Considering the French term for an all-nighter, a “white night,” I suspect it has to do with the way we feel in the morning – a bit blank, as though some of our brain cells have been erased, zapped, or covered over with white-out.
J’ai passé une nuit blanche… I stayed up through the night, sleepless, working on this and that.
Of course, the white night more likely refers to lights on, without the relief of darkness to bring us a little comfort… and rest. Though insomnia held me in its grip initially, I gave up on trying to sleep at a certain point, and did a little work, then resorted to television. Naturally, coffee has helped to prop up my brain capacity and for the moment, I feel fine.
But will I find mood, memory, and concentration deteriorating by early afternoon? What about the usual aches and pains, always more pronounced on too little sleep? Will I go for the sugar and salt to press on through the day with my various tasks? What do you do when none of the usual tricks allow you to sleep through the night?
I understand some of the reasons for my sleep challenges.
- Restless Leg Syndrome is one, though generally speaking, that’s managed without much problem.
- Stress is a toughie, especially this time of year. (Hello, Tax Day? FAFSA to follow? CSS?)
- A variety of work tasks are also time-critical, as meetings are hampered by time zone differences. Generally, that’s handled easily as well. But you know how it goes… when it rains, it pours.
Speaking of pouring, one of the most helpful activities to aid with sleep is exercise. Lousy weather has made that more challenging as well. (Shall I belt out a whiny chorus of “rain, rain, go away, come again another day?”)
Then there is the level of “busyness” that seems to be going on in my brain at the moment. I have my usual schedules and lists in my office space, but so many other items are swirling around in my mind – ideas, must-do’s that seem to warrant lists of their own, back-of-mind items to do with my kids. (Yes, yes, I know. We think that once we reach Empty Nest, those “kid” items will disappear. Not so….)
And I find myself glancing through several years of writing that returns to issues of sleep, knowing full well that I am not alone in this country with these particular challenges. In fact, as recently as a month or two back, I was dealing with lousy sleep or the relief of a sufficient number of hours:
I also refer back to an article in the “Booming” section of the New York Times, which is of little consolation at the moment:
… chronic sleep deficiency has the potential to impact nearly all of our physiologic systems… sleepiness increases, and mood, concentration, memory, and attention are poor with a narrowing of focus. Our appetite increases and food preferences become less healthy…
When you’re lying in bed and herbal tea hasn’t invited sleep through the door, when reading doesn’t perform its usual relaxing magic, when it’s the middle of the night – a “white night” – do you fret, do you pace, do you turn on the lights and tend to a task, do you clean something or pay the bills, do you sit in front of the television watching old movies like a zombie?
How do you handle your sleepless nights?
When all else failed (last night), I watched the tube, quite possibly not a good idea. I found something interesting (but not distressing), and that took my mind off the frustration of not being able to sleep after a night that was largely devoted to “must-do’s.” I did drift off eventually, but when the alarm clock demanded that I wake, well… on with the day, as usual.
If only the weekend came when we needed it. If only I could pretend that it’s Saturday rather than Tuesday…