Productive insomnia

I have chronic insomnia.  At least once or twice a week I wake up after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep.  I often see two or more hours go by before I finally drift off again.
The thing is, I used to fight it.  But when your mind is going full speed it is almost impossible to quiet it down.  Most experts agree that you should not just lay there, you should get up and do something, or at least sit up and read.  But for me, the thought of turning on a light at 3 am is not appealing at all.  I prefer to lay in the dark with my eyes closed.  And think.

I discovered that I was able to make this work for me.  In an attempt to tire myself out, I began giving my brain something difficult to work on.  Maybe it was a problem I had at work that day, or the thought of a daunting large project coming up.  Maybe I had a fight with my husband, or had come up with a new idea that I hadn’t had time to flesh out.  Whatever it was, I latched onto it and said to myself, ok since you’re not going to sleep, let’s think about something worthwhile.  And bam!  I started solving problems, coming up with strategies for dealing with difficult situations, and working out concept maps in my head.

Usually I can remember most of what I came up with, or at least enough of it to have something to work with the next day.  Of course not every thought you have in the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived is rational or usable, but one bad idea can lead to a good one when you think about it enough.  I also have a set of index cards and a pencil sitting on my nightstand.  If I have something really juicy and I think I might be in danger of not remember it in the morning, I grab a card and write it down (yes, in the dark).  Just a few words or phrases to jog my memory.

Then, if I can, I try to sleep a little later in the morning to make up for it.


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