I have always been asleep slut.
I love to rest, mainly because I operate at only two speeds: turbo and stop. I never imagined that a time would come in my life where I wouldn’t be able to surf that delicious wave of total surrender that would lovingly envelop me each evening. One where all you do is roll over, and you’re out.
I used to surf delta brainwaves inviting me to a delicious slumber the same way Garrett McNamara, an impressive surfer, surfs 100′ waves, but alas, no longer. Instead of being in that big deep ocean of profound relaxation and calm, I’m now in the shallow end of a pool, constantly bumping into either a wall or the floor. No floating, just bumping.
The commercials on television featuring a cornucopia of sleep remedies appeared to be for those who had not mastered this skill. I recall being smug when our family doctor shared that the order of our lives is sex, sleep, and a bowel movement in our youth, sleep, sex and a bowel movement when we’re middle-aged and sleep, bowel movement, and sex once we’re seniors.
I’m not going to lie; I’m pissed I find myself at this juncture. My mother was able to lay down and chop logs almost immediately. I inherited that same gift until my body proved otherwise. Now I roll over and am invaded not by body snatchers but by my monkey mind. Lists upon lists show up for me in my head and all the tasks that I couldn’t recall during the day start crashing like waves against a massive retaining wall, requiring urgent attention all at 2:22 am.
I did everything you’re supposed to do in your bedroom: have a good mattress, pillow, appropriate sheets, light cotton for the summer months, heavier quilts for winter. Weighted blankets, essential oils and still I sleep like a gnat. I can hear a fly fart, and then that’s it. I’m up.
I have my nightly routine of magnesium and melatonin, but it’s not enough. A friend shared some natural sleeping pills that I picked up, and they were terrific until they weren’t. When I went to replenish them, the herbal store no longer sold them as they had a medication in them that was the furthest thing from natural, consequently their abrupt removal from the shelves. Panicked, I tried to figure out how to get back to the magic kingdom when this was my previous ticket. My routine, now disrupted.
At our age alongside hormonal changes, we have to be thoughtful in how we treat ourselves. To miss sleep because we were partying when we were 18 meant we were a tad punch drunk. That same action today would cost us a week of recovery. Back then, rest came easily and quickly, and though you can never make up for lost sleep, you had youth on your side. You could consume sugary crullers and coffee to bridge you over until you were new again. That same method today could put you into a diabetic coma. Now we need to practice a ceremonial list of to-do’s to get us back to the magic kingdom. A warm bath, chamomile tea, not too soon before bed, or we’ll be up to pee. Fresh linens, soft pj’s, and most importantly, an emptying of both the bladder and the mind. Good luck with that latter one.
When motherhood came for those that walked down that road, you’re on a 24-hour cycle until you’re not. The Universe thought it might be hilarious to bestow upon us two kids with severe colic that started from 11 pm straight through to 6 am, for six months each. We experienced no sleep with either of them. I mainlined a diet of espresso to such a degree that the acid from the coffee beans ate through the commercial coffee cylinder churning that life-saving warm java juice. Each morning in the kitchen, all I needed to see was the brown coffee bag filled with rocket fuel. Though I was in my thirties with each of them, I can confirm that a six-month hiatus from sleep is hell. Fortunately, both kids had their teeth come in early, so solids followed, quick, hard and fast as nursing and lack of sleep are incongruent. At that point, all I was producing was lattes anyway. They could have had a biscotti to suck on and be primed babies ripe for a European, outdoor cafe.
We taught our kids the beauty of sleep. Before we went out, I insisted they napped, and just like the stop, drop and roll drill for fire, they’d stop, drop and roll over immediately chopping logs. Consequently, they would stay up late with us while we visited friends possessing a delightful disposition. No sooner did they hit their car seat on the return drive home, and they were out for the count until the late morning.
I never punished our kids when they were little when it came to sleep. I taught them to savour it. There was no go to your bed routine. They, in turn, inherited the same appreciation and respect for a good night’s sleep that I relish.
There are real and serious health benefits to sleep, from brain health to physical health and, of course, mood. It is when our organs get to rebuild, and our body regenerates itself. We even lose weight while we rest. What could be better? Our bodies are no different from having a luxurious electric car. But it needs to be plugged in, or it will go nowhere.
But now sleep eludes me. This is my bling and the most luxurious thing I can hope for—an entire night of uninterrupted rest. I’m a big believer in natural solutions for whatever ails me. When it comes to rest, I resort to everything from magnesium to warm beverages. I’ll welcome anything that comes from Mother Nature.
A friend who has insomnia purchased an audiobook read by Sting, but instead of dozing off, she got off, fantasizing about him making her more awake than drowsy, which ended up being a bust. Some other friends, who are also incredibly light sleepers, have shared that they occasionally listen to boring stories that sometimes work. Others supplement their sleep regiment with CBD oil, some with sex and others pull out their favourite bedside toy, which can bring on stress if it’s not charged or you’re out of batteries. Exercise is great if you don’t end up napping afterwards. Alcohol is a go-to beverage that does more damage than good. It might make you tired, but you’re unlikely to sleep through the night. Mental meditations can work well. Deep breathing exercises can help you get back to sleep, and visualization practises where you start at your toes and slowly move up your body, stopping at your feet, ankles, knees, etc. Feeling the weight of each area until you get to your face and your heavy head finally releasing your jaw and relaxing your tongue. By which time you should be yawning and nodding off again.
I never once thought this would become an issue for me. I was a racehorse for so long when it came to my quest for slumber, but now my luck has run out. I am, however, committed to change that and get out of the gate and run again. Straight to the finish line as I did all those years before.
A win being a solid night’s rest. No reading, reflecting, tossing, sorting, writing, working, planning or peeing. Just sleeping.