Sleep has always been an elusive and difficult life skill for me to master.
It’s one where the harder I try, the more impossible a task it becomes.
That is, at least until more recently, since I have now become good friends with sleep. I no longer imagine it as a demonic dragon that I need to fumigate. There are no flames it breathes or wings it uses to fly.
For an insomniac like myself, sleep used to conjure up an anxiety like no other thing. Not so traumatizing as seeing a snake. No, sleep was not that kind of scary for me. It was more of a sensation of impending doom, like the knowledge of ultimate defeat or the subconscious awareness that none of us will evade the ultimate finality of life. Except it happened on the daily.
Sleep is not this monster with our fate in its black and smoke-like fingers. In occupational therapy school, I learned once again about the importance of sleep for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I learned how having better sleep habits or practicing more conscientious “sleep hygiene” could actually help. By doing things like: having a pre-sleep routine that helps to wind us down, minimizing screen time starting about an hour before bedtime, exercising adequately throughout our days so our bodies are tired out, meditating, drinking calming tea before bed.
I have tried all of these habits and experienced them helping me to have a good night’s sleep, but there are still nights when I am having a particularly hard time, when there is nothing I can do but surrender. In fact, I take sleep medication now sometimes, and, although I still wake in the night, at least it eliminates the anxiety I have surrounding falling asleep when I really need it.
But on nights when I can tell I won’t be able to sleep, and I have nothing majorly important happening the following day, I have learned to choose to enjoy the amazing, quiet grace that exists when everyone else in my house, life, and seemingly the entire world is asleep except for me. I no longer think of it as a lonely and scary situation to avoid like I did as a child.
Now, I am thrilled by the idea of being suddenly cast out into an abandoned land where every idea I have seems possible, where creativity is somehow magically more available, and I can write, draw, or play music without my inner editor/critic having anything to say—because that guy got on the zzz-train to Sleepy Town hours ago.
After years of battling sleep, I no longer call it a beast, because a good night’s rest is better than the best of friends. The best advice I can give to other fellow insomniacs and sleep-sufferers is this: when we can’t sleep, it is okay. Let us rest our bodies. We will make it through another day, like we have a million times before.
Try to enjoy the quiet and peace instead of torturing ourselves by agonizing and counting hours and worrying we will be “sooo tired tomorrow.” That does not help! I urge us all to instead find a way to get comfortable, to get up and wander out into the beauty of the untouched and vacuous night, and breathe expressive and expansive life into its air, like us writers filling the blank page.
If the neighborhood is safe enough, take a walk and stare at all the tree shadows. Write a poem for nobody. Play a quiet melody. Design a self-created music space, like I once did in my former life that was complete with a wooden stool, electricity, empty sky-blue Jacuzzi, wooden ceiling, floor and walls, and acoustics to dream after. Record these late-night findings, ramblings, songs, and calculations, as evidence of the creative powers that come alive for us at night. Let that proverbial “freak flag” fly. Take time to be so kind and gentle—because ultimately we only have ourselves.
Tomorrow, we will be even better for having had this special time that empowered us to transform from hell into a kind of private heaven here on Earth.
Okay, that’s all for now.
Happy night-walking, moon-bathing, and shadow-climbing, you beautiful and woke and restless souls. We are lucky to have you all among us, just like we are lucky to be accompanied by the light shining on down from the not-so-far-off stars.