Copyright 2003 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
A Bumpy Night
If a good night's sleep is like driving along on a smoothly paved
highway, a night with insomnia is like creeping along an alley filled with
potholes, overturned garbage cans, and vicious dogs. I'm at the age where
most of my nights have a speed bump or two in them (is it hot in here, or is
it just me?), blankets on, blankets off, toss, toss, turn, turn. I usually go back
to sleep after turning my pillow over to the cool side, but, on some nights, I
end up on a detour and get hopelessly lost.
Why is 3:00 A.M. the hour at which my brain decides to fixate on
problems and situations that I can't do a thing about, at least not at that hour
of the night? Around and around, gotta do this, should do that, which bill
should I pay first, can we afford to fix something now or should we wait
until it gets worse, what if this, what if that, and my natural talent for
envisioning the worst-case scenario runs full-tilt, without the reality filters
I'm able to apply during the day. When it's dark outside, I can't seem to
convince myself that the sky isn't falling, and my brain races in panicky
circles like Chicken Little.
My only recourse on nights like that is to turn on the light, pick up a
book, and read until I fall asleep with the book on my face. I've learned that,
if I force my brain to follow a story line, it'll stop running in circles; a while
later, I'll close my eyes to "rest" them for a moment, and then sleep for the
rest of the night. If the book isn't on my face (to block the light while I'm
"resting" my eyes), I'll often wake to find my finger still squashed between
the pages, holding my place.
Sleeping with the light on isn't the best sleep, but it's better by far than
not sleeping at all, even with the light off. I want to turn the light off when I
fall asleep while reading, but, if I rouse myself enough to do so, I run the
risk of going back into brain spin and tossing about for a while, until
resigning myself to reading some more, then sleeping with the light on.
I know why Lucy and Ricky Ricardo slept in twin beds, and it wasn't
because of the prudishness of 1950s television censors. Ricky was probably
either a blanket snatcher or a bed hog, or both, and Lucy shivered on the
edge of the bed until she got her own mattress. It wasn't Ricky's fault; he
was just a sound sleeper, and probably told Lucy. "just shove me back over
to my side, Honey, and pull the blankets toward you." What he didn't
understand was that, if Lucy had to wake up enough to think about shoving
him instead of half-sleeping, politely, on the edge of the bed, she ran the risk
of waking up all the way. And when your partner is sleeping soundly while
you can't, even listening to them breathe is aggravating. Sleep jealousy is an
In North Baltimore, we have trains, and I live near the tracks. Most of
the time, I sleep right through the whistles and roar of passing trains; I'm
used to them, and they pass quickly. There are some nights, however, when
they sit on the tracks going "tick, tick, tick," or shunt slowly back and forth
on the grain elevator's siding with a great deal of squealing, creaking,
groaning, and banging, creating a cacophony worthy of Dante's Inferno.
Usually, they seem to start doing this right after I've finally drifted off with a
book on my face.
I'm not good at taking naps; if I fall asleep at all, I usually wake up
from a nap feeling groggy and disoriented for another hour or so. With the
advent of my middle-age insomnia, however, I'm getting better at napping in
the afternoons. Sleep experts might say that this contributes to the next
night's insomnia, but, like all experts, they often contradict each other. All I
know is, if I'm not asleep thirty minutes after I turn the light out, or if I wake
up at three in the morning, I've driven off the smooth highway of sleep, and
it's going to be a bumpy night.
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