Summer Insomnia

There’s something that happens to me this time of year. Keith had to remind me today that it does in fact happen *every* year and that made me wonder WHY.

But then I remembered that one of the most helpful things Keith has taught me is that it’s not about why. Figuring out the why is of less value than softening the IT is.

So what is the IT?

Since the age of 15, I called it “summer insomnia.” I go from my usual 3-4 hours’ sleep per night to more of a 20 minute catnap here and there, fitful and filled with time spent in “the loop” as I call it. That’s the part of my brain that obsesses about too much and won’t put the topic down. Not ever.

I get cranky. I get emotional. I get fatalistic about issues that used to be tiny roadbumps. Now they feel insurmountable. I get scared.

When Keith reminded me today that this happens every year — and he’s right, it does; it has for at least 30 years now — I relaxed. I remembered that seemingly infinite hours spent playing Sushi Cat and Words With Friends may feel like a colossal waste of time when I have a long and seemingly important to-do list, but without the kind of sleep that is my baseline for productivity, I simply cannot be as productive.

And that’s gotta be okay.

Because forgiving myself for having this bizarre relationship with the seasons is the first step in finding a new rhythm each summer that’s kinder to myself and therefore better for my work in the world.

So this post is to remind 2016 summer me that this is normal and it’s just gotta be okay. Now, back to the Law & Order marathon and listening to the silence that is the night right now. And maybe catching another 20 minutes of sleep before the sun comes up.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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3 Comments

  1. Avatar Meredyth Kenney July 10, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Bonnie, this post and today’s email helped me infinitely more than you know. I too have summer insomnia and was never able to put it into words or understand why my body behaves in such a way each and every year. Most New Yorkers crave the warm weather after infinitely long winters. I, on the other hand, am the self-proclaimed Grinch of the summer, the grump of the blue skies. I am constantly exhausted and lethargic, I tend to gain a little weight, and for someone who is normally so focused and in love with that focus and subsequent productivity, the summer insomnia feels like it slowly kills me each year. I constantly remind myself that I will get through it and I do…but knowing that you go through it too is comforting. It simply feels good to know that I’m not the only one. And on the bright side, the stores are putting out their fall clothes already, which means that autumn is just around the corner…and our best, happiest selves will thus return very soon. Thanks again for sharing this.

    Reply
  2. Avatar Oscar Lalo July 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Dearest Bon,

    I’m so sorry to read about this “summer insomnia” that you’ve been having to face for so long.

    There’s a trick I use and that did work for me.

    What you first have to understand is that not sleeping is no problem as long as you rest. A rested mind and body is sometimes more awaken than one that has enjoyed a full night sleep.

    So you need to rest your mind and rest your body in order to be fit the next morning.
    – to rest your mind you simply need to close your eyes (and keep them closed;). No tension whatsoever. Just having your eyes closed. Over 80% of what we perceive comes through our eyes and our memories are 80% imagery. So by simply closing your eyes, you bring down this brain agitation to 20%. If you don’t put any music (even what you believe is “resting music”) you bring down those numbers and allow your mind to rest. Yes… there will be some chattering going on within … just don’t answer! Treat it as a TV in a neighbor’s apartment. And the neighbor’s not there so there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just background noise. Don’t let it trap you by reacting. Just close your eyes. If you absolutely need to do something, try to observe your breath, as it comes in and as it comes out. Naturally. Breath coming in. Breath coming out. You’re aware of it. You’re not labeling it. You’re not judging it. You’re observing it. Eyes closed.
    – to rest your body, you just need to lie down. As simple as that. Just lie down. Preferably on your back. Don’t cross your legs. Don’t play with your arms. Better if you can lie down without a pillow but just find your most comfortable posture. Stillness is highly recommended but as for the eyes, do not force it. Don’t bring tension by trying not to be tensed! Try to feel your extremities, your fingers, your toes, your fontanel (top of your head that had a hole when you were a new born baby).

    So just lie down, eyes closed and alternate between observing your breath and feeling your extremities. Don’t answer if Keith wants to engage in a conversation (sorry Keith;)

    Just stay there knowing that YOU ARE RESTING YOUR MIND AND BODY and that you’re doing the right thing to recharge your batteries.

    If you manage to lie down/eyes closed for a sufficient amount of time (it differs for each of us), you’ll be surprised how fresh you’ll feel the next morning.

    Hope it helps.

    Much Love,
    Oscar

    Reply
  3. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie July 29, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Meredyth, I’m so glad it helps to know you’re not alone. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve started working with a doctor on my adrenal fatigue to see if that will help but I too am excited to see that we’re at the tail-end of this season (for the most part) and that I should be getting back to “normal” soon. Phew!

    Oscar, thank you. What you describe is how I get rest and refreshment all the other months of the year. I know it’s not about actually sleeping as much as it’s about restoring, and that’s what I do very well… until I’ve gone something like two days with ZERO sleep. Then it’s just a spiral that gets very scary ’til I reach the end of it (four days? Five?) and then I collapse because there’s no option but to do so.

    I am very hopeful about the work I’m doing with this functional wellness doctor now and hopefully will have something wonderful to report to you all soon. But for now… still struggling with my sleep. Augh!

    Reply

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