Matchbox 20 says it’s the hour of loneliness, some call it the witching hour, it’s the time when nocturnal animals do their best hunting, but for insomniacs, it’s just another clock hand on a number.
I’m sorry to say, but I see 3 am more often than I’d like to. My heart knows I should be sleeping, but my racing mind says otherwise. 3 am is the time when I battle with myself; do I stay awake, pull an all-nighter, and just take a nap in the morning? Some of my best and most creative work happens during the “witching hour.” But the logical part of me says to swallow 5 melatonin and hope for the best because “I have things to do tomorrow.”
My insomnia started in my late teens/early 20s. I moved out of my childhood home when I was 19 years old. I’ve always been a fiercely independent person, and I needed to spread my wings after I graduated from High School. I was, and still am for that matter, a singer, and my dream from a very young age was to stand on a stage under hot lights belting out tunes to anyone who’d listen.
I joined my first band, Northern Drive, right before my 19th birthday. It was a country music band made up of 5 extraordinary musicians, and I was lucky enough to get an audition after their original lead singer moved to Nashville. I still remember the audition to this day; I sang Life Number 9 by Martina McBride at The Diamondback Saloon in Belleville, MI. They hired me on the spot, and we immediately got to work rehearsing songs to get ready for our first gig.
Now, just so you are aware, being a small-time musician is not a high paying career. Musicians are one-of-a-kind and none of us were in it for the money, we just wanted to play. We’d make anywhere between $300-$500 a night and split 6 ways, well, you do the math. Let’s just say, it’s not enough to pay the bills.
In order to make ends meet, I had to work a day job. I was a secretary at Ford Motor Company full-time Monday through Friday 9:00 – 5:00 pm, and I gigged with the band Thursday through Saturday 9:00 pm – 2:00 am.
I became a professional power napper. I’d race home from my day job, sleep for a few hours, get up, get ready, drive to the gig, and play music until the wee hours of the night. Rinse, and repeat. I kept up with this grueling schedule for eleven years.
I regret nothing, not even a single second of it. Those days were hands down the best time of my life, and my most treasured memories were made from those exhausting, sleep deprived, burning-the-candle-at-both-ends years.
But I didn’t walk away unscathed. All the years of late nights broke my internal clock. Still to this day when 9:00 pm rolls around, I start to rev back up again but this time instead of getting ready to step onto a stage, I’m usually starting the routine of trying to fall asleep.
Sadly, though and without fail, every evening, my mind begins to race. As soon as I lay down in bed is when my mind begins to reflect back on all the things I wanted to do during the day but wasn’t able to accomplish.
It’s a vicious circle of racing thoughts, mental note taking, recollections of things that happened during the day. It’s usually around 11:00 pm that I realize that the email reply I sent quickly and hastily on my phone might have been too abrupt. “Shoot”, I whisper out loud, “I hope that she didn’t take what I said the wrong way."
My heart starts to race. “NO”, I tell myself, “you have to sleep!” I squeeze my eyes closed again, but they drift back open, and I find myself staring at the ceiling.
I look over to the clock and see the time passing. That makes my heart race even faster. My foot starts to tap, I toss, I turn, I adjust my pillow, squeeze my eyes shut again and repeat to myself “you need to sleep!”
Midnight rolls around and it’s usually at this time that I try to change my strategy. I kiss my sleeping husband, grab my phone, and slip out of bed to come downstairs. I give it another try on the couch, but this time I’ll put a show on the TV. Nothing exciting or new; it has to be something I’ve already watched a thousand times. It’s just something to have in the background. My favorite is Forensic Files because the narrators voice is deep and mundane. Nothing like a good murder/mystery to calm the mind, right?
Sometimes I’ll fall back to sleep, but most nights I don’t. I’ll fight it it until around 1:30 am and it’s at that time that I usually give up. I’ll either open up my laptop and do some video editing or go through social media to answer messages. I’ll write, I’ll read the bible, sometimes I’ll clean, other times I’ll go out into my shop to make soap.
I’ve tried everything from melatonin to acupuncture and nothing works for me. I’ve switched to decaf coffee, I stop eating after a certain time, I’ve tried warm baths, chamomile tea. Nothing. I’ve made the personal choice not to take prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills. I’m fortunate enough to work from home allowing me to set my hours and appointments, so I have the luxury of sleeping until 9 or 10, if my dogs allow me.
I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m a night owl. I know myself all too well and as much as I’d love to be an early bird, I know it’s just not my fate. Waking up early sounds wonderful in theory, and I deeply envy those who can lay their head on the pillow at 10:30 pm, fall fast asleep within minutes, sleep through the night without any interruptions, and wake up refreshed and bright eyed at 6:00 am. But breakfast dates aren’t in my cards; I’m more of a “let’s meet for lunch or dinner” kind of gal.
Eventually, I do end up drifting off to sleep, usually on the sofa, rarely in my warm bed next to my husband. Most of the time, I see him off to work in the morning and I'll usually fall asleep shortly after he leaves.
So here I sit, at 3:00 am, writing a blog post about insomnia. The struggle is real, my friends, and If you’re reading this at 3:00 am, then you understand the struggle. If you have any tips or pointers, I'll take them! On the contrary, if you’re reading this early in the morning after a refreshing night of sleep, well, I envy you...but you sure did miss a beautiful moon last night.