I am curiously protective of my sleep cycle, I think to myself occasionally, although it strikes me that perhaps two different ends of that sentence are wrong.
What I actually mean is that I find myself particularly thrown off when I don’t keep to the traditional rhythms of sleep that I’ve built across the past few years: in bed somewhere between 10 and 11, asleep somewhere around 11, and waking up somewhere between 5 and 6. Sure, there are occasional mild variations to that — sometimes I’ll be tired and asleep earlier, there are times I wake up closer to 4:30 or 6:30, depending — but, for the most part, that’s how I sleep. It’s what works for me.
Somehow, this past month has broken that a little. I’m not entirely sure how, or why. I’ve been sleeping later multiple times, sleeping late, even, on a couple of occasions. (By which I mean, I have to get up around 7 in order to eat and take care of the animals before work; a couple times, I’ve woken up closer to 7:30, panicked.) And then, there was the odd night of insomnia.
I use the term insomnia too easily; it’s my go-to if I just have a bad night of sleep, as in, “I woke up at 1 and couldn’t sleep for 30 minutes, it was just insomnia.” I know it’s not really the case, but I love a bit of shorthand. What happened at the start of the month, though, felt like actual insomnia, summoned Beetlejuice-style by accident: a night where I just… couldn’t fall asleep.
My mind wasn’t racing, or filled with intrusive or looping thoughts; I was, if anything, very calm and clear-headed. My body was heavy with actual exhaustion, and I felt “sleepy,” as it usually goes… but I just laid there, unable to actually sleep, until almost 5am. I have no idea what happened, but I’m in no rush to go through anything like that again.
The experience has stuck with me ever since, unnerving me. It’s as if it was foreshadowing something that I can’t see waiting just around the corner: What if I’m just going to have a year of not sleeping? What if 2024 is going to be a year of it feeling like 3:15 in the morning, all the time? What then?