Poem: Insomnia

Awake at 4am on Sunday: my brain’s cruel joke.
Unfinished work and arguments
rev my body, overheat my thoughts.
Sleep retreats, crowded out by
the non-stop, frantic, tense what-ifs.

Too much red wine last night. I have to pee
and drink some water. Maybe if
I take something for the headache.
Who are we kidding, brain? The sky is light
and I don’t yet know where we’re breakfasting
this morning. Please don’t let this blow my day.
Worry is a misuse of imagination,
and my imagination is mighty,
like Samson at the temple of Dagon.
Maybe a nap at noon.

“But sleep isn’t fun!”

My big girl is still struggling with the transition to sleep in the evenings, and since it comes at the end of the day, I am not always at my best when dealing with it. We have a list of things you can do to help yourself fall asleep. I wrote it down. I taped it to her wall. We recite them like a catechism. We brainstorm new ones. But last night she came back around to the complaint (which I haven’t heard for nearly 3 years!) that “sleep isn’t fun.”

My inclination was just to tell her, “tough, sometimes stuff that’s good for you isn’t fun. Get over it.” That’s not been the most successful response on other subjects, shockingly enough, and so I’m really excited that I was able to try another way last night. Instead, I explained to her what sleep does in her brain, based on some research I’ve been hearing about on NPR. 🙂

I told Amelia to imagine her brain was her bedroom, and that every day while she’s learning new things it’s like getting new toys and books and clothes, and they all get piled up in the middle of the rug in her room. Then I asked her, if all your things were just piled up in the middle of your room, would it be easy to play or get dressed? And she said no, and we talked about that for a while to really create a strong image for her. Then I told her that while she sleeps, her brain sends in little pixies/fairies/whatever and they clean up her brain’s room. They put the books on the book shelf, sweep the legos into a bin, and fold her clothes and put them in the dresser. That way, when she wakes up, the room of her brain is clean and she can more easily remember things, make good choices, and enjoy herself all day long.

So, it worked! She started riffing on the idea of learning things being like going to a toy store and getting all the toys you wanted, and then didn’t object to me leaving the way she’s been doing so much lately. I thought I’d share the explanation here so that other parents who are struggling with similar objections from their totally-not-sleepy kids, they could maybe try it. 🙂

A couple of good podcasts on sleep from NPR:

Russell Foster: Why Do We Need Sleep?

No Rest For Your Sleeping Brain

This is a thing now

Every day for about a week now, Baxter has emerged from his room in the morning saying, “Mom, I got up too early.” He proceeds to make a little bed for himself on the couch so he can rest for a few minutes before the perpetual motion machine that is his body currently gets revved up enough to blast him back into whirling dervish mode Here’s what it looked like today.  

Bad night


Amelia had anxiety-insomnia between 11:30pm and 1:30am (at least) last night, with Bax waking up a few times in there just for good measure. We’re accustomed to the kids sleeping peacefully through the night these days, so I’m pretty wrecked this morning — which calls for strong measures. I made myself coffee instead of tea. Watch out world, we’re all grumpy today.