Golden Slumbers

Waking up in the middle of the night? Don’t stress about it and count sheep.

It’s 5 AM, do you know where your Morpheus is? Mine has surely gone hiding somewhere, because it is pitch dark and I am as awake as an owl.

I have never been a sound sleeper, or a late riser, during my entire life and definitely with age my sleeping pattern has gone south. It has become more like a fight. At night, I find myself tilting at windmills.

It goes like this: I wake up around 4:30 (it sounds awful but it is true), I give myself 20 minutes or so of wishful thinking to be led back into the Land of Nod, but afterwards, with no shore on sight, I DO THE FIRST WRONG THING: I LOOK AT THE TIME and then I start tossing and turning like I am in a barrel-ride down the Niagara Falls! The math of the clock is a science: if I do not go back to sleep now, I will have slept less than the necessary minimum (7 hours) to go about my day without the typical side effects of a sleep deprived human being: I will feel a little groggy, a lot nervous, a less focused, and much hungrier than usual. Unacceptable! And while I am doing the math over again, subtracting minute after minute, I become more fidgety and nervous, until I DO THE SECOND WRONG THING: I TURN ON MY IPHONE. That’s when I start flipping through blogs and articles or whatsapping friends in Italy. And at the end of my surfing, I am more awake than ever.

Sometimes, I doze off again, snatching a couple of extra hours. But on most nights, the anxiety of not getting enough sleep and of being awake when everybody is doing the right thing — hitting Snoozeville — bites me like a mosquito doing its annoying job.

Lately, a couple of sleep related news gave me a reprieve and some hope for a more tranquil slumber. The first one came in the form of an encouraging message from a group of researchers at a recent sleep symposium of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in Denver (where everybody was awake and attentive!). These scientists took aim at the common sleep deprived nation headlines saying that labeling sleep deprivation an epidemic, or inflating the amount of rest we need, sends anxiety driven insomniacs (that’s me) down a worrisome path, making them sleep worse, actually! And it pushes many of them to reach for the medicine cabinet. I am not yet among that cohort, but according to the latest data from the Center for Disease Control, around 9 million Americans use prescription medications to try to get a good night’s sleep, and I wonder how many of these people take them because they think they are getting an inadequate amount of zzzs. We are led to believe that the more sleep we get the better, and if we dont’ get it, it is going to be a personal catastrophe. Does it mean these scientists now promote reducing sleep or letting people stay awake? No! But they believe that when you tell people to increase their sleep you only make them more anxious about it.

The second upbeat news I read comes from the pope. Yes, the 80 years old head of the catholic church. Francis revealed during a recent interview that he sleeps well, thanks to the Lord. He sleeps like a log — managing 6 hours of sleep per night. He figures the sound sleep boosts his health. Hey, I will happily go for 6 hours! If it is enough for the pope, I can make it work for me. Even though I am definitely not 80, I am also not in charge of 1.37 billion people around the world. From now on, my rationale will be that if my body needs more sleep, it will get more. Meanwhile, I will try not to get worried about it, I will restrain from my nighttime socials, and I will count sheep. Have a Good Night.

Like what you read? Give Simona Vigna a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.