When did it start? I tried to remember as I lay in the dark. I don't even know. I have always had memories of lying awake in the dark while the rest of the house sleeps, trying to shut down my mind, make it stop running in circles. Even as young as 8 or 9. I actually didn't realize until now that it started so young.
I never know, going into a night if it is going to be a good (solid sleep to the morning), ok (wake up to use the bathroom), or bad (sleepless for an hour and a half or more). I also don't know what triggers it. It is especially bad when there is a stress in my life, I have it two or three times a week. It is worse when I am pregnant. Then I am guaranteed one night a week throughout the third trimester. If I'm not stressed, it is random-- once a month, maybe twice.
It starts with me waking up to use the bathroom or to tend to a child. Tonight it was N at 1:30, crying out "Bup! Bup! Mommy, bup!"(cup). I went downstairs, filled his cup, used the bathroom, checked on E, and then returned to bed. Usually I can fall back to sleep, but when insomnia hits I can't settle. So I start thinking. Sometimes it is about what needs to be done the next day (in tonight's case, the next 3 days). I will work and rework my schedules, timelines, and plans of action. Sometimes a memory is triggered of a past event and I lie there analyzing it, imagining how it could have gone differently, cringing in embarrassment as I think of my real actions, working myself into mental distress over something that can't be changed. This is when I relive the worst of my highschool, and first year of teaching moments. Both periods of times when I made my worst mistakes, and have the greatest regrets. The thoughts run in my mind like a hamster on wheel, never getting anywhere, never resolving themselves, because how can I resolve the past or the future?
I shift positions for about an hour, restlessly trying to find a comfortable spot, yet not wanting to wake Ed. I lie on my side, until I feel my arm getting numb, so I shift to my back. I lie there trying to force myself not to move another muscle, not rustle the sheets or shift positions. But finally I can't resist the urge to tuck my arms under my pillow and curl up on my other side. Then I realize that my mouth is making too much saliva and I can't stop swallowing. The more I think about it, the more I want to swallow and the drier my mouth gets. So I get up to get a drink. Sometimes at this point I discover I need to use the bathroom again, so I take care of all my fluid issues, and come back to bed.
Now, on a "good" night of insomnia I will eventually drift off to sleep at this point after mentally exhausting myself. But on a "bad" night I will eventually just go downstairs so that I don't disturb Ed's sleep anymore. I turn on the tv and get sucked into infomercials and QVC. I have been known to order several things that I "just had to to have!" in these middle of the night viewings. I think that advertisers know that you are more vulnerable to their products when you are sleep deprived. Sometimes I will have a bowl of cereal, my body being tricked into thinking it is breakfast time. I have also scrapbooked, done laundry, washed the dishes, written in my journal (actually most of my journal entries from the past 6 years were done at 2 or 3 in the morning), and of course, checked my email.
The only thing is, I am genuinely tired. My mind is sluggish and my body needs rest, so when I do these things I am not performing at the top of my game. It is hard to know when to go back to bed because there is now a fear of not being able to sleep, yet there is also that other fear that with each passing minute I am making withdrawals on my energy reserves for the next day. I know that when morning comes I will be exhausted. I will have to pry my eyes open and force myself to get out of bed and stagger through my morning routine, hoping to catch a nap at some point in the afternoon (but not too late or long that I am not tired for bed the next night). So when that second fear overwhelms the first, I make my way back to my bed and I lie very still, trying not to swallow, think, or move. And just sleep.