The Wee Hours
Maslows hierarchy of needs puts sleep firmly in the foundation tier of basic physiological requirements for human survival. There is nothing if you do not get decent sleep.
Well…there’s misery, pain, a feeling of being untethered from reality but nothing good is what I’m saying.
I’m a territorial freak when it comes to ensuring my undisturbed slumber – window open, fan on, fresh sheets, lavender spray misted gently in the air before I retire, my nightly mug of “Sleepy Tea” and my phone on silent. God help you if you try to keep me awake once my mind is set on some good old fashioned R&R. I will fight you, I will cry, I will make our night miserable…
Okay I’m being dramatic but what I’m saying is, sleep is important to me and it should be to you too.
I believe that sleep is a cure for many things.
Feeling sick? Sleep. Headache? Sleep. Heart broken? Sleep. Physically/emotionally/mentally drained? Sleep. Hungry but can’t eat for whatever reason? Have sleep for dinner!
Not only does it cure most ailments by allowing us a break to heal and take an eight hour vacation from whatever ills us, but mentally it’s an escape from stress.
We hit the reset button every night and wake up feeling something different, renewed, an alternative perspective.
There’s much to be said for “getting up on the wrong side of the bed” though- legitimately, if you’ve fucked up getting up one morning and spend the day in a bad place, go to bed that night and know that you might get it right the next day.
For a while when I was stressed I self medicated in pursuit of sleep. Sleep was preferable to being awake as I hankered after that daily reset. However, I was afraid every night for the moment where I’d shut my eyes and in that half waking state JUST BEFORE I went under, I might find myself wrenched awake by a stray thought.
We’ve all experienced these; the flashback to our most embarrassing moments, social gaffs, foot in mouth. If I was braver I’d insert one of own dark of night recalls here for your amusement, but I’m not so we’ll skip well past what causes me to facepalm at 2am. No doubt that thing I said when I was 12 will continue to periodically haunt me until I’m 90.
On the embarrassment recall occasions I usually throw myself into another sleeping position and start alphabetising Pokemon – don’t laugh, it’s something I’ve done since I was a teenager and I usually find that by the time I’ve reached Ivysaur it’s game over and I’m KO’d.
What I want to talk about is The Interloper. The stray thought that hits you in the gut. The all too realistic missile constructed from pure fear with a dash of missing logic. A bolt of fresh off the grill fear usually in the form of a chilling new understanding of a situation I was facing. The wrong angle. The one we’ve not yet considered while fully conscious, has chosen our most vulnerable moment to make itself known. You might have prepared for 1 million things that could go wrong in your life but not this one. This bad boy is The Joker, The Wild Card, The Fifth Business that you hadn’t considered. Not something you can just brush to the back of your mind and chant Pokemon types at.
For me, the worst part of this nuclear bomb of a thought is that I can kiss sleep goodbye. Instead of that seductive 8 hour stretch of oblivion I’m now lying awake in the dark, wide eyed, heart pounding and breathless with fear.
Welcome to The Wee Hours. I’m sure at this moment you’ve never felt so alone, you’ve never felt so afraid and you’ve never needed so badly to call someone or wake your partner, who by now is doing a heavyweight impression of a coma patient.
The dizzying repercussion of coming face to face with this waking night terror is that you will get up feeling ragged (that’s if you do sleep at all) and you’ll be even less equipped to deal with problems than you were before. It’s insidious how our subconscious works sometimes.
As a person who has suffered from anxiety and medicated this with the happy pills, the sleep pills, the yoga, the counselling, the wine before bed, chamomile tea and therapeutic socks (they don’t work) I am all too familiar with this. The cold understanding that you just missed your train to sleepy town and you’re alone on the platform with an asshole with boundary issues is one I know well. You’re liable to spend the rest of the night locked in an endless cycle of logically talking yourself down to nearly asleep, followed by a fresh wave of panic and new reasons to lose your mind.
While I worked a stressful management role I learned pretty early on to take a more direct approach to thoughts that threated my sleep. No dancing about the asshole on the platform for me. No back and forth, no dodging soft punches, no time buying manoeuvres. I chose to mace that motherfucker straight away then kick him while he was on the ground.
By this colourful narrative I mean; light on, notepad – write it down – in detail or bullet pointed. WORST case scenario – reason why it won’t happen – precaution to take that can help prevent it.
I work from WORST to BEST and by the time I’ve done this it’s perhaps 20 minutes later and my opponent is reduced to a short list on a piece of paper.
I could now suggest you do something hippy dippy like burn it and fling the ashes into your garden at night while chanting Buddhist scripture but I’m not that spiritual.
Instead, I ask you to now insert a window into your day tomorrow to tackle this FIRST THING. Have a Plan of Action that you can be ready….no…KEEN to begin when you open your eyes – ponder on it while you prepare your caffeine injection and have a clear basis for neutralising that fear missile when you start your official work day.
You might be in a place where nothing negative really touches you at night – good. Long may it continue but it won’t continue indefinitely. At some point you’ll have your own confrontation with your worry bone and fear that it’ll cost you your nights sleep. Preparation for that moment is priceless and will work far better at protecting your rest than all the medication and sleepy tea in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I still experience the drowning sensation and feel myself going into a panic helter skelter loop of thinking but by deciding each time to hit pause by switching on a light, grabbing my notepad and planning my counter attack, I can return to bed feeling like I’ve worn out my worry at least till the morning and by then who knows…I might get out of bed on the side that makes it look much smaller than it felt in the wee hours.
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