Ever since I was a toddler I’ve had a real problem getting to sleep. I can be completely exhausted and still incapable of getting my mind to switch off long enough for me to drift off.
Lying at bed in the middle of the night, exhausted but wide awake, is a prime time for worrying. And knowing this, knowing that if I can’t get to sleep I’m instead going to have to face four hours of tossing and turning while I get increasingly stressed about something that in daylight seemed like barely an issue, means getting to sleep itself becomes something to worry about. I start to worry about going to bed because it’s going to cause me to worry (which sounds crazy but that’s just how my brain works). So instead of turning the light off and trying to sleep I stay up as long as I can – reading, watching TV, playing on my phone – anything to stop me having to face the inside of my own head.
No one can predict which of life’s vexations insomnia will favour (Ian McEwan)
I’ve tried so many different things to help me get to sleep. Prescribed tablets and herbal tablets. Pillow sprays and different pillows. Hypnosis and massages. And nothing has helped. So instead I try to deal with the smaller problem and just distract my brain enough that even if I’m not getting to sleep, I’m not worrying.
I might recite poetry to myself or song lyrics or passages from books and films. Breathing exercises can work but it’s not really distracting enough – it is possible to worry while breathing deeply. Sometimes having an audiobook on can help but other times I get too into the story. So I switch to music but the noise might keep me up. And something that worked one night can be hopeless the next.
The ideal solution would be to have nothing in my mind that I possibly could worry about but that’s just not possible. I’m sure even the happiest person in the world when left in the dark with nothing but his own thoughts for company could find something to stress over.
Day 25 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.