Up All Night

A couple of days ago was the first scorching hot day of the year. We don’t have central air conditioning, so in the summer my husband throws a couple of air conditioning units in a few windows and we make do. The problem is he was rushed for time and didn’t seal the window in our bedroom properly so when I went to bed I found bugs swarming through the thin opening between the window panes. They were everywhere. I tried to ignore them, and then there was this flickering light like Tinker Bell had come to tell me that Peter was in trouble – come quick – and I realized, oh, wait, it’s not Tinker Bell, it’s a firefly. And there were three of them. In my room. Like beacons. Flashing. On and off, on and off, on and off. And I knew that unless I got up to catch them, there would be no sleeping for me.

Sleep has never come easy. As a kid I was the one reading beneath the blankets with a flashlight. Early morning is not my friend. I’ve learned to cope in a world that gets started at the crack of dawn, not always cheerfully, but I try. Sometimes, though, my propensity for staying up late lurches into the realm of insomnia, which is beast of another kind. When I cannot fall asleep no matter what I do.

My husband doesn’t understand that at all. He thinks that falling asleep is simply a matter of self-discipline. I have tried to describe for him what it feels like — sleeplessness even in the face of bone-deep fatigue. It’s like there’s an electrical current running through my body that I have absolutely no control over, and there’s no switch I can flick to shut it off or slow it down. Odd thoughts and words slam around in my head, disjointed and meaningless; sometimes seemingly profound or so applicable to something I’ve been working on that I debate whether I should get up and write it down. I don’t have to be worrying about anything – other than going the hell to sleep. The insomnia is just there, waiting, in the dark, taunting me like a fiend from a horror story. Honest to God, my first conscious thought yesterday was the line: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. . . .

And before you offer, just let me say I have run the gamut of sleep aids. Antihistamines, lavender oil, warm milk, herbal, homeopathic, ayurvedic, over-the-counter PM versions of Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil. None of it really works, or works for long. It’s annoying as hell, but I’ve learned to accept that some of us are just wired differently. It’s how we were born. In fact, who knows, maybe that’s how vampire stories got started. Maybe those people were nothing more than poor schleps who were also wired differently and couldn’t sleep at night. So they made up for it by sleeping a big chunk of the day away and were persecuted by the early-to-rise citizenry. If that’s the case, I consider myself lucky. At least no one has tried to drive a stake through my heart.


No lie, I tried to get a photo of the fireflies in my room, which was obviously an impossibility from the get-go. It just shows how sleep deprivation robs you of the ability to think logically. Besides, I like this picture of purple irises. And I’m in BIG love with Instagram.

18 thoughts on “Up All Night

  1. I feel your pain, Mary. I finally had a sleep study done and am on meds for the rest of my days. I sleep now, but still fight the need to stay up all night and sleep all day. What happened to the lightening bugs? Miss them.


    • I’ve thought about doing a sleep study, but I fear the idea of medication more than the occasional bout of insomnia. And I agree, a lot of the problem with staying up late, is because there are not enough hours in a day to do all that I want to do.

      I left the room to go write, so I don’t know what happened to those lightening bugs. Squeezed through the opening in the window and went home when they were done partying in my bedroom, I expect.


  2. I hope you get to enjoy(!) more visitations by Tinker Bell. Sounds really amazing. Well, maybe not again and again. Did you catch them? Maybe if you got out of bed before noon several days running, you just might fall asleep before 2 or 3 AM. No? Just saying ๐Ÿ™‚ This morning person loves you the way you are.


    • Dear Ray – ๐Ÿ˜› (that’s for the before noon crack) I didn’t try to catch the fireflies. I got up and went to another room and wrote some. Last night there was one in the room (though I don’t know how it got in). That one really was a Tinker Bell, because she wasn’t just flashing on & off, she was zipping with her light on, across the ceiling, end to end, as though she was on drugs.


      • I love your description of TBell – high on drugs.
        I do know, like Bob no doubt does, what it is like to live with someone not on the same – the only sane (I’m sticking my tongue out too) – schedule. E.g., last night was a doozy. Both of us in bed about 12:30; he, awake about 3:30, and therefore so was an unwilling I; not back to sleep until 5:30; both of us slept until about 9:30 this morning. Ugh. As I type, he is snoring as he naps. I need a nap too. Badly…


  3. Dear Mary, it’s all that creative energy of yours–you just can’t shut it off. The price of brilliance, I expect. No brilliance here, but the same problem. I try imagining what it would be like to fall asleep in the perfect room, the sound of the rain falling outside. Trouble is, next thing I know, I’m lying there in bed, wide awake, waiting for my imagination to finish decorating that “perfect room”. Big yawn.


    • Creative energy? Maybe. Brilliance? Jury’s still out on that one, my dear. FYI, I have a friend who is revising a book in which the main character also arranges the perfect room in mind when she can’t sleep. Not so boring at all.


  4. I used to have terrible problems with insomnia too, as well as light sleeping, repeated waking, night sweats, ears popping, awful nightmares, etc. I finally did two things that cured it totally – quit my job so I could keep my own sleep schedule, which seems to be about 1 a.m. to 9 a.m., and I quit eating grains and carbs of any kind except maybe once a week, because I’m apparently terribly sensitive to them. Now I sleep straight through the night, and all the other symptoms are completely gone too. I feel like a whole different person, and I dropped 20 pounds too.

    When I do eat carbs, or on the rare instances that I get really overwired, I take half a Benadryl and that usually does it. I also meditate, which can often get me off to sleep. I don’t know if any of that would help you, but it sounds like anything is worth a try at this point. Best of luck! I know how miserable it can be.


  5. I can relate, and I’ve always been such a conflict-avoider with a husband who also doesn’t get it, so I would lie there until 4 am trying to sleep. Working shift work for 14 years really just compounded the problem. Now, I get up and do something productive on those nights when sleep just won’t happen, and catch up during the day, which my schedule permits. Mr Perfectly Normal has learned to live with it.

    Owning the weird! โค


  6. I’m sorry to hear of your sleep problems, I’m fortunate not to have to deal with that, but the thoughts of having fireflies blinking around in your room is actually quite lovely . . . I could see a picture book about that . . . how to turn off the light when you can’t just flip a switch, you’ve got to convince the firefly to go to sleep . . . something to think about next time you can’t snooze ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Well, I enjoyed reading your post, Mary. Although, it doesn’t make me happy. I love the fireflies in your room. Doesn’t that seem like something a pharmaceutical company could use for an insomnia meds commercial?


  8. Fireflies…I was just saying to The Hubby that you don’t see them as much anymore. We used to spend summer evenings catching them and our kids barely see them. Then, the other night – there they were. A resurgence! I’m a night person too. Hate mornings. I’m a musician. So it’s vampires and musicians! I love your writing and I’m bestowing you with The Liebster Award! (Ta Da!) Stop by my blog and pick it up when you get a chance.


    • I noticed the same thing – about the resurgence. This summer it seems they’re everywhere (including my bedroom!). Thank you so much for finding me, AND for the Liebster Award. That’s so nice of you. I’ll be right over to get it.


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