"It has been some time since I have gone to bed and slept long and well...
I have found myself repeatedly stalking sleep--
and catching it only in snatches."
I have tried to accept what I have been unable to change. I bless the rare nights when I fall asleep before midnight and try not to let it upset me when I cannot. Usually I get up rather than lying there until I can't stand the touch of the mattress on my bones any longer. I iron or something quiet so I don't wake my husband and disturb the sleep that he stalks as well. Or I get up and write, not on my computer but with a pencil and yellow legal pad.
The middle of the night can be conducive to an easy stream-of-consciousness writing. Have you ever noticed that? I like these elegant lines by Robert Shallor Holmes. I jotted them down so many years ago that I have forgotten whether the "Author" he refers to means God, which can also make perfect sense here, or as I am taking it to mean an actual "author", a writer, perhaps even a blogger. Regardless, I like to think that his "velvet of the night" will entice forth my own middle of the night talent:
The Author's Rendezvous
When the silences are sealed
By the velvet of the night...
Robert Shallor Holmes
Robert Shallor Holmes
(Not that much of what I've written in the "velvet of the night" is ever any good when read by light of day, more's the pity!)
I'm not talking about missing a little sleep now and then or a night here and there tossing and turning. Or of the odd early morning when a bathroom trip means the end of that night's sleep. I'm talking about chronic insomnia and I've tried all the magazine tips to no avail.
My room is dark, quiet, and cool. There is no television or computer in my bedroom and no desk work piled up in a corner. There are no longer any pets in my bed to wake me up needing to go outside and potty now that my sweet Penelope is no longer with us. I've tried setting my alarm for seven every morning, getting up and staying up for five days in a row. Going outside in the sunlight in the morning to reset my melatonin. Buying a new mattress and new pillows. Not having caffeine after breakfast. Not eating chocolate. Eating a snack at bedtime. Not eating anything near bedtime. Going to bed tired physically. Going to bed rested. Afternoon nap. No nap. Nothing works.
I find that the best sleep I get is from about 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sleeping to 9 a.m. makes me feel that I've been reborn--but then it is more difficult to get to sleep that night. I've always loved the mornings, always been a cheerful morning person. I miss that so much and I miss not accomplishing all that I used to be able to in the morning. Sometimes I think I should accept going to sleep around 1 or 1:30 a.m. as the new norm and sleep until 9. Is there an age a person has to reach before they can do this without feeling slothful?
Oh, this all seems so embarrassing, so unseemly. It goes against what I believe in, that admonition of Schopenhauer: "Do not shorten the morning by getting up late; look upon it as the quintessence of life." I believe that. That principle was drilled into my sisters and me by our father, by example if nothing else. Our mother's principle was more on the lines of this cute paraphrase by Dee Hardie: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes your house neater than otherwise!"
My whole upbringing makes the following three words sound to me as irritating as chalk squeaking on an old-fashioned blackboard:
I have insomnia.
Should I just accept stalking sleep? Is there any help? Any non-pharmaceutical help?
"Insomnia does not consist in waking up for a few minutes in the middle of the night,
reading a chapter of a book and then dozing off again.
It means getting out of bed in desperation, at one or two in the morning,
dressing and coming downstairs, and wandering about an empty house
till dawn finds you with aching eyes and a splitting head.
After a week or so of this you neither feel nor look very pretty."
Beverley Nichols in All I Could Never Be