There’s a simple transition that we make every single day. It’s one we hardly notice at all, that is, until it no longer happens easily. . . falling asleep. Ah yes, that happy journey over the edge of consciousness, drifting gracefully into dream land. And yet, when I’m in the grips of insomnia, this nightly sojourn proves to be more difficult than trekking the Himalayas.
I have had bouts of insomnia throughout my life. I’m not sure why exactly – sometimes it is noticeably connected to situational anxieties and life circumstances, such as sick children or big presentations. But more often than not it comes like an unwelcome storm system, following me inexplicably for nights at a time. I have tried to create good sleep hygiene habits (like not watching the news at night, reading calming pre-sleep materials, sticking to a regular schedule), but still I sometimes find myself wide awake, longing for sleep.
For years, my insomnia would spiral into a kind of insane argument with reality: “I’ve got to fall asleep right now! I need to be asleep. Why aren’t I sleeping? I have to be awake in five hours. Hurry — fall asleep!” I can attest that tossing and turning, huffing and puffing, wailing and railing does NOT assist the transition to peaceful slumber.
Now I have a new strategy – I allow insomnia to run its course. I get up and journal or read through the wee hours of the morning. I rest in the restlessness. I face my fatigue with a little more compassion and reschedule what I can the next day. Yes, sometimes I still might mutter under my breath but I try not to resist. I wouldn’t go so far as to call my insomnia a blessing, but it’s less of a curse now. And I’m finding that acceptance often leads, eventually, to better zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.
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