Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Insomnia is a large part of my life. It is a foe I face daily, sometimes it wins, sometimes I win.

Actually, even on nights when I am plagued with insomnia, sometimes I win. On those nights that I find myself unable to relax, unable to turn of my mind and go to sleep, I have quiet time to reflect and to contemplate. I can pick a topic, meditate on the topic, and sometimes end up with some really great and thought-provoking moments.

Insomnia (at least for me) comes in several versions or flavors. There is the insomnia that won't allow me to fall asleep at bedtime. My mind is racing, my body is jumpy, and I can tell that getting into bed will be an exercise in frustration. I might read for hours, get out of bed and watch tv, or get on the computer and putz around (curse you Facebook).

Then there is what I call secondary insomnia. I go to sleep with little or no trouble. I sleep blissfully for anywhere from an hour to three and then something wakes me up. I might have a strange or bad dream, I might need to go to the bathroom, Connor needs me for something, Drew has a bad dream that wakes me. Suddenly I am awake and no for sure that I am not going to fall asleep again without a real struggle. These are the nights that I have to get out of bed and find things to occupy myself with while I try to get sleepy again, not so easy after what amounts to a power nap.

I have an arsenal of tactics to deal with insomnia. If I am in bed and feel like getting to sleep might be a bit of a struggle I have mind-visualizations that help me to quiet my mind. Basically give it something to work on, that will keep it on a fairly quiet task. This can lead to sleep. Some of my favorites.....

When we were planning to knock down our house and rebuild on the property, we were looking at literally hundreds of house plans. Each week I would pick a few that really caught my attention and if I found myself having trouble sleeping I would walk through these houses in my mind.

Once we settled on a house plan, I would walk through the house in my mind, seeing it complete and decorated, filled with the people and the things that I love.

I am an enthusiastic amateur genealogist and will use my research to help me sleep. I will pick a family line and track it back in my head for as far back as my research has taken me and I can remember without my notes. I will pick one person in that line, or one couple, or one family and I will try to visualize moments from their lives. One ancestor came over on the Mayflower and actually met Squanto, one was a 12 year old girl married to a man much her senior and brought by him to the New World in 1638 (what did she see/smell/hear/think as her foot stepped on the gangplank to leave behind all she knew?).

I am an historian. I will try to imagine what my property was like when my grandparents first saw it 80 years ago, what was it like when the first European saw it, the first Native America, what was it like before then. What were the sounds like, the vegetation, the topography? I will do the same thing to the mountains of North Carolina (where my father's family started in 1740), and the Eastern Shore of Maryland (where my grandfather's family goes back to 1693).

Lately I have been running numbers in my head- strange because I am so abysmal at math. Still, I will pretend I have won some huge lottery and try to figure out how much I would have to invest at what interest rate to secure a comfortable living for the rest of my life. Then I will take the remainder and fantasize about changing the lives of those I love, and those that would benefit.

When all else fails and I have had a few nights of insomnia in a row I will call in the big guns. I might take a Tylenol PM, sip Nyquil, or have a glass of wine. I have a series of things that will help to make me so sleepy at the beginning of the night that I am unlikely to have trouble sleeping through the night. Sometimes, like tonight, a glass of warm milk with a little ginger and honey in it will do the trick.

Yep, insomnia and I are quite familiar with each other. It is a drag, but I try to make it work for me. Most times I find that the ability to exercise my mind in the peace of the middle of the night has its benefits. Still, all the cool thoughts and reading, tv watching, and writing is not worth the lost sleep. Ahhhhh.. to sleep the sleep of the non-insomniac.

Well, off to sip my warm milk and catch up on a little reading. It's 2:09am, maybe I'll get back to sleep before the birds wake up!

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