The Elusive Shut-Eye

Sleep and I have never been friends.

From as far back as I can remember, I was up late– later than most kids I knew growing up. I know that doctors have always said that 8 hours of sleep is essential to good living, but if I could average out all the hours I have slept in my lifetime to the number of days I have lived on this planet, I have probably slept about 5 hours at most per night.

I hate to blame my family for this, but they do harbor some of it. Mom always worked nights, so she wouldn’t even leave to go to work until after 10:00 PM. And Dad always watched TV until the wee hours of the morning before finally getting his necessary 5 hours or so of sleep.

As my parents grew older, they stayed up later. And since they both retired while I still lived at home; and I lived at home until I was 26 years old; the pattern got even worse.

So I, too, never got enough sleep, and became the Night Owl I am today.

So what keeps me up, now that I live on my own? Distractions. My mind begins to race and wander from this to that to the other thing. I either find myself in the kitchen, whipping up a late night snack (which I know I shouldn’t be doing, but I do it anyway); or I plant myself in front of the TV to knock off a few recorded shows from my DVR; or I sit in front of the computer and crank out a blog post at 4 in the morning. All of these things could– and probably should– be done at much earlier times in the day, but for some reason I find myself compelled to accomplish them when the rest of the world is asleep.

And when I don’t have anything to accomplish, other things get in the way. Sometimes it’s the cats being especially rambunctious. Sometimes it’s the weather– a howling wind or a violent thunderstorm can keep me awake for hours. Sometimes it’s airplanes flying overhead, since my neighborhood is direcly under a flight traffic area for O’Hare Airport. Sometimes it’s the moon. Sometimes it’s my alarm clock. And sometimes I’m just plain not tired at all.

I have sleep aids, and I use them on occasion in small doses– and they work. But when it gets to be this late, it’s TOO late to take them.

So what do you do to avoid being an insomniac, if you have ever been in this situation before? What helps you relax and shut out the world so you can get to sleep at night? And if you take sleep aids (I take Lunesta), which ones do you take, and how do they work for you?