Writing101. Daily prompt.
More and more of us go to bed too late because of sleep procrastination. What are the nighttime rituals that keep you up before finally dozing off?
“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner had it right. Sleep, it is a blessed thing. Without it, it’s difficult to function, without it I stumble around in a haze of exhaustion, my constant focus on staying awake and making it through the day. I look back on my life now and wonder how I ever survived. How did I stay in jobs? How did I stay sane? Why didn’t I get help?
What’s the response if you mention you can’t sleep? For me, there were several:
You just need to pull yourself together. Anyone can sleep if she only tries. It’s all in your mind. Just tell yourself you will sleep, and of course you will. It’s not nearly as bad as you think…stop whinging, pull yourself together…
I’ve heard them all. So I lived with it. Then one morning, driving to work (late as usual), I heard a specialist in sleep disorders interviewed. It was a moment of revelation- he described me! I had a sleep disorder, therefore I could get help.
Imagine the power of that moment, the sense of liberation I felt.
I saw a hypnotherapist. I slept.
I shall never forget the next day. I spent it in wonder, marveling at how I felt. If I felt like this, I could accomplish anything. Fly to the moon! Climb Mt Everest! No limits! Maybe those people who slept well, always felt like this?
It wasn’t permanent. I struggled on. Naturally a night person, I went to bed late, took hours to go to sleep and stumbled out of bed, jet-lagged, every morning. I rarely did the things I knew might help me sleep.
Then, a few years ago… brain surgery. My sleep was destroyed. I persevered and endured and heard stories of others whose sleep had been destroyed following brain surgery.
Until… crisis. I could endure not one minute longer.
An emergency visit to the doctor I had recently found ( a miracle in itself) followed, a demand to be hospitalized and sedated and insistence it happen that day. He took the necessary steps. I was sedated that day and hospitalized the next. (And my undying gratitude to my wonderful friend who stood steadfastly by me through this time- thank you Brian. )
So, nighttime rituals? routines? Yes! I have evening routines. I’ve learnt their importance.
- No television, no phone calls, no computer after a particular time;
- mindfulness practice and walking a few hours before bedtime;
- the same bedtime every night and the bedroom only for sleeping and loving;
- And the other usual routines- showering, teeth cleaning etc…. and for me attending to the needs of a stoma.
I’m not that good at sticking to these routines, even though I know the consequences of neglecting them.
And yes, I have rituals. I find the routine of bedtime soothing and settling, but the rituals lift it to being somehow hallowed.
- Settling; becoming aware of my posture; taking some time to focus on my breath;
- Lighting a candle and and placing flowers on my small table if I have them;
- Remembering those I love; practising a loving-kindness meditation;
- And reflecting on the day with gratitude. There is always something for which to be grateful.
Do I always do this? I confess that I don’t. I have no excuse and I choose not to beat myself up about it. I know some of the habits that will disrupt the flow – I must tape any TV programs I want to watch and it’s better if I don’t have a novel waiting to be read. I seem to have little discipline.
Writing this has reminded me of the beauty of my simple evening. Tonight I will start my routines early and I will finish the day with candles, beauty, quietness and a grateful heart.