I am a recovered insomniac.
That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with insomnia every now and again, but it does mean that I don’t live a virtually sleepless life anymore. And may I add that this is the success that I am more grateful for than another other accomplishment. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep. Period.
Given my history with insomnia, I was intrigued by a podcast called Nocturne. It is of a genre called essay radio. The first one I listened to was about a woman who had Narcolepsy. The second one was about late night radio shows and their callers. The stories are quite entertaining, and they remind me of my sleepless life.
My insomnia was the type where I would fall asleep easily enough but I would wake up at 2 or 3 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I remember waking up in Knoxville in my little apartment and turning on the television as the news of Princess Diana’s accident was unfolding. She was my age, and I was newly divorced. I sat up in bed and listened with sadness as the reporters gradually unraveled the story of how she ended up speeding through a tunnel and crashing to her death. My life felt like a car crash at that time, and I longed to be able to fall back to sleep to dream a different dream.
Most of my time was spent walking around my little one-bedroom apartment while I tried to go to sleep so I could manage to perform at work. Eventually I took a job where I traveled all the time, and my insomnia enabled me to catch early flights, adapt to crossing time zones and sleep on airplanes. I couldn’t sleep at night but as soon as I sat in an airplane seat I was out like a light. I still can’t stay awake when I fly. Good thing I’m not a pilot.
I always loved to stay up late when I was a kid, and it wasn’t unusual for me to stay up all night reading. One of the things I love most about winter is the darkness. While everyone else is complaining about the lack of light, I cuddle up and enjoy the downtime. Daylight savings time always makes me a little sad. And, of course I love the night in a tent on the side of a mountain. I cozy up in my sleeping bag with a book and listen to the sounds of the night.
I still wake up early, but my insomnia only visits when I’m stressed now. My meditation practice has re-wired my brain, and if I do wake up early, I can usually fall back to sleep. But every now and again, I wake up and obsess until dawn. Since it’s rarer now, I appreciate the opportunity to add an hour or two to my morning rituals. It’s a great time to read and meditate and sit on my sofa in a puddle of fur babies. But I’m never going to wish for insomnia to take hold of my life again. I’ll just listen to the podcast.