Wide Awake in America


I am a middle aged woman.

Therefore, I do not sleep.

This is a very well known, but much hated, fact. Middle aged women are awake when all the world is wrapped in blissful slumber.

We. Simply. Do. Not. Sleep.

And for the most part (at least according to the women that I know) we have no idea what is keeping us awake.

We finish dinner, clean things up, maybe do some laundry or correct some math papers. We make lunch for tomorrow, check our email, and fall into bed after yawning so hard that we are pretty sure we have cracked our jaws.

And we sleep.  Deeply and blissfully, we sleep.  Until somewhere between 2 and 3 AM when something suddenly pokes us in the ribs with an icy finger and yells “FIRE!”  Then we jolt upright, check for smoke/fire/alarms/crying babies and take our respective pulses.  Then we get a cold drink of water, go to the bathroom, pat the dogs, and head back into bed.

Where our adrenaline soaked bodies lie rigid,  and wait breathlessly for the dawn.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of my sleeplessness for a few years now.  I have tried drinking more water, drinking less water, leaving the window open, leaving the window closed, taking St. John’s Wort, taking melatonin, drinking “Sleepytime Extra”, drinking honey bourbon, meditating, listening to music, rubbing on lavender oil, rubbing on Aspercreme and listening to “Hey Jude”.   So far, nothing has worked.

Sometimes I think that I am just anxious about life in general, but then I have a supremely alert two or three nights when I realize that the biggest problem in my mind is whether I should make ravioli or ziti for Sunday dinner.

So what the hell is going on here?

Last night I fell asleep thinking about how cool it is that my son Matt will be hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a month.  This is a big family dream,  yearned for by his father and his siblings for as long as I can remember. I fell asleep enthralled with the idea of him achieving this wonderful dream.

And at 3 AM, on the dot, I woke up to the terrifying thought that       “A BEAR IS GOING TO EAT MY BABY!”  My heart was pounding, my head ached and I was in full out “fight or flight” mode. Never mind the fact that I know that black bears don’t eat big men.  Never mind the knowledge that black bears won’t even be wandering around a place that will be filled with hikers.   Never mind that all 6 foot 3 inches of Matt would be too smart to lie still while being munched on by a bear.

Nope: logic had no power.

It was the witching hour.  And I was petrified.

Sometimes I am kept awake by the realization that “OH, DEAR GOD.  I don’t have a decent homework plan for tomorrow.!!!!!!”      Or I toss and turn because “SHIT!!! MY DOG HAS A BROKEN TOENAIL!”   Or, “The Bruins are going to lose.”  Or, “I’m not real sure how to braise those lamb shanks.”

I am absolutely NOT making this up.  Sometimes I lie awake at night and worry about the shape of my eyebrows.

I am nuts.  But I am not alone.

I’ve written about this subject before now.  But I am reminded once again of my theory about insomnia in women.

If we could ONLY figure out a way to harness our combined adrenaline fueled middle-of-the-night energy, I have no doubt that we could solve world hunger, cure cancer, create a just and equitable world economy and write the great American novel.  And all before dawn.

If we could only figure out how to get some control over our angst, we could totally rule the world.

So let’s get together tonight, somewhere between 2:30 and 4.  Let’s make a plan, figure out an approach, and get on top of this whole situation.

Are you with me, ladies?

36 thoughts on “Wide Awake in America

  1. My problem is that, no matter how tired I think I am, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I can’t fall asleep. I envy the time you get till at least 2 or 3! Sometimes I’m worried, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m panicked and full of self-hatred and recrimination, but always, I’m wide awake.

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  2. Yep, yep, yep… Same problems here across the Pacific! I lie awake, sometimes worrying but mostly not, just wide awake. I sometimes get up and write, but then I am wide, wide awake. This wouldn’t be a problem, except I still have school-age kids and I’m wanting to go back to bed as they’re getting up. I’m longing for a time when I can just sleep and wake as I want, then I’ll have the housework done, groceries ordered (online), and blog post written, all before dawn!

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    • I know exactly what you mean! It isn’t even the super alert nights that kill me; its the full day of trying to be patient with my fifth grade students on two hours of sleep….ugh!

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  3. Laughing. Well, I’m a little younger and I don’t sleep either. I think it is a woman thing. The husbands seem to do it just fine, snoring and all. 😉

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  4. Oh, yes! That’s me, too! But I have a really bad habit – if I wake up, I turn the radio on and listen to it. It drowns out the nonsense in my head that woke me up in the first place, but then I’m still awake. Not sleeping. And, yes, usually the thoughts in our heads are quite silly and illogical. They know when we’re the weakest and attack then. At about 3 am.

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  5. This so used to be me until I discovered hormones! They have saved me from alienating my family and myself! After all, how can you not be a little b#*_!y when you’re getting no sleep! And, I don’t know about you, but I lost all ability to organize and execute task that used to be no big deal. HATED IT!!! (for me, its the Progesterone that saved my sleep…..) Didn’t know how much I loved my hormonal self until I didn’t have any……

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  6. I think because for so long we have been everything to everybody and it’s hard to shut your mind off. You still have the mentality that oh my gosh what if one of the kids show up and I don’t have any dessert in the house, or one of the kids is going to borrow a patio table and chairs and I didn’t have time to wash it. Or I forgot to call someone back. Well the reality is they won’t die without dessert and they can wash the table and chairs probably faster than I can these days and that person has assumed you were busy and is sending an email off to you. In other words you are right, nothing we think about at that hour is earth shattering so I’m trying to train my brain to basically “not give a shit” I mean I do, but to let it go. But it’s work BUT I am sleeping better along with the help of mother’s little helper called Black Cohash. That wasn’t in your list of things you’ve tried and it took awhile maybe 2 weeks to get into my system but I have been getting up to use the bathroom AND going back to sleep:) so don’t want to analyze it too much for it might soon change but grateful for Sleepy in Billerica:)

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    • Yeah, I used the cohosh for a while when I was in the middle of the old hot flash routine. It did help!
      I think that right now I am just sort of on overload; the end of a school year is always incredibly hard on teachers, but this year I have the added stress of having to move my classroom (which means packing every single thing), saying good bye to a colleague, helping a new colleague to get settled in, learning how to use a new report card, and having to give more tests than ever before. Phew. I barely have the energy to obsess about dessert!

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  7. Yeah this is always been a busy time for everyone, recitals, concerts, graduations, etc etc onto of the everyday work etc. Pretty soon it will be summer and you’ll be soaking your feet in the ocean!

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  8. My grammar was terrible in that post but I think I think faster than I type LOL
    this has always been and
    onto the normal everyday work schedule. There I feel better:)

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  9. Oh and one other thought too. If it’s all good stress than I tell myself I’m not going to let it consume me. Right now I have a lot but it’s good stress just more than my middle age brain can wrap itself around. But if it’s good I’m not going to sweat it. One day at a time and breathe:) and organization that helps me alleviate my stress if I have a lot on my plate. But you are right all that seems 20X bigger at 3am:( Maybe you can start a new business Karen Kakes? Do you like to bake at 3am?

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  10. Bless me mother, for I have slept.

    I grew up next to the NY-New Haven railroad and I-95 in Connecticut. I could sleep through a bear eating me. My husband says that sleeping is my best talent.

    Perhaps everybody else is worrying about stuff I should worry about, but, nah.

    Envy me, but don’t hate me. Because sometimes I fall back to sleep in the bathroom and wake up with a crick in my neck. So it isn’t all a bed of roses.

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    • Hahahahahaha!!!!
      The weird thing about me is that I can fall asleep in three seconds flat, and have been known to fall asleep in the tub, at the table, and even once at a red light. But I can’t STAY that way, or get back to sleep once I am jolted awake by the fear of something totally illogical.

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  11. Yep; sometimes it’s 2 am, sometimes 4 am. I goes weeks at a time waking up every night and then I’ll have a week or two where I sleep for 7 hours straight. Middle age is not for wimps.

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