I have trouble sleeping. I always have.
I don’t usually have trouble going to sleep. I get sleepy about the same time every night, I turn out the light and drift off to sleep within 10 minutes or so.
It’s the staying asleep that is a problem.
Usually about three or four hours later – around three o’clock – I wake up, wide ass awake. And I stare at the ceiling and think deep thoughts like, “I am a failure. I can’t win. I should quit. Nobody cares about you.”
Here’s the thing: I know none of that is true. I am good at what I do. I have kicked literally every problem I have ever faced in the ass, and came through it. I am good enough, smart enough. I am enough. I know this.
So anyway, I wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep. But the rare occasions I don’t wake up, I am sleeping the sleep of the dead, and wake up seven hours later refreshed and energized. The key is not waking up.
But I can’t manage to sleep through the damn night.
A while back, I read this book, by Arianna Huffington. One of the things she mentions are wind-down rituals – things you do before you go to bed, to tell your body it’s time to go to bed. I read it, and liked it, but also sort of ignored it. Because I wasn’t having a hard time falling asleep, but staying asleep.
But it still appealed to me – I like rituals and practices – so over the last few weeks, I have developed the following ritual.
It starts around 9:45PM. I make some chamomile tea and get out my laptop and my paper calendar (I’m old-school like that) and sit at the kitchen table. I might nibble on some dark chocolate.
I plan what tomorrow is going to look like. I look ahead to see if anything is coming up I need to factor in, or plan for. I might return an email if it can’t wait, but it can probably wait. I don’t want to be surprised.
I drink my chamomile tea and I log my day in that same paper calendar. I take a 5mg melatonin tablet, go into Renee’s studio where she is probably editing photos and kiss her goodnight. Then I go to bed and read nonfiction until I get sleepy – usually about 20 minutes or so – and then I turn out the light.
When I do this, I sleep through the night, and when I do wake up in the night – to go to the bathroom, say – I fall right back asleep. So it works – right?
I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s the tea, the melatonin, the peace of mind from planning my day, the satisfaction of logging my day, or if it’s the ritual of doing the same thing every day to tell my brain it’s time for bed.
But I don’t care. Not really. I only care that I am sleeping through the night.