Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sleepless in Ipswich

Sleep. We all need it. Research shows that it's during sleep that we heal our bodies and our minds. If we don't get enough or wake up at the wrong moment in the sleep cycle, it can hurt us, make us fat, hamper our work life, endanger our driving, and more.

This is my last week at the day job I've held for three years. My three-day writing retreat starts tomorrow. I have next week off to write and to catch up on a myriad of appointments and organizing that I don't usually have time for. After that I start a new job with a new commute and more hours.

As a result, my brain is full of plans, ideas, things I want to remember. Lists go something like:
  • Don't forget to bring the lesson on the Three-Act structure to the retreat. And peanut butter. And the wine opener.
  • Remember to finish filling out the multi-page Author's Questionnaire from Kensington Publishing.
  • Call Mom and remind her you'll be out of phone contact on the weekend.
  • Write up that memo for your replacement at the job saying where your files are and how you create PDFs of the user guides.
  • Call the tax preparer. But first, get all the tax stuff together: Find the mortgage interest statement. List all the charitable contributions from two checkbooks and twelve Visa statements. List all professional expenses (from two checkbooks and twelve Visa statements). And so on.
  • Make appointment for 60,000-mile service on the Prius.
  • And the wine. And some apples. And the dark chocolate. And the yoga mat. And the laptop charger.
See what I mean?
So when I wake up at three AM, I start thinking. I add to the lists in my mind. Often I have a hard time getting back to sleep. One time-honored trick I use is to count backwards from 1000.

Another, often used simultaneously with counting, is to imagine I'm floating in a cove at a Greek beach, warm water, gentle sunshine, rocking motion.

I do keep a little pad of paper and a pen by my bed so I can reach out and jot an item down. Occasionally that helps. And I always get exercise earlier in the day, which should assist good sleeping.

But those tricks don't always work. When I know the alarm is going to off at five AM, the slight panic that sets in doesn't help.

What's your favorite trick for getting back to sleep?


  1. I chuckled when I saw the cat with your post. I often get up and sit in my favorite chair with my big 'snuggle bunny' cat. We both fall asleep quickly!

  2. Things I do: First I force myself to read articles in Time Magazine that I have no interest in. That will usually put me to sleep.

    But if that doesn't work, then I count in a particular way: I count by tens up to 100 and then start over. But I repeat each number, and I do it slowly - 10...10...20...20... And as I count I imagine generalized "motion" in the darkness that is kind of like a pendulum. And the first number of the pair is emphasized as if it is closer & to the left and the second in the pair is farther & to the right. I try to make this hypnotic. If I realize that my mind has wandered off the counting and back to my "list of things to do" I gently bring it back - but I don't criticize myself. --TinaV

  3. Thanks, Paula and Tina. I like the pendulum idea and the not indulging in self criticism! I do count slowly and rhythmically when I count backwards.

  4. I listen to binaural beat apps on my ipod or self hypnosis tracks.

  5. Self hypnosis sounds interesting, Jessie! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I hope you realize that the wine opener is the most important item to remember!!

    Karen Duxbury

  7. Karen, of course! And it's also a huge relief to know that:

    - The day job is done (until the 12th), including the memo.
    - I'm mostly packed for the retreat including wine AND opener and everything else on that list.
    - Weather will be good for driving today and Monday.
    - Tax prep is already done.
    - I generally am at a point of peace and openness with my life.

    I'm expecting a very nice sleep tonight!

  8. Are you in bed already? My system is to stay up until I absolutely can't keep my eyes open. But I don't have to be up any special time in the morning. (Retired) Doing puzzles before I go to sleep helps (maybe because it strains my eyes?). I cound backwards too. Sometimes I still can't get to sleep, but I figure I'll catch up the next night. (See above - retired, no special time to be up.) However, I'm usually up before my husband who struggles with getting to sleep and takes sleeping pills.

  9. I'm an early riser by nature, and have been an early riser to avoid traffic on both ends of the work commute for the last two decades. I imagine when I retire (five more years, five more years...), I'll still be an early riser, but at least not on an alarm clock, and, like you, with the flexibility to catch up during the day or the next night. Thanks for coming by, Norma!

  10. I usually fall asleep thinking about things that happened during the day that I'm glad happened. If that doesn't work, I play a game: Think of five men's names that start with A. Then five that start with B. Or women's names. Or names from comic strips. Or movie titles. I seldom get very far through the alphabet before I'm snoring away.

    Marian Allen
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