[10:15 – 2:15; 4:30 – 8]
A newspaper article on theories of why we sleep suggests humans need sleep to repair neural damage, and to assist in the process of integration we call learning. The research also showed that animals get less sleep when migrating, mothering, and hunting when food is scarce. In other words, sleep cycles respond to the demands of the organism within its environment. A baby growing and developing needs more sleep than a person who is mature. A human who is in the process of valuable work might not need as much shut-eye, in fact may be too excited to sleep.
While my ex-husband used to say “a good night’s sleep is a meal in itself,” sometimes I think that insomnia is a form of time management. I stay awake when there is creative work to be done or when my inner artist needs some input, like that enjoyable bedtime reading or excellent film that helps me dream better afterward.
Just before dawn, I finished Rose Tremain’s stunning novel, The Colour. The title refers to discovered gold, and the story takes place during the New Zealand gold rush in the latter half of the 19th century.
Watching Joseph’s shirts billowing in the wind…she felt no tenderness towards any clothes of his. Love, she thought, can be measured by what we feel for items of laundry.
That passage helped me remember a crush I had on a man whom I admired, who perhaps I wanted to be, because of his athletic grace, his charisma and ability to inspire students to excel beyond what they thought they were capable of. He hired me to clean his house, which I did only once, because picking up his biking shorts from the bedroom floor and running my fingers over the fabric filled me with a terrible longing.
[11:30 – 6:30 Yay!]
Now that I’m retired from a full-time j-o-b, irregular sleep is not so devastating to my health. I can nap, I can go back to bed early in the morning and sleep until 9. (Advantage of having a bedroom located opposite the sunrise). I appreciate the absolute quiet of those hours when only the graffiti artists are out. The neighborhood’s army of dogs is not barking (unlike now, when the Chihuahuas across the street are going nuts); the white noise of highways 12 and 101 is calmed; even the birds are asleep, at least until 4:30 when the true tweeting begins. I occasionally hear the neighbor’s cat clattering over the wooden gate to my outdoor shower—this I know from finding its long white hairs caught in the jagged tops of the irregular boards and the claw scratches halfway up. But otherwise, it’s pin-drop quiet.
On full moon nights, the silver light comes directly through the south-facing window at the head of my bed, and I have often given myself to moon-bathing. I open the blinds, or even raise them completely, and feel the beams on my face and body. If I’m open to it, this lunar energy feeds my right brain, just as tropical sunshine nourishes my left.
A month ago, my doctor ordered an Adrenocortex Stress Profile, for which I collected my saliva into a test tube every 4 hours for one day. This hormonal diagnostic “gives insight into the natural circadian diurnal cortisol rhythm, and helps clinicians address specific daily stressors.” If the results show abnormal spikes in cortisol (a chronic stress hormone) especially during the night, I could use a supplement called Cortisol Manager that will normalize the hormonal pattern over time and help me get a few more hours of sleep.
In the meantime, I’ve promised myself to continue to roll with the changes that come with age, and take advantage of the creative inspiration that may be found in those silent nights.
[Jet lag, Italy, 1997]
SLEEPLESS IN TUSCANY
I wish I were talking all night
with someone who wanted to know me
the way olive trees know the wind
or marble steps know the shuffle of pilgrims.
I would spread my lush table, course after course
and by some holy miracle, he would never say
(to be continued)