[These Ancient Eyes] Dealing With Summer Insomnia

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I grew up in an apartment with central air conditioning and heating. I’ll admit – the only times I ever got hot at night were when we lost power for whatever reason. I grew up in Houston, Texas – the reason was usually hurricane related. As a result, however, I was completely unprepared for what the summer does to me when I’m actually able to feel the hot nights and hotter days in my day to day existence. I get insomnia – very, very bad insomnia. Insomnia to the point that I will be bone-dead tired and still be unable to sleep.


What’s worse, my fiancee goes through the same thing – and it’s as if our sleep cycles sync up. Even if I was tired upon going to bed, when she gets up an hour later unable to sleep, I’m wide awake and right there with her. It starts as the year begins to heat up – usually around the beginning to middle of July, in our current area of Southern California. When the days start breaking ninety-five degrees and the nights stop cooling off beyond eighty-five or so, sleeping starts to become harder. We stay up later, go to bed later, wake up later, until our days are almost completely backwards. Now, keeping in mind that as of this writing we both work at home – her as a professional ghostwriter, me as a professional blogger. Therefore our days getting turned around only become inconvenient when they make her meetings with clients awkward as she essentially has to get up in the middle of what to her mind at the moment is the night, shower, get dressed, and go meet someone. The equivalent of being woken up at three in the morning, having to completely get ready and going to a business function, where you must perform at your very best, but with the knowledge that when it’s over and you get home, you’ll be going back to bed. Not something many people would enjoy, I’m willing to wager.

Then, as the summer wears on and the days get hotter, so do the nights. Our house has no central air conditioning – the workspace where our desks are is boilingly hot, even when the window AC near us is on – mostly because it’s nearly a twenty-five year old air conditioner, and it’s feeling it’s age. The window air conditioner in our bedroom is much nicer and actually keeps the room cool, but as the cool isn’t constant, our bodies are still painfully aware of the searingly hot summer days. It’s like a switch has flipped in our brains – the more we try to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, the more awake we are when that time rolls around.

Yes, there are ways of dealing with normal insomnia, but first and foremost, neither of us is willing to take any kind of medication for this. It’s obviously part of our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms, no matter how inconvenient it is, and we have to deal with it. How do you know the difference between true insomnia and simply being unable to sleep? Well, first of all, the normal remedies for being unable to sleep don’t work on insomnia. Counting sheep, drinking warm milk, exercising to tire yourself out, listening to music or meditative sound tracks – instead of the slow dozing in and out that starts happening after awhile when the fact has been that you just couldn’t sleep, with insomnia it’s as if everything you do to try and make yourself tired only gets you more worked up and wide awake.

The only cure for insomnia – true insomnia – that isn’t a medication that forces your body into a (most of the time) unrestful sleep, is simply time. Your body simply can not stay awake indefinitely. The most I’ve heard someone staying up with insomnia is about sixty hours. At which point your body is so tired that you lose consciousness, forcing you to sleep. I usually don’t even make it a full twenty-four, though I’ve come as close as twenty-three before my body gave out on me.

See, the thing is, I actually love to sleep. I’m very fond of my pillows and my bed, and being comfy and relaxed and just letting my mind shut off for awhile. I don’t like insomnia. My insomnia is almost like a nemesis that, every time I think I’ve beaten, rises out of the ashes to taunt me again. The bottom line is that insomnia stinks, and with only a few more weeks to go before it cools off enough that my body stops turning me into the human equivalent of a twenty-four hour drive-thru, fall can’t come quickly enough for me.  And here you have the reason why most of my articles, my writing, and my artwork are done in the night hours during the summer – because my body refuses to give me a choice.

What do I do for my insomnia? Well, right now, I’m writing a blog about it. After this? I might just try bed again. I think my eyes might be getting tired.

[image credit brucebeh]