You know that hazy, soft feeling that fills your body after a day at the beach? Your skin is flushed from being baked all day in the summer rays, your eyes slightly squinted, a tummy full of crunchy snacks and cold beer, sand still stuck to the soles of your feet. You could fall asleep right in the sand, despite the sounds of children playing, music blasting, and people yelling. There’s an inherent calm that fills the body after a day at the beach. But the sky is quickly turning from hot white to black, signaling a need to return to the artificially cooled indoors.
You return to your summer beach rental; it’s nothing fancy, really, just four walls and an old ceramic roof. Turning on the a/c, you feel the instant cool jet stream hit your face, breathing in the cold. As you look at the trail of sand you’ve brought in, a rumble of thunder hits in the background–a storm is coming. After a warm shower, you touch your skin–it’s still radiating sunshine, even though the rain outside has started falling. Barely able to keep your eyes open, you turn off the lights, crawl under the heavy-weighted bed quilt, and watch the storm dancing outside the window. Rain taps against the roof, palm trees sway outside, and the gentle pitter patter of the heaven’s cracking in the sky are filling your senses. The cold air from the a/c caresses your blushing skin–it’s all a haze. You slowly drift into a lucid state, and then finally, fully give into a deep, heavy sleep.
How’ya feeling? Nice and relaxed? Maybe a little sleepy? Well let me let you in on a little secret, folks–that story is my made-up, Mary-needs-help-sleeping story. It’s one of a few that I’ve dreamt up in my mind to help me fall asleep. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems sleeping. It’s possible I’ve never slept completely through the night (can that be true?). Ever since I was a small child, I’ve woken up at least one time in the night for one reason or another. I’m also one of those (crazy) morning people who has an internal alarm of 7:15 am, and no matter how late I’ve gone to sleep (or what I’ve done the night before), I can never naturally snooze my internal alarm for too long. I’ve never even hit the snooze button on my non-natural alarm clock–not sure if that’s something to be proud of or not. I’m also a vivid dreamer. I can’t remember all of my dreams, but I’m always fully engulfed in them throughout the night. So if you combine difficulty falling asleep, with active dreaming, and a constant early riser, what do you get? A sometimes sleep deprived Mary.
The truth is, since I’ve been dealing with this for so long, it rarely bothers me anymore. I tend to go to bed earlier to add in some pad time, and if I know it’s going to be a late night, I try to add in time the next night to go to bed a tiny bit earlier. Once in a blue moon the sleep gods will allow me to fall back to sleep for an hour or two on the weekends. And while I do actually enjoy sleeping, I genuinely think I require less of it than some other people. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself. The insomnia really came to fruition during my first Whole 30 (and again on my second Whole 30), and I started taking Melatonin to help. The dose was very mild, and seemed to help others who were experiencing insomnia during W30 (there’s a whole forum about it!) But as much as I love an easy fix, I try not to take it on the regular. But let’s go back to where I started here–telling myself a story.
Telling myself made up stories is my go-to when insomnia is occupying my head space. For me, stories balancing hot and cold, discomfort and comfort have always been the most effective. The beach story (and it’s many variations) may be my favorite. But sometimes, no matter how much yoga I’ve done, or how much I try to de-stress before bed, my brain is a little too cluttered for story time to work it’s magic. This is where I’d turn to melatonin–until recently!
I’ve tried sleep machine sounds in the past, but they never exactly worked. I sleep with a fan in my face (white noise+temperature trick), so that sound didn’t help me much. And the sounds of the ocean or rainforest never quite did it for me. Now maybe had I paid for an app, or bought a proper sound machine it would’ve worked differently, but I’ve paid for less than a handful of apps in my lifetime, and I live in NYC, so having a machine take-up valuable counter space with such a limited use seems like a stretch. But then a game changer entered the field–the perfect sleep-inducing YouTube channel, Relax Sleep ASMR. Having complained to a friend about not sleeping enough times to annoy him, he suggested I check out the ASMR YouTube channel, specifically their video of a thunderstorm in the city at night. Being incredibly dubious but curious, I opened YouTube on my tv in my bedroom, loaded the channel, lowered the volume a bit, and waited for blissful sounds of rain to enter the room. As the video started playing, and the screen went slightly black, I felt the cool fan on my face, and heard the sounds of rain pitter pattering against glass, while cracks of thunder echoed in the background. And then the darnedest thing happened–I fell asleep.
Sleep habits have always fascinated me. Why can some people fall asleep anywhere and anytime, while others have a difficult time even under the most ideal situations? Why do some of us dream vivid dreams, and some feel they never dream at all? Do these patterns ever change? If you’re battling sleep problems, know that I commiserate with you. If you’re one of those people who can fall asleep on their couch (or on planes!), I’m jealous. But for me, I have my stories, my tricks, and now my YouTube videos, and hopefully these things slowly lead to better sleep.
It was one of those great, hot summer days in the city. You know the kind–waking up to sunshine streaming in from the window, the pavement outside already hot. You throw on your easiest summer dress, toss your hair up, and run out the door. The humidity is almost intoxicatingly strong. You grab an iced coffee and duck into stores with cold a/c when the outdoors become unbearable. Lounging with friends and snacking in the park takes up an entire afternoon, before deciding it’s time for relief. You find a mellow bar around the corner, and pile into one of the tables available outside. The ice cold margarita tempers your body. As the night goes on, you’ve lost track of time–what started as “just one dance” is now “I can no longer feel my feet.” Exhausted from the day, you head home. After a cold shower and a glass of ice water, you drag your tired body into bed. The hum of the a/c radiates in the background, and the sounds of the city creep through the closed window. Sirens, shouting, celebrations, honking–but none of it matters to your tired mind. You gently bat your eyelids closed, and give in to the end of that summer night.