Tossing and turning? Thoughts on Insomnia

I’m actually meant to be writing a post on insomnia and what exactly to do about it, but there seems to be job interview taking place on the couch right next to my desk at the “office” and it’s driving me crazy. A talkative Spanish woman (attractive, mid-late 30s, khaki dress + beige cardigan combo, over-plucked eyebrows and huge mole at the very top of her right cheekbone/temple area) is being interviewed by a quiet English woman (early 40s, furrowed brow, aquiline nose, sandy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and apple-shaped physique — the one highlight in her appearance really is the pair of Chelsea boots she’s wearing, which I am currently obsessed with) for some sort of mid-level executive position in a marketing firm (I think).

Anyway, this animated Spanish woman is doing a wonderful job at marketing herself to the interviewer, and very loudly. I’ve had it with hearing about her love-life (i.e. why she moved to London) and how she saved her previous employers’ ass during the economic downturn. I plugged in my earphones and turned on my John Coltrane radio channel on Spotify. Now I’m gratified with just glancing over at the scene whenever she gesticulates wildly. Yak away, Lady, I’ve had my revenge on you on the internet, HA!

But insomnia. Tonight I was hoping to see a friend but he’s too tired because he was unable to sleep all of last night.After teasing him about staying up too late texting girls, I thought why not write about it? (I sometimes struggle with coming up with ideas for daily posts–it’s hard work! Please feel free to pass on any nuggets you might have–you may inspire a post!)

I used to have quite a lot of trouble sleeping up until more recently. But i never really thought of it as insomnia. Instead I though that I had a few extra hours to use during the day that most other people didn’t. This was before I learned that a build-up of sleep deprivation can make you go a little crazy. Or a lot crazy.

While in high school, I would stay up late doing all sorts of things. There was some night-time texting of boys (when I finally started being interested in that sort of thing — that took a while to happen); I often completed assignments between 10:00am and 2:00 am — namely essays for History and English as well as Chemistry problem sets; and then I would watch lots of strange cartoons on the Fun Channel on Orbit (a cable network I was obsessed with as a teenager).

8386997354_74287a82dd_zThe SilverHawks, cousins of the ThunderCats, totally weirded me out and was always on late at night. God their villains were hideous.

During the first three years of university my days were busier, there was lots of work to do, and I didn’t own a television. By the time 11:00pm rolled around, I was passing out. I was, however, a bit of workout addict at the point, and would wake up at 6 am consistently to get in a work out before my morning classes. I was also famously anti-social at that point (so very few parties were attended) and I really enjoyed waking up that early and having both the dining hall and the gym almost all to myself.

Then there was the effect that reverse jet-lag would have on me once I flew back from Amman after Christmas vacation. Our school, stubbornly insistent about distinguishing itself from all other educational institutions, would always schedule our final exams for after break, making us come back for a two-week reading period beforehand. At first this system was a great source of distress to me; I spent my first Christmas vacation back home boning up on Calculus (which I got an A in thanks to the amazing tutoring skills of my genius older brother), but I learned to embrace it soon enough.

Reverse jet-lag was brilliant for studying. While my two American roommates slept away in the bedroom we shared (freshman year housing arrangements made it extremely difficult to have a romantic relationship) I was fully awake and functional by 4am (having been fast asleep by 8pm) and working away at papers and past exams at my computer in our common room. No bantering with the roomies, no sharing of hilarious videos, and no 2 hour visits from other friends from the dorm who were just “dropping by to say hi.” It was just diabolical little me, in a silent and darkened room, working away by the light of my desk lamp during those few hours before dawn broke. You could almost say I had an unfair disadvantage over my American peers. But screw them, they didn’t have to spend over 13 hours to trek back home for break. One girl I know lived so close by she got to take her laundry back home in a massive plastic bag at regular intervals, the lucky bitch.

But that’s all changed now. There was one summer, where for a variety of reasons, I got no sleep at all. It was the summer when I realised, to my utter horror, that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and yet there I was, two-thirds of the way through a ridiculously expensive law degree. There was no choice but to press on, but I spent almost every night freaking out about it all and it was a very, very bad time. Incidentally, it was at this point that I began toying with the idea of culinary school and running a food business.

The sleep deficit I’ve run up through the years, in addition to that horrible sleepless summer, was just the ticket for me. I’m a champion sleeper nowadays, and love it to death. Maybe I’ve gotten a little too good at it, because I occasionally sleep 12 or 13 hours at a stretch. I can sleep through the multiple alarms I set, phones ringing, and buzzers at the door. I also sleep through nightmares — for example, last night’s. In this instalment of Bobo’s nightmares, I was a child again and we were (I forgot who the “we” were but I wasn’t the only one involved) trying to return a painting to a gallery that was housed in a derelict building. Supposedly the Qatari Consulate was there as well, but that’s so not their style. There were massive black spiders in the elevator and huge black bugs and spiders all over this trashed, dirty office/gallery. Eek.

imagesSpiders, everywhere!

All this sleeping makes it hard to be productive at times. And you’d think I’d look quite fresh-faced after all that beauty sleep but I’m afraid it’s not the case. So don’t be like me — either manically working away in the wee small hours of the night, or sleeping your life in the way in the mornings. But I do have a couple  of tips for what to do with yourself if you’re having a really tough time getting to bed.

1) Put your fucking phone away. And your laptop. And your iPad. All that glare-y light is highly stimulating and makes it harder to fall asleep. Yes, I know it’s tempting to have a fully blown text conversation with that boy or girl you like up until the exact moment you fall asleep with your cellphone in hand. I know I’ve stayed up for hours watching cartoons on my iPad. But just put that stuff away.

images-1 Dude, she is sooo into me, I just know it.

2) Do not count sheep, or stay there tossing and turning, hoping that if you just keep lying there in bed sleep will come. It will, eventually, at 3:22am, but it’s best you get to bed before that. Instead, do something else with that time. Those are precious productive hours. There are probably a bunch of things you  were meant to do but never got around to. This is the only excuse I’ll permit myself for whipping out my laptop. I occasionally work on essays or follow up on emails during those bouts of insomnia — once those tasks are taken care of, I feel like like I’ve expended some energy and my brain says, “Ok girlfriend, you can sleep yourself silly now.”

3) Is something bothering you? I often stay up worrying about things, and god that’s a shitty feeling. If what’s worrying you is something within your control to change, get up and do something about it. I usually draw up some sort of action plan (in my head) and tackle my worries the next day.

4) Reading. Yep. At night is my time for reading — I’m too twitchy during the day to sit still and do a good read-aroo. Sometimes, if the book is really good, that may keep me up a bit. But usually I get ten pages in and then lay the book down on my bedside table and reach for my little lamp, and I’m schlaffing away happily. It means I get through books a little slowly, but hey I’m still reading. Are you reading? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I’m not sure how Kindles and e-readers fare in terms of keeping one up (see point 1) above about avoiding electronic devices). I know they’re designed so that they don’t have the same glare as a tablet, but I’m a paperback copy kind of girl. Oh and in law school I found out that two minutes in bed with one of my reading assignments was the best prescription for insomnia.


Let’s get some zzz’s

Of course, do make sure you read up on good sleep hygiene (yes, that’s what they call it) as well. The internet is chock-full of resources for those who suffer when the lights are off. Just don’t do your research while you’re in bed.


Happy sleepings!