Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.

Needed: A long winter nap


All I want to do is sleep. And that is exactly what has been eluding me. For way too long. Right now, my eyes feel scratchy. The muscles in my neck are bunching up and the space between my eyebrows is a magnet for my focus. I’m a grouchy wreck this evening. Shoveled snow for nearly two hours today to get really good and tired so my control-seeking brain will have no choice but to allow the day to recede and sleep to come forward.

I can fall asleep. Eventually, that is. But within a few hours, something or another wakes me up (usually cat-related) and then I am UP. Sometimes counting backward or my mantra helps me drift back. Usually, I’m up for about an hour and a half, approximately the time of a sleep cycle.

Yesterday, I listened to a telecast by a sleep doctor, Dr. Rubin Naiman. Pleasantly, most of the ideas he discussed were new information for me, veteran researcher, though I am, on the usual “How to get a good night’s sleep” checklist. (Yes, my bedroom is cool, dark, sans television or other waking life reminders. Yes, I wear earplugs and refrain from eating too close to bedtime. It’s been a long time since I heard anything new  worth pondering regarding my self-diagnosed insomnia.

Dr. Naiman’s checklist included making sure there are no electronic gadgets plugged in close to the bed. According to him, electromagnetic fields suppress production of melatonin. And melatonin, he said, is a compound produced in the Pineal gland that helps the body release heat so that deep sleep can occur. That deep sleep occurs in the first 1/3 of the night and is crucial for rebuilding, regenerating, healing and restoring the body and mind.

Another thing I didn’t know was that exposure to artificial lights — television and computer screens, for example, exposes us to blue light wavelengths. Blue lightwaves signal through the eyes to the Pineal gland that it’s daytime and the Pineal restricts the production of melatonin so that the body remains warm and we remain awake.

Then there’s the idea he talked about where, when we are sleepy during the day and force ourselves to remain awake, that can condition the body to resist falling asleep even when it’s safe and appropriate to do so!

So I’m going to turn off my laptop and don my comfy pajamas and rev down for awhile. Then, climb into bed and let go of being awake for a good and hopefully long winter night’s sleep.

Author: Rebecca Reinhart

Now an artist/illustrator, I am a former: graphic designer, yoga teacher, goldsmith and dancer, in no particular order. I strive for a balanced state of sustained exploration and nearly constant existential angst.

5 thoughts on “Needed: A long winter nap

  1. Interesting post. My sleep has been broken up lately, too. This caught my eye: “Usually, I’m up for about an hour and a half, approximately the time of a sleep cycle.” Hadn’t thought of that, so I checked my sleep diary. Nope, I’m more often up for 3 hours. Also connected to the time of a sleep cycle? I don’t know; will keep it in mind. Thanks.

  2. The 3-hour “up” period happens to me, too; you have my sympathy. My recent trend seems to be an hour and a half. The 3-hour-plus awake times have occurred for me frequently, though, during past year, especially after being jolted awake by SVTs – which *really* woke me up! (The palpitations, thankfully, are on a downtrend in frequency and intensity.)
    For a couple of months, I’ve been trying self-guided yoga nidra when I realize after too long in the middle of the night that, “Oh, shit! I’m still awake.” Yoga nidra’s feature of counting numbers backwards after methodical relaxation gets me back to sleep many times. (Interestingly, the goal of yoga nidra is to NOT fall asleep!) And purportedly, a side benefit of a 20 minute session of yoga nidra is regenerative rest that a couple hours of sleep provides.
    Then, there’s the whole dream thing, which I realize now is what wakes me up. I have 25 years worth of dream diaries — have always been a “light” sleeper and vivid dreamer. I’ve often wondered if people who “don’t remember” their dreams are “good, full-night sleepers” and people like me who frequently remember strikingly vivid dreams are “challenged, irregular sleepers.”

  3. Hmm. As sleep gets more irregular, I am more aware of dreaming. But usually just a flashing glimpse. Haven’t trained up my memory for dreams as you obviously have.

  4. Must be your mother handed down her insomnia genes to you! For years I have called 3:30 AM my witching hour – it is almost as if an alarm clock has gone off. If I don’t go back to sleep within an hour, I now turn on the light (disturbing the sleeping cat no end…), turn on my trusty Kindle and read a chapter in whatever book I happen to be reading at the time. Seems to turn off my spinning mind and I usually can go back to sleep – only to be reluctant to wake up when I should!

  5. I always figure if I can’t sleep after an hour or so, I might as well read. Can’t solve the world’s problems lying awake in the dark!

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