I have been an insomniac for well over twenty years now. It started in college and grad school where the cocktail of no curfew, my own room for the first time and the stress of procrastination in having to stay up late to get my work done conditioned my body to late nights and early mornings.
When I left school it only got worse, my hustle in the music business kept me out all hours of the night, while juggling the unconventional task of starting a practice that required 9-5 hours.
There was a long stretch (10 plus years) where I did not sleep on average more than 90 minutes to 2 hours per night. There were routinely 1 to 2 nights a week where I did not sleep at all, perhaps catching an unplanned 20 minute nap from exhaustion at some point in between. This would be funny if I was exaggerating even slightly, but this pattern was so extended, it just seemed normal to me…though I was clearly aware it was not.
At the insistence of a few who worried about my health, I saw a few doctors over the years. Most gave benign suggestions to the problem, others wanted to prescribe medication. Sleeping pills were not for me. I come from a family full of addictions and never trusted their non-habit forming claims especially after speaking to so many people who warned me that they fought dependency of them.
Herbal or natural remedies had no impact and I was resigned to a lifetime of little to no sleep. I have managed my stress much better over the last several years and in the process, I have increased my sleeping average to nearly fours hours a night. Even then the sleep is not usually restful, as I wake up multiple times during the course of the night.
I have difficulty turning my brain off at night. From stress to creativity, my mind races and silence and darkness are my enemy in trying to quiet the voices in my head. Sometimes the night provides clarity of thought and I try to organize or capture creative content. No phone or distractions also provide the most opportune time to do and review most of the contracts on my list.
For so many years I would get up 2 or 3 in the morning and drive down to Times Square. I do not mean the more sanitized tourist friendly Times Square of today, but the gritty, depraved cesspool that often contained 7 million of the 8 million stories in the Naked City.
Times Square back then might have possibly been the creative inspiration for “The Walking Dead” and as a people watcher, it was heaven within hell. I still take occasional walks and drives at night, but television has largely replaced my voyeuristic needs. The mindlessness of the idiot box provides the perfect backdrop to drown out the chaos of my mind.
Only recently have I realized that the light and noise that I thought was helping in stopping my mind from racing was also preventing me from getting truly restful sleep. My use of the timer has helped in insuring that the television finally goes off at some point, but all too often I find myself extending the timer, even after nearly dosing off but being awaken by the light or scene from the TV.
Needless to say as televisions have gotten bigger the light they transmit does as well, making for extended frustration for the normal sleep patterns of the woman in my life. The problem for me was that if I watched television in another room I could not then come back to bed with no distractions without literally staring for hours awake into the darkness.
A simple conversation with my brother may have finally sparked a solution to my issues. We were talking about chiropractors versus massages and I was extolling the virtues of regular massages as a means of both physical and mental stress relief. The conversation made me realize I was long overdue for a massage of my own and the imagery made me realize that I could duplicate the ambience that often makes massage rooms relaxing in my own bedroom.
Nothing brings me more peace and tranquility than the sounds and sights of the ocean, so I found a station on Pandora and it played a mix of melodic music with crashing waves. I am not sure how long it took, but I’m guessing within 10 minutes of putting myself to sleep with no television on, I was sound asleep. That almost never happens and I slept nearly through the night for about 4.5 hours.
Now I am not going to overact. First, I knew I was really tired to begin with cause I had slept only about ninety minutes the previous night and my eyes were fatigued from being on the computer all day. However, I am encouraged by the thought of having no light and putting myself to sleep with soothing background noise. This experiment is only in its infancy but it gives me something to look forward to after so many years.
I do not know if I will ever sleep 7-8 hours a night regularly. My body and mind are just so conditioned to little sleep. I am a night person, who still enjoys the tranquility of the house and my surroundings prior to sunrise. I regularly write at 6 or 7 am and find it to be a productive time of my day.
I am still in full hustle mode, so sleep has never really been a priority. However, I am not oblivious to potential long-term health effects from lack of sleep. Either way I am still trying to attain balance, but at the very least any breakthrough in the quality, even if not the quantity, of my sleep would be incredible.
I’ll keep you updated.
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#sleep, #insomniac, #massage, #peaceofmind