To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I’ve never been a good sleeper. The norm for me is four or five wake-ups a night, sometimes to pee, other times just to listen and make sure All is Well. Growing up in an alcoholic home, I got into this habit very early on. As a child, my hearing and intuition were always on high alert, just in case I needed to be ready for…whatever. Always on guard.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare writes some of the best metaphors for sleep. It’s a favorite play of mine.

Sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Isn’t that beautiful? The death of each day’s life. No matter how we try to save time, work non-stop – days die and we must sleep. Now that I am a woman of a certain age, hormones play into my pas de deux of insomnia, coupled with my already fitful light sleep. I am a MESS.

I cannot remember the last time I got through the night without waking up. I’ve tried many things – exercise; not drinking coffee past noon; turning the TV off an hour before bed; not using my iPad to read (the light is a subliminal signal to stay awake); not drinking ANYTHING past 8 p.m.; meditation; sleep apps, with all their varied background sounds (I’m partial to rain, thunder, and trains). It’s exhausting.

I want to try an old-fashioned mantel clock – one that peals out the hours every hour on the hour. My husband and I just returned from vacation in Boston, where we stayed in Rockport MA for two nights out of the trip. The B&B was close to the town church, and its steeple with a clock. Maybe it was the bed, or the ocean air, but I can vaguely remember, through my dreaming state, counting the chimes and relaxing when I knew it was only four a.m. and I could still drift off; I didn’t need to get up yet.

My doctor wants to give me something; non-habit forming and light, just to see if it could bring about a normal sleep pattern. I’m hesitant – no – resistant to that. I think that if you force sleep to come on, it’s not as restful as a cycle brought on by your own normal circadian rhythms. So, you’re going to be worse than when you started!

What’s the solution? I don’t know. Maybe I’m metamorphosing into something else. I’m a terrific napper. Sunday afternoons are my favorite – right after lunch, on the couch with a blankie and the kitties, I’m good for ninety minutes. I feel great when I wake up, but then invariably end up alert till one or two in the morning. 5:30 a.m. comes pretty quickly after that.

Even now, it’s four p.m. and I’m ready to close my eyes, even for fifteen minutes, but I’ve got another three and a half hours of places to go and people to see before I call it a night.

There’s something to be said for being reincarnated as a spoiled house-cat with comfy beds and hideaway spots, where I could sleep my twenty hours a day in peace.

Maybe in my next life.

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