“I had a dream!” I yell to Mike from the other side of our bed, as I wake up, almost jumping out from beneath the covers with excitement.
“Well that’s wonderful, Dr. King,” he tells me, which, I admit, is a pretty good line, considering he was still half asleep.
I ignore the sarcasm, and tell Mike the details of my dream, even though I am pretty sure there is nothing more boring than your spouse telling you their dream (unless of course, it is x-rated…and your spouse is featured.)
But I am giddy about my dream. I hardly ever dream. In fact, I hardly sleep. So the fact that I could remember a dream meant that I actually got some REM sleep, and I was about to have an incredible day. Because, as Jane Kellock said in her Telegraph article about her insomnia from a few years ago, after a full night’s sleep, she feels so exhilarated, “it feels like I have been born again.” Anyone who suffers from insomnia can relate.
For many midlife women, this time of unrest has been a lot longer than the 120 or so days of the Trump presidency. Most of us at midlife are bi-partisan insomniacs—we don’t sleep no matter who is running the country. Come to think of it, the last time I got more than 6 hours for a few days in a row, Richard Nixon might have been President. Midlife women are not necessarily worrying about the big picture at 4AM. I may worry about the world all day long, but in the middle of the night, my brain whirs with the craziness of my personal anxieties: my children, my vacation, my work. In the middle of the night, personal issues trump Trump.
We are bombarded with information about how a good night’s sleep can help prevent heart disease, stroke, obesity, depression, senility and just about every other disease known to mankind. You didn’t get a good night’s sleep? Well, you are in for trouble ahead! This kind of sleep shaming just gives us more to stay up worrying about.
So…we try cutting down on caffeine and alcohol. We try putting away our smart phones. We darken the room. We have orgasms. We try lavendar spray, and Melatonin, and medical marijuana. We eat right, we get plenty of exercise. But for many of us, none of that works on a consistent basis, or it is just too difficult to be so perfectly behaved. Sometimes, you just have to check your email before you go to bed and skip the orgasm. Sometimes, you really need that glass of wine and your iPad.
I have come to believe that there are no great solutions to insomnia, so I have adjusted my attitude instead. The only way to look at insomnia at midlife is as a gift: an early start to the day where you can have some alone time and really kick ass and get things done.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I made a list of what I did when I woke up at 4AM, and although I did not solve world hunger, it was still pretty impressive:
I folded the sheets, taking care to fold the fitted sheets the right way.
I wrote a first draft of my blog for the week.
I watched 12 minutes 25 seconds of the most amazing Stephen Colbert monologue ever (over 7 million views now so check it out below
I caught up on and answered unread emails
I read 7 new submissions to BA50
I scheduled 3 of them for publishing
I caught up with all my Words With Friends games
I made hard boiled eggs
I wrote two hand written thank you notes
Before I knew it, it was 6 AM and my alarm clock went off (how ironic, and yes, I still set it every day…just in case.) There was still plenty of time left in the day to solve world hunger…and I had almost finished the egg salad. If I am falling over my computer and pretty much brain dead by 3PM…well, that’s just too bad.
For now, I am embracing the wee morning hours as a time to get stuff done. And I started to embrace an earlier bedtime, which is easy to do when you haven’t slept the night before. If one goes to sleep at 9PM, then 4 AM is actually not a bad time to rise and shine and make the egg salad.
By chance, Mike sent me an article from web MD—What is more dangerous: driving drunk or drowsy? over the weekend. It’s a fun little quiz about sleep, and I totally failed it.
Give it a try here.