Slowly I realize I’m awake.
And it’s dark.
I’m not in my own bed (Oh right, I’m in Mexico, on vacation.)
And my entire body is sore (Wow, this mattress is stiff, and I walked for an hour on the flat, hard beach.)
Gingerly moving my body, I scan the room for my clock. (Oh. No clock. You lost your phone, remember, Sara?)
Without the clock, I don’t bow to my normal middle-of-the-night thinking: “Go back to sleep; it’s only two hours until the alarm goes off!” “It’s the middle of the night: if you’re still awake in 45 minutes, turn on the light and read.”
Instead, I do something delicious. I get out of bed, push open the gauzy linen panels separating me from the warm night air and pad out to the extra wide couch under the thatched roof Palapa. As my eyes adjust to the dark, I realize it is not an inky black night, but the light from the moon has gently lit everything, including a reflection on the water that I can see from my second floor view that is unfettered by walls.
Making a supportive nest out of all the cushions, I find a comfortable cross-legged position. Lulled by the warm night air and the rhythmic sound of the waves gently breaking on the shore, I settle into a deep breathing meditation and realize this having no clock could be a good thing.
A very good thing.
When I’ve had my fill, I head back to my bed and I realize much of our dinner table conversation focused on Sleep and its evil twin, Insomnia. We chronicled things that have helped in the past… Exercise, sugar, wine, carbs, protein… Alex, my CrossFit junkie brother, and his partner were even eating Pemmican (frozen bacon fat) in the middle of the night to go back to sleep. (Apparently, it’s very effective.) My parents swear by their new “My Pillow” acquisitions. Alex commented, “After you mentioned it, Dad, I got my own. I think I do notice a difference, particularly when I am tossing and turning. Invariably, I realize that “My Pillow” got mixed up with another one and I have turn on the light to root through the pile of pillows on the floor.”
Maybe the only thing we have no control over is our age-old sleep patterns. Perhaps, as David Randall writes in his book “Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep”, we’re wired to sleep in segments. I first heard Randall on NPR over a year ago as he explained how humans used to sleep with the light. Before electricity made us Masters of the Dark, we went to sleep soon after sundown for a number of hours, and woke in the middle of the night for a period before the Second Sleep. The period in between the First and the Second Sleep was accepted and used for quieter activities that provide Ballast: prayer, meditation, making love, contemplation.
The next time I awoke, it was before dawn. Treasuring the precious solitude, I hope no one else is awake as I head down to the kitchen, make coffee, and grab an apple to watch the sky fill with light as the sun rose over the Bay.
Maybe, just maybe, I can hold on to the beauty of Insomnia.
[Public Service announcement. Take it if you like. I couldn’t resist trying something that has measurably improved sleep for three family members. I’m now 4 weeks into the 8 week trial period for “My Pillow”. It helps! I’m not sure just HOW much, but I am definitely sleeping longer in the same position, less tossing and turning… Here’s the site: MY PILLOW.com]
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