Losing the Ability to Sleep

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For today’s Writing 101 prompt, we were to compose the first in a three-part series about loss, taking any direction that we choose.

Losing the Ability to Sleep

For most of my life, I’ve felt like I need eight hours of sleep but that ten or twelve hours would be even better.  As a child, I have memories of fighting nap time and bed time.  To know then what I learned later.  NEVER EVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO SLEEP.  And as a child, the ability to fall asleep is organic.  Oh to go back and catch up!

As a young adult, living on my own, I chose to work full days then party till the wee hours.  This left me with very little sleep but adrenaline and youth got me through those years.

Fast forward to my mid-thirties when the stress of watching my employee (at the time a friend) have a total breakdown over a period of months rendered me sleepless.  She became unrecognizable and despite seeking professional help, dangerous and toxic to everyone around her.  Even after changing jobs and ending that “relationship”, I was stuck in a cycle of insomnia that lasted for nearly twenty years.

Looking for a solution I tried everything. I bought a new bed.  A hot tub.  Did a sleep study.  Tried Ambien, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds.  The sleep study had determined that I never fell into REM sleep, that I would jerk awake repeatedly all night long.  I felt like a zombie.  I held down a job (in sales no less) that took every ounce of energy to stay focused, even with 1-2 hours total sleep.  I felt desperate.

The one respite that started me back on track were vacations in which I could fall back into a pattern of deep sleep and dreaming.  During the years Spence and I traveled to Costa Rica, we would come back midday, take a cool shower followed by a siesta.  Siestas – best idea ever!  Never one to be able to sleep during the day, I found I could do it then because there was no pressure to wake up by a certain time.

In recent years, I’ve been better.  Work related stress would trigger restless nights but I didn’t slip back into longterm patterns.  Retiring in February 2014 was the biggest turning point.  Now if I woke up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t fret about it.  I would either grab my Kindle or meditate knowing that the clock didn’t dictate my life and the alarm wouldn’t go off just as I drifted into deep sleep.

I wrote a poem last year about insomnia and though it appears elsewhere on my blog, felt I’d share it again here.


When you are young, sleep comes naturally, effortlessly.
Falling into bed, asleep on impact.
When did it start? Can’t shut off the thoughts in my monkey brain.
Oh my, why did I ever say no to a nap?

Falling into bed, asleep on impact.
So many problems to be solved, hurts to be healed, staring at the clock.
Oh my, why did I ever say no to a nap?
Tick tock, tick tock, sleep eludes me, so tired yet so wired.

Peace of mind restored, letting go, accepting what I cannot change.
When did it start? Can’t shut off the thoughts in my monkey brain.
Gratitude as sleep returns, how I now cherish a rest-filled night.
When you are young, sleep comes naturally, effortlessly.

2 thoughts on “Losing the Ability to Sleep

  1. I am so sorry you’ve gone through all of this, but glad retirement has eased it for you. I have severe mental illness, and one of the main symptoms is sleep trouble, but I always sleep like a baby. No matter what meds I am on or how I feel in the day, I usually get my 9 hours in. It’s very strange. I really like your blog topic. lily


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