Sleepless

Posted: October 19, 2008 in 101 in 1001, Headspace, Home, insomnia, Journal, Memory Lane

Sharon asked in the comments the other day what I did about insomnia, since she’s a fellow-sufferer. It’s funny she should ask, because I was up at 3:00 on Friday night/Saturday morning after only going to bed at 12:30. I watched the 1944 version of Jane Eyre, the one with Orson Welles as Rochester and Joan Fontaine as Jane (thereby crossing off #63 on my 101 in 1001 list). What a dark and gloomy movie! I found Orson Welles to be imposing and rather ugly at first (as was accurate for the character), but then his appearance started to grow on me. I guess I just have a thing for large-featured men (I can hear Calvin now, “Huh??”).  Cobie Smulders (Robin from How I Met Your Mother) is a dead ringer for Joan Fontaine. I kept getting surprised at the resemblance throughout the movie – it was her profile more than anything, I think. It was interesting to compare the ’44 version to the ’96 version with William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg, which I’ve watched several times. I believe the ’96 version stayed truer to the book – which, as my long-time readers and friends know well by now, I’m a stickler for. And did you know Jane Eyre has been made into a movie more than ten times, not counting various mini-series for television?  Why, for goodness sake?

Anyway, I watched Jane Eyre, then I watched the saved episode of House I had hanging around on the DVR. Then I watched the most recent episode of Life. Then it was 7:30 and Calvin came stumbling into the living room, all chicken-haired, to find out where I was. So I went back to bed and slept until about 11:00.

I have had intermittent bouts of insomnia since I was very little. The first memory I have of experiencing it, actually, was the summer I stayed in Gardiner (Maine, natch) with my aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother) and cousin, a few months after my mother died. I was eight, my cousin was five, I stayed in her room where she had a pair of twin beds, and she snored. Or, well, she didn’t snore exactly, but she breathed loudly. I was frustrated and crying a little because it was past 2:00 in the morning and I just wanted to sleep. My aunt happened to get up and check on us, found me in tears, and immediately figured I was crying for my mother (actually, I wasn’t, I was just frustrated and kept telling her so, but she didn’t believe me). So she laid down with me and snuggled me and promptly fell asleep and started really snoring. So there I was, trapped, with my cousin Darth Vadering it up on one side of the room and my aunt with her bear-like snoring in my ear (she was a rather large woman). I laid awake until it was light and my aunt returned to her room, then I feel asleep only to be shaken awake before 8:00 by my fresh-from-her-slumbers cousin.

Another aunt and uncle, on my father’s side of the family (the only family from that side that I’ve ever had any kind of contact with) used to keep me on weekends quite frequently, from before my mother passed away until I was well into my teens. I would sleep on the couch in their living room, all made up with soft sheets and blankets to protect me from the scratchy couch fabric. They would go to bed promptly at 9:00 every night, as my uncle worked for the department of transportation in Gray (Maine, of course) and had to be up at, like, 4:00 every morning. I actually very rarely fell asleep at their house. I have no idea why, I just started to expect insomnia whenever I stayed with them. I’d just lay there, awake, and stare out the window at the safety light over their garage. I don’t know why I never got up and turned a light on and read a book or something – I guess I figured I’d get in trouble for it. I wouldn’t have, I know, but maybe that’s what was going on in my head. Crazy kid.

I’d frequently have insomnia when I stayed with my sister, who’d inherited my early-childhood home owned by my mother, after she passed away.  I think THAT insomnia was prompted more by the parties she held, though.  And if I ever had a sleep-over at a friend’s house, I’d usually lay awake there, too.  Sometimes I’d make my friends stay awake with me and we’d make pancakes in the middle of the night, and make “cocktails” with orange juice and 7-Up.  We’d catch hell in the morning for leaving the kitchen a mess.

I’d have insomnia every now and then while living at home with Grammy, too. Then, I would turn the light on and dig out whatever book I was buried in at the time. I actually liked being up in the middle of the night at home, especially in the summertime. My windows would be open and my bed positioned between them to get the cross-breeze (I had a “winter” bedroom furniture arrangement with the bed away from the windows, and a “summer” arrangement with the bed between the windows – I don’t know anybody else who had their furniture moved around every six months like Grandma did for me). The crickets and frogs and whippoorwills would be calling outside, the stars and the moon would be brightly shining on clear nights, Grandma’s snoring could be heard clear and rhythmic from the next room, and I’d be safe in my little well of lamplight reading L.M. Montgomery or Susan Cooper or Franklin W. Dixon.

Nowadays I have insomnia, oh, once or twice a month – at least, the kind that gets me up out of bed. I never sleep soundly through the night anymore – I haven’t since I lived at Grandma’s. I fall asleep, stay so for a couple of hours, wake up, stare at the ceiling for about twenty minutes, doze off again, wake up, roll over, doze… and on and on until the alarm goes off. If it goes on long enough without a doze in sight, I’ll give it up as a bad idea and just get up so I don’t keep bothering Calvin. I’ll go into the living room and fire up the laptop, make a cup of tea, turn the TV on with the volume on low, snuggle a cat or two, and have a book at my elbow should middle-of-the-night TV programming prove to be problematic.

Perhaps I’ve learned to have this attitude about it, being a life-long sufferer, but I don’t mind insomnia so much. At least, a night here or there. If I had it every night for a prolonged period of time, I’d probably resort to Tylenol PM and a good big glass of wine. But the occasional night or two, I enjoy having the quiet time to myself, and I like the stillness of the world outside (rare, here in suburbia).

What do YOU do when you have insomnia?

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Comments
  1. farmwife says:

    Actually, I usually clean house. I get the urge to do so in the middle of the night, go figure. I wish I could get that motivated during the day.

    Then the next day I work myself to death so that I fall into bed and immediately zonk. I highly recommend either raking 3 acres of leaves, cleaning out the barn by hand, trimming 30 sets of goat feet, or cutting and splitting 4 to 5 cords of wood. 🙂

  2. Jeanette says:

    I’ll get up and watch TV. If it’s summer I will occasionally sit on the patio with a cup of tea. Sometimes, if I really need to sleep I take 1/2 of a Tylenol PM or Simply Sleep. That will usually do the trick. My main problem right now is that I can’t sleep past 5:30 on Saturdays! Which means I need to take a nap sometime during the day or face going to bed at 9:00!

  3. Kim says:

    I thought I left you a comment about my insomnia too, but maybe not since I’m usually a zombie when I’m online and it’s the middle of the night. I used to take Tylenol PM until it stopped working for me. Then my doctor prescribed Xanax, which of course isn’t necessarily a sleep medication but since I have anxiety issues, I don’t mind having it on hand. It ususally works well for sleeping, but there are times even that doesn’t work. I’ve been told I have “waking insomnia” which means I have no problem falling asleep, but just can’t STAY asleep and usually get up between 2 and 4 a.m. When that happens I’ve learned to stop fighting it and just read a book or mess around on the computer. I usually have to force myself not to nap the next day to try to make up for it the next night. It sucks, but it’s managable right now – I just hope it never gets any worse.

  4. Laura says:

    Farmwife – I’ve been known to do that middle-of-the-night cleaning, but usually I make too much noise and wake Calvin up. Now, if I had YOUR life I’d never have insomnia, ever ever ever.

    Jeanette – I actually sleep more soundly when I nap for an hour or so. Sunday afternoon naps have turned into one of my favorite things.

    Kim – I take Xanax for anxiety, too, and it does help me stay asleep. It’s a barbituate, though, so I try to take it as sparingly as possible. I must have “waking insomnia” too, cuz that sounds just like me.

  5. I get up and go downstairs. My issues are always things “going-on” in my head, so i try to get involved with something to distract me. Reading doesn’t work, because I get to involved with a book and then can’t go to sleep.

    As much as I love sports, turning on ESPN News downstairs does the trick. After it repeats for the third time, I am usually out cold.

  6. Dawn says:

    I’ll usually just read a book. Or here lately, I’ll do some work, since I’m pretty slammed at the office. I’ve given up on trying to “cure” it, so now I just go with the flow. I have the kind of insomnia that keeps me from falling asleep at all; once I do fall asleep, it’s VERY hard to get up for work the next morning, so sometimes I just go into the office at like, 5 am.

  7. Laura says:

    Electrician – Reading tends to do the same with me, while Calvin will say that a book would put him right to sleep. Something repetitive and monotone as the news might do the trick, though.

    Dawn – I don’t care how sleepless I might be, you’ll NEVER catch me going into the office at 5:00 in the morning!!! That’s just crazy talk.

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