I have lost a skill I have had for 41 years: falling back to sleep. Something wakes me up, normally a feline or simply seeking a more comfortable position, and my mind is off to the races, dragging my oh-so-tired body along for the ride. As I lay there trying to convince my brain that worrying now about things that I can’t fix until it is light out is counterproductive, my mind seems to relax. I’m almost back to sleep when it picks up the trail of something else and then is off again.
Saturday night was one of those nights. I couldn’t turn off the brain. I really wish the power button was a lot more obvious … well, only if it truly were possible to turn it back on! (Thanks Under 30 CEO for this great representation!)
The clock seemed to be mocking me. There is no good reason I should ever see 2 AM on its digital display. I managed to get comfortable and in my head started to sing myself the lullaby, “Mockingbird.” I felt the first touches of sleep’s sweet embrace when my mind chimes in, “Wasn’t that song used in one of the Chuckie movies? We should check on the internet. Get up! Get up!”
[Author’s note: After getting up hours later, I did some internet research, and my brain was wrong. “Mockingbird” wasn’t the lullaby in question. It was “Ring around the Rosie” that appeared in the ad for Freddie versus Jason, not at all related to Chuckie, but who knows, he might have made a cameo. Obviously I’ve never seen that movie, but that trailer made a very faint impression that certainly stuck with me somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind.]
So after that fiasco I’d about had it with my brain, when into my flashed a sound bite of Samuel L. Jackson reading Go the F@#k to Sleep. It made me laugh and did help quiet things down up there.
When sleep finally had fallen, something cued the cats to start a round of Wrestle Mania in the living room. I could tell that Carmen wasn’t holding her own because she started growling: She is such a bad loser!
I did eventually get and stay asleep. The whole experience emphasized that I need a better strategy for coping with the all too frequent episodes of Brain Gone Wild happening in my skull.
Am I the only one that suffers from racing brain syndrome? What do other people do to fall back to sleep? or Isn’t Samuel L. Jackson’s voice spectacular?
10 thoughts on “2 A.M.”
I often have race-car brain that won’t shut off. I completely understand. I’ve spent many a night in just the way you describe – cat wrestling and all! I’ve learned that the harder I try to sleep, the less effective my efforts are, so even thought I know I may be tired, I will often just get up and do something – read, write, whatever. Occasionally, I’ll head down the hall to our daughter’s room and sit in her rocking chair while she sleeps – not a bad way to pass an hour, either.
Why do what sound like the most entertaining cat wrestling matches have to occur when it is dark so we can’t see them?
I know about the frustration of trying to make myself go to sleep. Some times I do get up and lay on the couch. Sometimes the change of scenery is all I need to go to drift off. If I read or turn a single light on, I’m up for the night. Then around 5 or 6 am, right when the alarm is due to go off, that is when I get tired. Darned brains!
Why does this happen? Anything can set off a bout of insomnia. The racing brain is annoying, too. Why can’t my brain race at 3 pm when I’ve got a thousand things to remember?
I so agree! I fade in the afternoon. If I could have all that mental energy when my body is actually screaming out to do something, I would be unstoppable!
I’m with you, I’ve lost the skill of falling back to sleep over the years too. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but when I wake up in the middle of the night, I usually stay up for at least a half hour to an hour. It happens most nights too. Usually I’ll have only 1 or 2 nights a week where I don’t wake up for a while.
I actually had a bad case of insomnia a few years ago. I even went to the doctor for it. Eventually I got over it and started to control it, but I guess I still have it a little.
You wouldn’t think something as basic as sleeping would cause us so much trouble! Bodies need sleep, we lay down, they should go to sleep. It’s not rocket science.
Hopefully you have developed some good strategies to help you get the sleep you need. I’m like you in that a full night sleep only happens once or twice a week. When there is that gap in between sleeping periods, they start to feel more like naps than the sleep I need.
I have two answers that are probably contradictory, so you can pick the one you like best.
First, I know several people who have had this waking up syndrome as a chronic condition for their entire adult lives, and it can be a real torture that affects every aspect of life. One of them is my partner of many years, and fortunately he is a very healthy and easygoing person to start with, because the stress this causes him could easily cause physical and mental illness. Because he’s still stuck in the rigid 8 to 5 workday, he has no flexibility in sleeping hours. With different prescriptions, he’s had some degree of relief, although never a consistent pattern of healthy full-night sleeping. If, like my partner, you are required to adhere to a particular work schedule, I do recommend that you get medical help to avoid any sort of anxiety-sleeplessness feedback cycle.
Second, there is a normal sleep pattern known as segmented sleep. Some scientists think that this is how humans slept in pre-industrial times. People went to sleep for a few hours, woke up for an hour or so, then went back to sleep. The time awake was spent meditating, praying, or solving the problems that had vexed them the day before. This was also the time that soldiers changed the guard (first watch – second watch), and monks went to Matins. So it was a natural break in the nighttime hours. When I have the occasional middle of the night wake-up, I think of this ingrained human trait and settle in for an hour or two of contemplation. But that’s easy for me, because I have no schedule pressing on me, and loss of sleep is no cause for anxiety. If you can afford to be flexible in your schedule, consider looking into this theory of segmented sleep, to see if it makes you feel more comfortable with your body’s behavior. (But still see a doctor if you’re not feeling good.)
Yikes, I think I broke a record for longest reply ever. :-
Thank you so much for your in-depth response. I appreciate that you took the time to relay all that information to me.
I feel fortunate that my sleeplessness goes in waves. Normally before I start to go completely nutters from lack of sleep, I’ll get a reprieve and either sleep through the night or wake up but then drop right back to sleep.
I know people who have gone years without a solid night sleep, and it definitely wears on them. I’m glad your partner has been able to get some help with the medical route.
Hi Tammy, linked to your blog from your post on Tim Seaman’s FB page, about your racewalk clinic. I’ve known Tim for a very long time, in fact made a documentary on him breaking Henry Laskau’s American Record for National Titles. I racewalked at the elite level and now coach racewalkers also. Getting my athletes ready for the Pan Am Cup Trials in two weeks.
Once I got to your blog I’ve been sitting here reading for about 45 minutes! Love your posts. This one about sleep loss was a good one also. Describes my nights to a T. But the line I love the most was, “There is no good reason I should ever see 2 AM on its digital display.” I thought, that is such a great line! You are a very good writer and express your inner self with insight and depth.
Keep up the good work. Email me if you ever want to talk ‘off-blog’, or friend me on Facebook. Chris
Thank you so much for stopping by, Chris. I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog.
Good luck to your athletes at the Pan Am Cup trials. How exciting!