Waking in the middle of the night has been an issue for me since high school.
I find myself staring into the darkness and worrying about things over which I can do absolutely nothing at that particular moment. I just watch the clock, getting more and more anxious about falling back asleep as the morning fast approaches. I know this is common for a lot of people.
But if I allow myself, I can enjoy the creativity that manifests itself in a different way in those wee hours than it does during the day. I’ve composed long, eloquent letters to loved ones, designed intricate plots for screenplays and novels, and written comedy that totally cracks me up. It can be so entertaining if I let myself just go with it. I even stop stressing about the impending buzz of the alarm.
Unfortunately, I never write any of it down; I’m always afraid that getting out of bed or turning on a light will just prevent me from ever getting back to sleep.
I thought this heightened creativity in the night was fascinating, so I did a little research (i.e. Googled some stuff) and found something really interesting.
In her amazing essay Broken Sleep, Karen Emslie says that in the days before electricity, night-waking was the norm. Virginia Tech historian A. Roger Ekrich, author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, says that sleep back then was divided into two segments, separated by a period of night-waking that could last up to several hours, Emslie writes.
That awake time “was used for activities such as reading, praying and writing, untangling dreams, talking to sleeping partners or making love,” she notes.
“Ekrich’s ideas were the subject of a dedicated session at Sleep 2013, the annual meeting of the U.S. Associated Professional Sleep Societies. One of the biggest implications to emerge was that the most common insomnia, ‘middle-of-the-night insomnia,’ is not a disorder but rather a harking back to a natural form of sleep – a shift in perception that greatly reduced my own concern about night-waking.”
So I’ve decided that I, too, will no longer view night-waking as a problem – although, let’s face it, it’s no fun to be tired during the day. Instead I will grab a pen and paper or my laptop and record my ideas. I’m sort of looking forward to it. (I just hope it happens on a weekend.)