Sunday, August 09, 2009

An insomniac says what?

I'm writing this at 5am on a Sunday morning, as I've been awake since 4. I've taken the dog for a walk already. Interesting things happen at this hour, besides early morning humidity. I had company - an elderly woman out walking her dog, two young men leaving an apartment down the block, clearly still inebriated from the night before and stumbling back to wherever they came from, people leaving their houses for jobs or maybe church (at this hour, I'm impressed by their commitment). People returning home from overnight jobs. It's still quiet and I find myself actually enjoying the early morning dark.

My usual insomnia pattern - the stress-related one - involves not being able to fall asleep, or falling asleep for a few hours and waking at 2 or 3am to flip channels on the television or pick up a book for a while until I'm sleepy again. Lately, even if I go to bed after midnight, I find myself waking early in the morning - 5 or 6am. It reminds me of my grandmother, who after the age of 70 or so, would wake before sunrise when she stayed with us for summers. My sisters and I would roll out of bed at 8 or 9am to find my grandmother in the kitchen, hair already combed out from rollers, baking rolls for breakfast or making fry bread with orange preserves. She would have already quietly picked up around the house - "puttering," she called it. She'd have already spent an hour or so sitting at the dining room table and playing solitaire with a deck of cards, or watching early morning infomercials on television. I used to call this "old person insomnia." And now, apparently I have it.

After walking the dog, I finished reading "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" (I think one of the best autobiographies of Harper Lee, even though Lee herself refused to participate). I don't want coffee this early, otherwise I'll find myself cleaning the house by 7am and at the library when it first opens like I did when I woke up before 6am yesterday.

Since I have a few years before middle-age, I know I'm not having "old person insomnia," but this is still something. Something different than the frustration that comes when I lie awake at 3am, different from not being able to fall asleep. I feel productive, wide awake even without coffee, and if Target was open this early I'd probably get in the car and cross one more thing off of my to-do list for the weekend. These early morning hours feel more like gift than curse. But being someone who can easily sleep past 9am unless I set the alarm, I wonder where this is coming from. I'm not 70, I don't have a newborn, I don't even have a houseful of family who will wake up in a few hours expecting fry bread with orange marmalade (not that I have either of those things in the fridge).

The dog has already gone back to sleep. The cat is still sleeping in the same spot from last night. And I'm trying to decide if I will pick up a new book, or try to go back to sleep myself. I feel like I'll miss something important if I do.


  1. The pre-dawn air in the neighborhood was so thick and soft this morning at Hampton Park that I felt like I was running through cream cheese.


    Dan, another guy in your neighborhood with some variant of the same insomnia.

  2. I've experienced this before, and unfortunately I can't blame it on the kids. It is my own madness, or genius. However you want to look at it. I built my new blog during the 3am hour. The insomnia is usually stress related, but sometimes it's good stress. I'm working on something I really want to complete. I get great ideas in the middle of the night.

  3. Flipping sleep cycles frequently due to my job has led me to learn one important lesson: It does not matter when you sleep, only that you feel rested and can accomplish what you need to do.

    Harder to live by when you have obligations (like set appointments), but if you are getting done what you need to get done and don't feel horrible, then try not to worry about it.

  4. P.S. I was up at 0300, eating a pbj and watching how selling crap on the interwebs could make me a ba-jillionaire.

    One of the perks of insomnia: infomercials!

  5. It's nice to know I'm not alone at that hour!

    Daniel, especially in the neighborhood. We made it close to Hampton Park on our walk and I agree - nice breeze but the humidity was high already at 5am.

    Janet - That's good to know! Because I work from home, I am able to nap to make up for lost sleep later.

    Angie - same with me! I was actually working on a web site for a client very early this morning - not because I had to, but because I was awake.

    I took an hour power nap at 9am and now feeling ready for my day.

  6. I've been there and know how frustrating it can be. In this case, your loss (of sleep) is our gain - another great post. Thanks. Philip


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