Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep.
Or rather, I was sleeping peacefully until my boyfriend, rather abruptly and in his sleep, yanked the blanket off me, leaving me cold. And once I was conscious, I realized I had to pee, so I walked to the bathroom with my eyes half-closed because I was determined to not fully wake up.
But 20 minutes later, after stumbling back to bed and willing myself to fall back to sleep, I was still very much awake. Yawning, but not tired enough to pass out. Eyes closed, but only because I was forcing myself to.
So I started talking to myself, in my mind. You’re tired. Go to sleep.
Then the logical reasoning came. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to be grumpy during work tomorrow and crash during yoga. Seriously, go to sleep.
Then the shaming began. You’re always complaining about how tired you are, so why can’t you fall asleep now? Just go the f*ck to sleep.
After about an hour of this useless back and forth in my own head, I gave up trying to convince myself that sleep was just around the corner. It was time to accept that I was fully, unhappily awake. So of course, that meant it was time to worry and stress about random things.
And what better way to do that than to scroll through Instagram at 4 a.m.
It started with noticing an Elephant post and proceeding to go down the rabbit hole of work stress. Thinking about the things on my to-do list that I hadn’t crossed off. Stressing about stuff I had to do for next week. Realizing I couldn’t remember if I completed a task that a few hours ago I was certain about.
To distract myself from work stuff, I opened an Instagram story from a beauty blogger I follow. After a less-than-ideal haircut in May, my naturally curly hair has been the opposite of cooperative, taking up more time and energy than I have the patience for these days. This obviously led to another hour of watching hair tutorial Reels, followed by a downward spiral into “curly hair” TikTok.
Another hour of sleep lost.
None of the things I was stressing about were particularly important or revolutionary. And they weren’t things that I could solve or even address at this ungodly hour. I could’ve been worrying about abortion rights, or the climate crisis, or something that truly matters. But, like the heart, sometimes the brain wants what it wants. And worry and stress don’t discriminate at 5 a.m. on a Thursday.
Later that morning, when I was actually working, I asked our readers for a little advice:
I woke up at 3 a.m. and spent the next three hours looking at hair tutorials on Instagram and stressing about silly things I can’t control. Fast-forward to now and I’m feeling extra grumpy—which is not my best look! Any advice on how to turn my day around??
I got the expected responses, like taking a walk in nature, having a solo dance party, drinking more water, snuggling with my dog, giving myself time for a nap, and moving my body. All helpful, logical replies.
But there was one response, from a reader named April, that grabbed my attention and made me see my sleepless night—my stress, my worry—in a whole new way:
Waking up at that time is not the issue. The Universe is calling. It was where they focused their attention that was their downfall. This is a good opportunity to focus on motivational, inspirational content and even better some good ol’ fashioned meditation and journaling to see what your soul is wanting to communicate to you while the energetic traffic is low around you and you’re not so easily distracted.
It was that last bit that spoke to me most. My “energetic traffic” has felt off the charts recently. At times, it seems like every minute of my day is occupied with something. And although I’m chronically exhausted, it never occurred to me that waking up in the middle of the night wasn’t a punishment, or something to fight, but instead an opportunity.
An opportunity to check in with myself at a time when no one is expecting anything from me.
An opportunity to consider what I want and need to change in my life, and then get clear about how to do that.
An opportunity to connect to how I’m feeling, without all the noise of the day.
An opportunity to spend time with myself when the world is calm and quiet.
When I am calm and quiet.
It’s a reminder that my exhausted soul needed. And maybe one that you do too. May it be of benefit!