It’s the middle of the night and you’re wide awake.
It’s 2 a.m. You don’t have to be up until 6:30 a.m. You figure that’s four long hours away plus 30 minutes. If this goes on for the whole time, what, you wonder, are you supposed to do with yourself until then?
You’re irritated! You may or may not be able to get some sleep later in the day. You know you’re going to be tired later. This is the time you’ve set aside for sleep and it needs to happen now.
Pessimistically, you consider you might fall asleep at 6:01 a.m. You’ll get 29 minutes of good sleep and then have to get up for work. You’ll feel terrible. Guaranteed.
This isn’t good!
What am I going to do?
If you have a partner in bed with you, you don’t want to wake them up. They’ll be grouchy, and besides they need their sleep too. That wouldn’t be right.
You could go to the kitchen and eat. A full stomach can help you feel calm and relaxed. That, unfortunately, would ruin your diet and might leave you with a bad case of acid reflux when you tried to lay down again. If you do eat, eat something light.
You could go to the emergency department and see what they could do for your inability to sleep. Anyone who has worked at an emergency department at night can tell you people do this. You don’t, however, because you consider how they probably wouldn’t do anything and then present you with a big bill to boot.
The convenience store or the diner wouldn’t leave you with as extreme of a bill at the emergency department, but that would signify completely giving up on the prospect of sleeping tonight.
You don’t want to turn on the television either. There are all kinds of commercials on there to convince that you need some gadget.
The same goes for a shopping site.
It can feel hopeless.
You don’t want to take some medication to help you go back to sleep. Alcohol isn’t the answer either, especially if you have to be somewhere like work the next morning where they wouldn’t take too kindly to you showing up even a little intoxicated.
The same goes for any other drugs.
You could get on your computer and browse. You’ve done that all day. What’s a few more hours of that?
Yet there’s a better option other than aimlessly browsing on the Internet. One thing you can do is to simply accept you’re supposed to be up at this time.
Why are you up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep?
There’s probably a different reason for everyone who finds themselves doing this.
You could be worried about something.
It could be because your room is uncomfortable.
Your sleeping schedule could be out of whack, perhaps if you’re switching from being up all night and all day.
Maybe you’ve slept enough.
There’s a lot of reasons.
The one thing you can do about it is decide what you’re going to do with the time.
It’s a gift.
Embrace the moment
What if you were to do this?
It would mean getting up out of the bed and not worrying about it.
Accept this time, in the middle of the night, this very night, is meant for you. For your dreams. For your life.
You’re awake because you are meant to be awake. Resolve to something beautiful with it.
Here’s some ideas to get you started. The perfect middle-of-the-night activity will be quiet and somewhat boring. It also won’t involve a computer screen that doesn’t have blue-light blocking on it. Exposure to blue light can affect your ability to fall back asleep.
The perfect middle-of-the-night activity is the thing you’ve put off because though you know you should, you’re not excited about doing it.
It’s best to give all of these ideas a try for at least 15 minutes to see how you feel. If you’re not absolutely tired after 15 minutes, give it another 15 minutes. Some of them, like creating a budget, can take longer than 15 minutes, but 15 minutes can give you a good start, making it easier to take up again later.
Things you can do in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep
- Create a budget with a pencil and paper. It’s important to start out with a list of goals and dreams. Where do you want to be in five years? In twenty?
- Write a letter with a pen and paper. Don’t know who you’d write to? Write a letter to your younger self telling him or her how you feel about how things have turned out so far. Write an actual physical letter to someone who’d like getting a letter like that or has never gotten one before.
- Try some gentle stretching exercises or yoga. Flexibility is a component of physical fitness. Stretching works the tension out of your body while not getting your pulse rate up too high.
- Pray or meditate. If you pray, start out with praying for yourself and then your friends and family. If you feel ready, mentally work on the heavy-duty issues we all face like forgiving those who have slighted us and our character flaws. Pray for those who really could use some prayers.
- Write a poem.
- Pursue your hobby if you have one and the stuff is available.
- Draw or sketch something.
- Read a book or magazine. Maybe there’s an old one around your place if you’re not reading one now.
- Make a list of healthy meals you could eat at home. Then make a grocery shopping list.
- Make what they call a bucket list, a list of things you’d like to do before you die.
If you’re faced with an overwhelming number of tasks, putting them down on paper can help you prioritize. What are the most important things you have to get done? What will give your life the most impact? Some of them, like dealing with your bills, can stir up a lot of negative feelings. The power of accepting your insomnia is, when you do, that doesn’t matter. You’ve acknowledged you’re probably not going back to sleep unless you get really tired. Accepting the moment, the gift, of being awake at night when you’re free to focus on something important, is a way of improving your life. Ideally, you shouldn’t avoid anything. Money plays a big role in achieving our dreams. Getting a handle on yours, making a plan for your spending and earning is part of reaching your dreams.
Introspection has a bad name with some people. That’s because it can be an endless rathole of anxiety where it keeps you up all night long. It can, however, inform purposeful action which can help you out in the long run. The key is being able to channel your energy into something productive.
You can try planning ahead for these periods where you’re not able to sleep at night. That’s especially a good idea if you’re a night-shift worker who’s switching back to being awake for a string of days. Be ready with a paper book you’d like to read or a project you’ve always wanted to complete. If you prepare, you can try middle-of-the-night activities like quilting, crocheting, and knitting while you listen to a podcast. Ideas like that didn’t make the list above because you just can’t start sewing without preparing for it during the day.
You can go through a period of these middle-of-the-night awakenings. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be a permanent part of your life if you don’t get on some sleeping medication. Make use of them. You can, if you fully accept them and use them to get your life in order in the way you feel.
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