3.28.2012

The In-Between Time







A few quite moments snapped at b. gover last week...not necessarily insomnia related but pretty nonetheless, yes?

Ok, first things first, you have to give me a pass on any nonsensical ramblings or glaring grammar mistakes, as I'm writing this one in the midst of some rather epic insomnia...

The insomnia situation is a pretty common occurrence for me, usually striking every other week or so on a night when I need sleep most (i.e. the night before some incredibly important task), thus freaking me out even more than it might normally. Here's how it goes down: I'm startled awake by something at say, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. (usually Millie padding into our room and crawling into our bed); I spend 30 minutes or so trying in vain to fall back asleep; I finally give-in and (try to) revel in the possibilities of being awake in that in-between time when everyone else is snoozing and the house is peaceful and quiet and dark.

My friend Tim actually inspired this reveling. We were talking a couple of years ago about his tendency to regularly get hit with insomnia at 3:00 in the morning. When I asked what he does, how he falls back asleep, he told me he just embraces it. He gets up, watches a little television, maybe reads. Sometimes he goes back to sleep, sometimes he doesn't. No biggie. (There's nothing like a good display of nonchalance to put things in perspective...)

So in the the in-between time I try to chill. I read the magazines that I never have the chance to get to, I write (albeit not well), I look at pretty blogs and eat buttery toast and drink (lots) of coffee, I stare out the window. It's goodness.

I'm wondering, are you guys on the insomnia train? If so, do you give into it? Do you fight it? What do you do in the in-between time? Spill.

29 comments:

Emily Boyle Westbrooks said...

Those nights are the worst. I find I do what your friend does - I try not to fight it. The more I lay there, mad and panicking that I'm not going to get enough sleep, the less sleep I'm bound to get. So I read and have a cup of hot milk, then try to sleep once I'm relaxed again!

sheislikethat said...

I agree...trying so hard to relax and fall back asleep makes it more difficult! Often I'll fall back asleep for a measly hour or so until I have to get up and face the day, and I find that I have crazy, colourful, wild dreams in that hour. I've often wondered why?

annie said...

Hello. You'll like this BBC article about the myth of the eight hour sleep. Apparently we're supposed to be awake at that time and that's why so many of us have this problem!

http://bbc.in/zPiQrO

Cheryl said...

This is all too familiar for me. There are times I have tried to fight it off, but in most cases I usually find something to do i.e., write a new lesson plan, find images for a new ppt presentation, paint, draw, go through my google reader. Those are the usual suspects, but last week pinning became a problem. Lets just say I paid the price...going to bed at 4:30 waking up at 5:45 then teaching for the day. I felt a little bit like a zombie!
I have been a late owl since I was a teenager so its nothing new to me. I actually feel more creative and productive during those hours.

Amy Robinson said...

I have been getting insomnia too, and like you, almost always when I need sleep the most. I tend to lay in bed trying to sleep and not succeeding. I think about getting up and hope I'll fall asleep... like you. I need to try this getting up thing. I bet I'd like it. Though the next day would still be awful!

SuchSmallSteps said...

I get the same type of insomnia- situational, usually when I have something big the next day like a business trip or important meeting. The best thing that works for me is regular acupuncture and Chinese herbs (I'm not totally convinced the herbs do anything but the acupuncture does!) I've never thought about just embracing that time, though. I'm too nervous about trying to get through a work day on no sleep!

Caitlin said...

I think I need to learn to embrace it as well. Sometimes it's just not easy to fall back asleep so the idea of getting up and actually doing something sounds a lot more rewarding.

Thanks for always sharing whats on your my friend! xx

ale norris said...

I've been on the insomnia train lately, too! My husband goes out of town for work pretty often (once to twice a month), and that's when I get it the worst. Last night I embraced it though, I picked up my book that I just started and got sucked in, but tired enough to knock out about an hour after I woke up. But I definitely avoid looking at the clock so I don't get too freaked out that I have to wake up in a few hours!

-ale @ http://24thru30.blogspot.com

Sarah said...

I try to embrace it, and think of it as "extra" hours that I get to enjoy. We all talk about how great it would be if the day had more hours - I sometimes get more awake hours!
I make some herbal tea, read a book and revel in the alone-ness of the early morning.

Aimee @ Smiling Mama said...

I, too, can't sleep before a big day. One time someone (I have no idea who!) told me that actually the sleep you had two nights ago actually influences how your day goes more than the previous night. I don't really get it, but telling myself that sure does help me freak out less about being unable to sleep before a big day!

TheMuscatoHansens said...

So interesting hearing your story and reading the comments... I also wake around 2 or 3 on THAT night that I need sleep the most... I always just sit there in agony flipping over and over and wishing to fall back asleep, I have never tried giving into it "nonchalantly". I love that :) Maybe I will try that next time, I just always imagine I will have two little ones waking and padding after me with a heck of a lot more energy than I do...

Nadya Sagner said...

I save podcasts for just that time--something about Fresh Air or This American Life is both interesting and relaxing (and usually puts me to sleep after a while).

JWK said...

I've been embracing it! At 7 months pregnant I find myself up at 3 AM most nights now!! Reading, sewing, SATC reruns-you name it. Luckily after a few nights of waking up I'm so tired that I get a full night's sleep a few times a week!!

celinejn said...

Well, I for one can't embrace it due to the epic meltdowns I'm prone to having when sleep derpived. (When sleep deprivation and PMS collide, I get full blown panic attacks.) I don't have any trouble falling asleep, but I also wake up at 2 or 3 and can't go back to sleep.

Thus, Benedryl. I take one every night, then when I wake up at 2 or 3, I fall right back to sleep. I take just one, so the grogginess is not a factor.

Kelly and Kelly said...

The only time I've ever had insomnia was when I was pregnant with my third daughter. And it was miserable. I think it was because I really needed the sleep (hello first trimester) or else I would feel way more sick.

but I love your idea of embracing it.

elisabeth said...

I used to be plagued by insomnia with some regularity until my husband shared a trick a few months ago. I'm not sure where he got it, but it has been freakishly effective. You just count "one, two" over and over in tune with your breath, while diligently putting other invading thoughts out of your mind. It could be any mantra, I suppose, but I think the banality of reciting the same two numbers is part of the effectiveness for me. The fact that I always fall asleep in a minute or two probably suggests I wouldn't be good at meditation.

Oh, and I read the BBC article Annie mentioned above. I love the idea of a kind of magical hour or so in the middle of the night for more mediative pursuits, but it just leaves me too tired when going to bed late and waking up early with a baby and toddler. One day I could absolutely see adopting that though.

xoxo

Lizzie said...

I get insomnia monthly or bimonthly but it's never just one night - it's usually a 2 week period with 4-5 nights of never actually falling asleep. After dealing with this since I was in 4th grade, going to sleep clinics, psychiatrists, etc. I suggest the following: a) If you have an important but normal length day ahead try reading a NOVEL (fiction is best), not a magazine, not a short story, nothing that will cause your brain to make big transitions in a short amount of time. You may fall asleep and you may not but the important thing is to not overstimulate yourself because you'll need to be fully stimulated later. b)If you have an important and LONG day ahead then just lay there and be okay with just laying there. You might think about things and you might not. Try breathing excercizes, counting, humming, whatever might relax you. If you get into anxious/paranoid thinking cycles pull out the book until it goes away. Laying in bed relaxing with eyes closed is as close as you can get to stage 1 sleep - aka reserving as much energy as possible for the long day ahead. c. If you just can't do either of those things without stressing yourself out then yes - get up. Clean, make lists, paint, take photos, my favorite is to go for a walk. Anything that requires phsyically moving around will begin to even out your brain's energy (high, which is why you woke up, to low) with your body's energy (low to high). BUT AVOID TVs and COMPUTERS and CELL PHONES and other screens for as long as humanely possible because they make your brain and eyes work super hard which is so terrible if you're going to need your brain and eyes to be sharp for your big day ahead. The trick is to remember you've been here before. You've been tired, had long days, faced challenges, and you were fine. It's nothing alarming, nothing to be nervous about, it's just learning how to make the most of less sleep.

STUDIO DESIGN said...

When insomnia strikes, I reach for a book or article that tends to be dry or technical. After a few pages, my eyelids get heavier and I end up falling asleep. It works most of the time. As others have said, it seems more productive NOT fighting it.

Good + Happy Day said...

This happens to me too. I think it's mostly hormonal. When I was pregnant I would go days with only a few hours of sleep a night. It was crazy! It got so bad I wouldn't even bother trying to sleep, I would just get up and do real stuff, laundry, thank you notes, blogging. I do find that as I get older I have a hard time falling asleep again if I'm woken up (mainly my 18-month old wakes me at least a few times a week). I usually read until I fall asleep again. But I did hear about a trick for falling asleep and it really works well: replay the whole day in your head. Not summarizing, but really slowing it down and replaying moment by moment, in "real time". I guess my days are not that interesting because it never fails--I"m asleep again before I get out the door! Try it!

amy said...

Oh my... it happens to me every single night. I wake up and just know that it is four a.m., and it always is... Crazy! I thought I was alone...

beepee said...

Oh yeah, I have that problem too! Usually 3-4 nights a week i will wake up between 1am to 2am for a few hours. I find that as long as I can get back to sleep for even just an hour before its time to "get up" then I can cope. Well...that and a giant flat white (coffee) will get me through!! And yes, read the article on the myth of the eight hour sleep, it will make you feel much better.

Jen C said...

Me too. Three am. Always. I usually just lay there as my mind races.
Two hours later I'll fall back to sleep. So I guess my technique is to just wait it out.

That being said, over the years I've tried to keep paper and pencil on my night stand so I can write things down and that's been somewhat helpful.

la la Lovely said...

I have managed on little sleep for almost 3 years now. Mostly, from baby wakings but now that they are, for the most part, sleeping, I find myself staying up until 2 (when you are waking up) to get things done and do as I please. I love this time. But lately it is getting to me. I think my body is asking for more rest. All that to say, when everyone else is asleep I love to write, catch up on blogs and do my own blogging.
xo . t

About Last Weekend said...

Hate to say it, but I could sleep all day and all night which is not necessarily a good thing either. And I don't wake up feeling refreshed. Not sure what the answer is...

Sarina Evelyn Cass said...

First, I want to go to Dallas and check out that shop! Second, what a wonderful thing to say "it's goodness". I always fight it and have such a hard time getting out of bed and reading, etc. But then just lying there makes me feel crazy because all those things that keep me up (thoughts, anxieties) are ever present. You have the right idea! Sarina @ lowtidehightide.blogspot.com

katy said...

Hi Joslyn,
So sorry to hear about the insomnia. It can feel so frustrating and defeating. I go through periods of it too although my issue is with falling asleep not falling back to sleep after waking. Here are a few things that work for me:
1) Get up and have a snack - handful of almonds, slurp of juice.
2) Move to a new bed - guest room, couch. This change of scenery usually works for me.
3) Wake up earlier in the morning.
4) Vigorous aerobic exercise during the day.
5) Eat a few slices of turkey - the tryptophan can aid sleep (you can also get supplements but may as well try the real thing first.)

I think not fighting it can be useful but can eventually leave you feeling helpless.

Good luck! I hope it passes quickly.

Bestie said...

oh my goodness, i can totally relate to this post. i usually fight it and try to go back to sleep...if i can't, i catch up on blogs for awhile. if it's 4:30 or later, i usually just get up. thx for a post i can totally relate to!

Torrie said...

I absolutely agree with his approach. A few years back, I had a pretty heavy case of insomnia. I was pretty bothered {& freaked out} by it, since sleep had never been an issue. Eventually, I developed an evening “ritual” so that when I woke up at 2,3,4 am- I wouldn’t panic- or stress out about the fact that I couldn’t sleep… I’d just drink a little milk (and I’m not even a milk drinker, but read that it along with toast- helps with insomnia) & go out to the couch, open my book up, and read (or watch tv at times… didn't have my laptop back then :)).  It sounds over simplistic, and believe me- I was still a bit bothered (that I felt wide awake)/worried (that I would be exhausted the next day) but this idea of not FIGHTING IT (while at the same time- not accepting the negative emotions) was pretty powerful… As silly as it sounds, I had to literally become a nurturer to myself- telling myself- it’s OKAY… no big deal! And sure enough, gradually- I'd wake up, grab a blanket, walk to the living room, lay down, open my book- and within *minutes… fall right back asleep :).

Torrie said...

p.s. I agree with the comment above about avoiding tv... it always seemed to keep me awake... never relaxing me enough to fall back asleep.