I’ve never been good at sleeping.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping for one reason or another. Maybe it’s time to just admit I’m a lifelong insomniac. But whatever the cause, I often find myself awake at night when the rest of my immediate world is asleep.

I’d love to tell you something lovely and romantic like “I’m a writer; of course when I can’t sleep at night I get up and write all the things that swirl in my head.”

But that’s not true.

Well, sometimes it’s true. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I do have things swirling in my head that beg to be written down and won’t give me peace until I acquiesce to their urging. But other nights I can’t sleep because the words don’t come and I worry if they ever will.

Many nights, I can’t sleep because my husband snores. Yup. Big time. Snores like a tractor. But on those nights when his snoring makes it difficult for me to sleep, I give him a shove to roll him over and remember how thankful I am to share this life of ours with him. I’d so rather have him snoring beside me than not.

Some nights I can’t sleep because I’m worried about something. Pick a topic and I promise you at some point in my life I’ve worried about it. Maybe my daughter is sick. Maybe I’m worried about a submission I’m working on. Maybe I’m worried about someone else in the family. Maybe it’s bills that need to be paid or laundry that hasn’t been put away. Maybe it’s whether the cat’s medication is working. There’s always something…

Maybe I read a book or watched a movie that was a bit too scary too close to bedtime. Funny at this age to be afraid of the dark and all the things that go bump in the night. But the mind is a powerfully imaginative thing and bedtime entertainment should be carefully considered.

Other nights I can’t sleep because my mind or body won’t let me. Living with ADHD has many challenges and the brain that won’t shut off is one of them. There are nights I would love to sleep, to close my eyes and drop off instantly like some people do. That doesn’t happen. My thoughts are awake always.

Or maybe I can’t sleep because some part of me hurts – a headache maybe, or my arthritis, or maybe I overdid that workout just a bit yesterday. Those nights are never fun.

I spend my sleepless nights in various ways. Sometimes, I do write. Sometimes I read a book or watch reruns of Frasier on the Hallmark Channel. Once when I was about twelve, I couldn’t sleep and my mom needed to so rather than keep her up all night, I watched a movie – The Glory Guys – in my beanbag chair in the living room. I still remember that vividly.

Some nights I walk around the house, counting cats and maybe quietly straightening up this or that. I make lists of things I need to do. Sometimes I sit by the window and watch the silent world, wondering who is awake and what they are doing behind the other lighted windows I see. Some nights I pray.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I just like the way the world feels when everything else is still.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

This week’s sentence is “When I can’t sleep, I…”

Lisa A. Listwa is a self-employed writer with experience in education, publishing, and the martial arts. Believing there was more to life than punching someone else’s time clock and inspired by the words of Henry David Thoreau, she traded her life as a high school educator for a life as a writer and hasn’t looked back. She is mother to one glorious handful of a daughter, wife to the nicest guy on the planet, and reluctant but devoted owner of three Rotten Cats. You can find her adventures and thoughts on living life deliberately here on the blog.

20 thoughts on “My World at Night

  1. Sometimes I stare out at the world too, wonder where people are going, and where they’ve been… and I often wonder if I like that time too. I can be SO TIRED but I never go to bed when I can. Instead, I wait until the guys here are sleeping, and I wander, and do and sometimes write, but delay bed. Your night in the beanbag sounds amazing. I love memories like that.

    1. How weird is it that I remember that bean bag night so vividly? Maybe because it was the first time I actually gave up on sleep and got out of bed to do something else. NO idea. I’d love to find a copy of that movie and watch it again!
      I definitely don’t attempt to sleep until Zilla’s asleep (unless I’m like dying sick or something), but the Hub is often awake much later than I’m willing to wait. Although I rarely do fall asleep until he finally comes up. Weird. I guess I just like knowing everyone is where they belong.

  2. I can totally relate to so much of this, because as much as I love sleep I have had my fair share of sleepless nights before and after Kiss for all sorts of reason. And many of the things you do when you can’t indeed sleep or what I have done, as well in response. Wish I had a better answer, but sadly I don’t. Still, it is just what it is and yet at the very least glad selfishly it isn’t just me.

  3. Lisa, last fall I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and began using a cpap machine. Oh-my-gosh! Life changing. I have come to wonder if I had ever had a quality night’s sleep in my lifetime prior to this marvelous machine. If so, it has been decades and decades. The very best thing I have discovered in the past several months is the way actual deep and sustained sleep stills the anxieties and worries that were my companions in the night for far too long.
    If any part of you suspects you may have some sort of sleep disorder, I urge you to do a sleep study. Yes, I have far more energy and am notably more alert now, but by far the biggest blessing of proper diagnosis and treatment for me has been conquering the unease and anxious feelings.

    1. I’m so glad to know that you are finding rest and relief, May. Hub has a cpap and it makes a huge difference. He still snores, but at least he can breathe!
      My sleep disruption is one hundred percent my ADHD – part of the package. The brain that won’t turn off is a very real thing. I have lots of tricks, but they don’t always work. I’ve just learned to work with it, not against it.
      Sleep well, my friend!

  4. As I was reading, I kept thinking about all the things that keep you up. But…this post reminded me of something I read a couple years ago about “polyphasic” sleep. I’ve heard it works wonders for insomniacs because you learn to sleep by teaching your brain different sleeping patterns. Not sure if it really works, but it’s conducive to the late night awake schedule. I haven’t tried it: I’m not sure I could survive on 3-4 hours of sleep and then have to go to work and try to fit in little naps. Haha.
    In any case, your worries echo the worries all of us have: the cat, the dog, a late-night phone call, whether this is broken or that needs attention, blah blah blah. The point is, you’re not alone. 🙂 So many of us have trouble blocking things out. Hang in there. And I hope you have a great week!

    1. Do you ever wonder if we have trouble blocking things out because we’ve been conditioned not to? Think about it – the world never stops, especially with so much technology available 24/7 and so we are conditioned to think we’re missing something if we just turn off and go to sleep. I often wonder.
      I think I do something like you’re describing naturally. I sleep far fewer hours at a time than most people do or would recommend, but I’m not exhausted during the day. On days when I am, I grab a nap – and am grateful for the fact that I work at home and can do that when the need arises.
      Have a great week, too!

  5. I’ve never been a good sleeper and I actually love the quiet in the middle of the night. In the past I would have jumped on the internet or wrote something for my blog but now I just enjoy the stillness. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. I, too, am a wakeful person. I used to curse it until I realized that I just love the house when it’s so quiet. I love the stillness of late night/early morn. Maybe that’s why I’m awake, to enjoy the peace as a counterpoint to my days.

  7. I go through bouts of insomnia frequently, but lately I’ve been so tired that luckily I fall asleep pretty fast. But I do prefer staying up late to write when the rest of the house is sleep. As you said, it’s pretty cool when the rest of the world is still……I love the peace and quiet.

  8. My mind won’t shut off or my pain won’t let it. Worry is a powerful thing. Also, I do just like the silent night. I can’t sleep with snoring, but it’s a trade well worth it. I like that part of the really early morning where night noises and morning ones mix. It only lasts for a short window of time, but if I am having a no sleep night, I pay attention for it.
    Hope you’re well rested these days Lisa. I won’t be sleeping well for the rest of the week, leading up to my trip this weekend, but I wish you a lot of rest, all of the rest I won’t be getting.

  9. These late night ruminations seem all too familiar. I can go to bed so weary, and as soon as we turn the lights the light bulb in my head turns on. It can be really annoying at times because I really love sleep time. I had to smile at you “counting cats” because I actually do that fairly often if things seem too quiet… take an inventory to see who’s missing and find out what they’re up to. It is good you can nap the next day if you are over-tired. I agree about a world that never lets our minds be at peace. I think staring out the window is a lovely late night activity, as is praying.

  10. I love the idea of counting cats! Almost like counting sheep, but better.
    The late night thoughts swirl like no other. I generally don’t have trouble sleeping, and never really have, which surprises me because of my swirling thoughts. I think they take it out on me in other ways.

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