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Sleep is overrated



I’ve never been a very good sleeper.

I remember arguing with my parents for sending me to bed one night in the summer when it was still light out, and then tossing and turning until I at last got up and started playing with my toys. I was probably four years old.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to stay up, like other kids who would beg and plead for another half hour only to fall asleep sitting on the couch 10 minutes later. I really couldn’t sleep, and if I knew I wouldn’t sleep then I sure couldn’t see the point of lying awake in bed when there were so many other things to do.

My problem has always been an overactive imagination, combined with a lack of mental discipline. For some reason my brain always seems to wake up the moment my head hits the pillow, and if I have any trouble or stress, or I’m excited about something, I can’t seem to shut my brain down long enough to fall asleep.

To boot, I’m also a light sleeper — any noise, movement, or light in the room will rouse me from the deepest sleep. And while it’s usually easier to fall asleep a second or third time in a night it’s not as automatic as closing my eyes again.

For a while there I decided I was a night person by nature, but I never slept in long enough in the morning to make up for all the sleep I missed the night before. I’d be in bed, pushing the snooze button for hours at a time, lying comfortably in that blurry world between sleeping and waking. All my best dreams are between snooze alarms.

I can be tired all day after not sleeping but that doesn’t make it any easier to fall asleep that night. I have to be really sleep deprived before my body and mind will give up and I can collapse into sleep.

When I was younger I learned a few habits to kick insomnia. Some of them actually work, when I remember to put them into practice.

One habit is to brush my teeth and wash my face at least an hour before going to bed, in case my subconscious associates the same activities with waking up. Eating is the same — you’re not supposed to eat two to three hours before bed because you engage your metabolism, run out of fuel, and wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry.

Another habit is to make a list of all the things I have to do tomorrow before turning in, and writing down a few things that happened during the day so I’m not thinking about them when I turn off the light.

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