working on
• Go for a walk (as long as you are comfortable in your neighbourhood)
• Have a long, hot bath to relax
• Listen to soothing meditation music on the iPod
• If applicable, do some work from home.
• Write a column for my blog!
I hope this list helps give you a few ideas on how to be productive with this crazy time, rather than just whiling away hours and feeling crappy the next day. The bottom line is this: There are 24 hours in a day, so make them all count, regardless of how your sleep pattern switches them up. Do this, and you’ll feel more productive, happy and less stressed that you are tired all day, and still with so much to do.
And on that note, it’s time for me to (yawn) head back to my own bed and try and salvage a few more minutes sleep, so with that thought, I bid you a “Good Night”, and say “Sleep Well”.
Please Note: This post was written over 4 nights between the hours of 2:00 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. – and I’m not even kidding. f@#k!
Readers: Have you ever had insomnia? What ways have you found to be productive during this time? Please share your ideas, we’d love to hear them!