Last night, I went to sleep.

That shouldn’t be an inherently revolutionary statement, but for the last few weeks my body has been rebelling against me. Every night I would look forward to that delicious moment when my head hit the pillow. I would ease under the covers and sigh a little sigh as I relaxed. And then, the laying there would begin.

I always start out trying to sleep on my right side, my left arm hugging a pillow and my right hand tucked under my face. I’ve slept the same way since I was a baby; there are pictures of me in my crib lying just like that, though the pillow was replaced with a bright pink cloth doll (who, by the way, is now rather gray, but still lives in my bedroom, along with her similarly-gray sister doll, not to be confused with a sister wife). I’m rather skilled at scrunching the pillow into just the right position to support my neck, except on the nights I am not, which recently has been every night. My neck and shoulders get tense.

So I flop over onto my left side, but I can never seem to figure out what to do with my right arm when it’s not the one supporting my head. So I flop onto my back, scrunch the pillow up and tuck another one under my knees, which they say you’re supposed to do to support your lower back. I feel like I am dozing off until all of a sudden, I am not. I get up and go to the bathroom. I come back and start the charade over on my right side again. An hour has passed.

Some nights I go out to the couch, and miraculously I am almost always able to fall asleep. Something about being squished against the straight back of the couch makes me feel comfortable enough to finally drop off. Many nights I wake back up in the early hours of the morning and try to go back to bed, but Andy has (understandably) moved to the middle, so I resign myself back to the couch. The alarm goes off and I groggily stumble into the shower. Or I make it through the night in my own bed, with hopes of getting up to go to the gym, but the alarm goes off and I can barely move.

I’ve been off my routine, and I am a creature of habit who needs her routine. Not being able to sleep is so dreadfully frustrating to me. One night in my insomniacial stupor I laid on the couch and cried. Other nights I punch the pillow. “I just want to sleep,” I shriek in my head. Every night, I would think, “This is the night. This is the night that I’ll fall right asleep and sleep well.” I never fell into the trap of worrying about not being able to sleep and thus not being able to sleep. In fact, I felt like I did everything right. I didn’t drink caffeine after lunch time. I started winding down well before I wanted to go to sleep, and if I read, I read in the dark with only a book light. I don’t watch TV too close to bedtime, and I rarely take my phone or computer into the bedroom. I took melatonin an hour or so before I wanted to drift off (or I took it at 1 in the morning after unsuccessfully trying to sleep for 2 hours). And yet, every night, the rotisserie of trying to get comfortable in my own bed, the bed for which I yearn when I am on vacation, the pillow that called to me as I wearily stumbled through my days, usurped my hope.

I had a phase like this in college as well and even went to the doctor about it. She, probably rightfully, was wary of prescribing me a sleeping pill. Normally when I can’t sleep, though, I can pinpoint something that is stressing me out. In fact, insomnia is usually my first sign that I’m under duress, my body cluing me into what my mind has not even figured out yet. But the most frustrating lately has been that I really don’t think I’ve been stressed, at least not for as long as the sleeplessness has been plaguing me.

So I caved last week and bought a supplement that a friend recommended. It has like every herb and hormone that I’ve ever heard of that promotes sleep, all wrapped up in one little pellet. And it was beautiful. It was worth every penny. I slept! I even made it to the gym one morning! And last night, sans pill, I fell asleep. And I got up this morning to go to the gym for the first time in quite awhile (I’ve been forced to transition to going in the afternoon, when I’ve gone at all, because of my lack of sleep). I have plenty of pills left, but my hope in buying them was just to break the cycle: to sleep normally enough a few nights that my body remembered how blissful it feels, how productive I can be when I’m rested. I’ll knock on wood as I type this, but for now I think it’s worked. Because last night, I went to sleep.

Do you struggle to sleep? How do you deal with insomnia?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman