I used to be a great sleeper. If you asked me what my superpower was, it would be sleep. I was a sleep ninja, adept at drifting to the land of nod and staying cocooned there until morning (discounting those years when my children were young and a solid night’s sleep was a distant memory: then I was like a villainous alter-ego, think Spider-Man in his black suit, or a narcoleptic hulk, you wouldn’t like me when I’m sleepy).
But over the past couple of years, my sleeping superpowers have waned. There are nights I find myself wide awake in the darkness, listening to the ambient noises of the house and waiting in vain for sleep to return.
There’s often no obvious cause for these night time wakings; no particular worries or stresses that I can identify. And so I lie there, listening to the rhythmic breathing of my husband, the sleep murmerings of my children through the walls, the dog shuffling downstairs. Sometimes I fall back asleep, but never soon enough.
This can happen for a few nights at a time and then I go back to sleeping peacefully through the night again; balance restored, lapse in superpowers forgotten. Until it happens again.
But last week, I made a discovery that could be a game changer.
I’m no stranger to early morning writing. Early to bed, early to rise works best for me. On a good day I’ll have journaled and written a poem before anyone else is out of bed.
But it never occurred to me to write during my 2am hiatus from sleep. 2am is for sleeping, not writing. The other night, there happened to be a paper and pencil next to my bed, and on waking I followed a curious impetus to write. I can’t tell you what I scribbled in the darkness, I don’t remember. All I know is, I wrote until the words dried up, then I rolled over and fell asleep.
I found the piece of paper the next morning. I put it next to my computer, fully intending to type the scribblings up into my journal for posterity. In the end, I didn’t even read it. I found I didn’t need to. Whatever it was that had been bothering me at 2am was bothering me no more. I put the paper in the bin.
For someone with a slight self-reflection obsession, this was an unusual move. What if it held answers I was seeking? Shouldn’t I know what it was that had been bothering me so I could solve it?
I’m not sure I did. Often our worries are about things that are beyond our control. Raking over them, analysing them and fretting about things we cannot change doesn’t bring peace, it brings more rumination. Often we’re worrying about an imaginary future that hasn’t happened yet, or a past we are powerless to change. Sometimes, things we think are problems that only we can solve, have the power to solve themselves, if we’re able to leave them alone.
Whatever was on my mind that night lost its power when it was poured from my head onto the page.
Have you ever written a message in anger and then deleted it without sending, finding the act of writing the message was all the catharsis that was needed? I think it’s the same principle. Emotions and worries build up that need venting, but once vented, they dissipate.
Of course, this could have been a one off. Maybe it won’t work next time. I’ve been unable to re-test this theory as my sleeping superpowers have remained in tact. But I’ll leave a pencil and paper next to my bed from now on, just in case.
Let me know if you’ve ever had any experience with a technique like this. Have you tried it? Did it work?