Sleepless beauty

Did you get a good night’s sleep last night? If so, i do not want to hear about it. Actually, scratch that, let me live vicariously through your good sleeping, please! Maybe if i hear of restfulness, i will find rest too. Doubtful, but maybe.

I was in seventh grade when someone first told me about insomnia; i thought that it was possibly the most ridiculous made-up syndrome I had ever heard. Honestly, who could be tired but not sleep? Surely, that was not possible; tiredness and sleep go hand-in-hand. It’s like saying you have a PB&J sandwich, save the J or you’ll spend the summer without ice cream/bonfires/sunshine/pools or, even, have a perfectly good bed without sheets to sleep on. The impracticability of one without the other is absurd. I wondered, ‘how can a person lay in bed, be exhausted and, yet, not sleep?’ Some years later, I would recognize that insomnia not only was real, but crept its ugly face into my life, leaving my popcorn without hot sauce..

Unfortunately, sometime during my university years, sleeping poorly became my norm. I would not have called it insomnia, because who sleeps well during their university years? Telling a fellow student that you did not sleep well was like telling them you had to study for the final exam. You were likely to get a lot of ‘no duh’ looks and no sympathy. A lack of proper sleep was an accepted part of the college student’s life. Complete rest was a myth, a full night’s sleep was unheard of, and honestly, pulling all-nighters and thereby depriving your brain of the rest and fuel it needs to be fully functional, was sort of a badge of honor. I digress. Whether it was because I was stressed, cramming too late, eating too late, never on a stable schedule or the fact that I worked at a coffee shop until midnight, I am unsure. Likely, it was a delicious combination of all of the above.

I have developed a few coping mechanisms over the years, to proactively kick insomnia in the butt. I listen to “natural” sounds, such as waves or thunderstorms, the click of a bonfire or raindrops on a tin roof. Sometimes I make hot tea or take a hot shower (a luxury not currently afforded, living in Uganda) right before bed and other times I play classical music for at least 30 minutes before I lay down. If you had asked me when I was 14, how I prepare myself to fall asleep, I would have told you “I lay down in my bed, say a prayer and close my eyes, wiggle around to find that perfect spot and 30 minutes later I’m out.” Never would I have guessed, 12 years later I would be lying in bed, wishing genuinely that I could fall asleep.

During weeks that I have not slept well, I make myself stay up extra late. I hope that if I force myself to stay up and be productive, combined with previous nights of little sleep my body and brain will be forced to shut down when I lay down. Last night, for example, was night 4 of especially poor sleep, so I am stayed up until I nearly fell out of my desk chair. “Especially poor” sleep is an unwelcome devil. She lingers around the corners of your exhaustion and allows you the taste of respite before holding you hostage to wakefulness. She is behind the nights of lying awake for 2 ½ hours, exhausted and fully awake. She finds amusement and joy in letting you experience the beautiful embrace of slumber, in complete coziness then reminds you to change positions, knowing you will not fall asleep again for an hour. It is those nights that I watch too many reruns of New Girl or Parks and Recreation.

I can go to bed completely exhausted, when it is nearly impossible to keep my eyes open, I walk like a drunk person, but as soon as i am in the most comfortable position, curled in my bed, my mind is suddenly alert and exploring thoughts. Why? Who knows.

Luckily, I now have a puppy who greatly appreciates my sleepless schedule and takes full advantage of the 3am saunters outside. Around 4:30 am, I roll over, look on the floor and there she is, sitting and waiting for me to get out of bed. I go outside for a short time, Rory walks around, finding the perfect spot to do her business while i look at the beautiful sky. Some nights it is worth being awake just to see the vast number of stars glowing like a million candles in the sky. I am solemnly reminded that there is beauty everywhere, even on sleep deprived evenings, Africa, USA or anywhere else I might be sleeping- they sky is a constant reminder of the glorious beauty of the world I live in.

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