In my 30s, fter a bad breakup with a boyfriend, I had a really bad period of insomnia. I fought it like crazy which of course just made it worse. I went to bed early, stayed up late, drank wine, ate turkey. Nothing worked and I started to freak out. It got so bad that I was getting depressed from lack of sleep. Then one day my Dad said something that clicked: he told me that when he can’t sleep he does paperwork or cleans his office. The simple matter-of-fact way he said it made me understand that fighting insomnia wasn’t the answer, embracing it is. The next time I couldn’t sleep I did my taxes, something I’d been putting off. I got the whole thing done (ok, this was back in the EZ-form days) and it felt great. The next night when I couldn’t sleep I cleaned. Soon I was sleeping through the night.
For the past couple years I’ve had chronic insomnia. 4 or 5 nights a week I’m awake in the middle of the night, usually between 2 and 4 am. I’ve come to really like it.
For some reason, like those taxes I did years ago, I get things done at 3 am that I can’t get myself to do during the day: answering emails I’ve put off, finding a missing insurance form, cleaning out my purse. Often this time is quite productive, almost like a second wind. I think clearly and with purpose and while I don’t have tons of physical energy, I can sit down and plow through a project or answer a slew of emails. It’s gotten so bad—good?—that I actually put off real work knowing I can get it done the next time I can’t sleep. (Bonus: sending a project to a client at 4:20 am and knowing they’ll think you pulled an all-nighter.)
Of course, sometimes I just read a book which is damn satisfying when you have three kids under age ten.
More than once, I’ve wondered if insomnia isn’t my body’s way of getting me-time that I would never get otherwise. I can count the number of times I’ve been alone in our house—every delicious one. Being wide awake at 3 am is the next best thing: a poor mother’s solution to her crazy-busy life. It’s perfect: absolutely nobody needs me. I’m not neglecting anything because— I’m supposed to be asleep! If I get something done it’s a bonus. My insomnia is truly stolen time. And since I stole it from myself I can spend it any way I like.