What Is It About The Night?
Remember when you were young and stayed home from school sick? If you were not super sick and feeling well enough to set up shop on the couch, you were actually quite happy to be home. That was probably the only time you had control of the tv. The day would be pretty decent - catching some of your favorite daytime programming, perhaps a cool washcloth on your head, relaxing and enjoying thoughts of not having to be taking a test or presenting a report to the class. You just skated along until about 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm and your fever, chills, headache, congestion, and/or nausea would return with a vengeance. What is that about?
I still noodle this phenomenon because it still happens to me! I bet it happens to you at times too!
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Since RA is an immune system disorder, I am lucky enough to be hosting a smattering of more than 13 additional disorders. It is not any fun and it truly takes a toll on my family. That doesn't mean I don't have some funny and amusing tales to tell. This isn't one, but do revisit another time and I am sure I will post some real knee-slappers.
I still find that I have more trouble at night. Trouble in terms of joint pain, muscle aches, sciatica acting up - you get my drift. I think I can safely say, lucky for all of us, that this particularly night time weirdness is not reserved to physical symptoms alone.
Have you had a bad break up? Are you having trouble paying your bills? Did your teen just start driving? Is your company downsizing? I know the answer!!! Stay up all night long circle-thinking about it!
I didn't say it was a GOOD answer.
I like to call nights like these - AHHHGH! I wonder if this problem is related to the darkness that descends upon us every night? I had a fear of the dark at a young age and my parents always told me that there is nothing in the dark that isn't in the light. That did little to comfort me since I was a nervous child who would think about my inability to control natural disasters and whether my dresser would hold up with me on it should a volcano ever blow nearby. I also tought about ghosts a lot. I figured they are around during they day and at night - so it was definitely something to be worried about at all times.
It seems that when night descends, so does the sensation of vulnerability. Stores are closed, doctors are not available unless you want to visit the dreaded emergency room, and loved ones are normally sleeping happily and snoring away. When I worked for the police department as a 911 operator the day shift was the most coveted. That was because night time was CRAZY and unpredictable. I eventually left the job because the knowledge of everything happening within our city was turning me into a paranoid, wild-eyed, and hair standing on end person.
I don't think we will ever really know what it is about the night. I think mostly when the busy-ness and distraction of daytime fades, our own sounds, sensations and messages just seem louder. Some of the most difficult time we spend is when we feel alone.
When I have a night that feels endless or my thoughts and pain is driving me to distraction, I have found 5 things that might help:
1. Read, read, read. Do yourself a favor and keep a magazine or a book you love on hand. Even if it's a book you've already read, choose something that feels like a safe place to be and just read. I used to read a lot of horror novels - this is not the time for that. Consider a Soup for the Soul type book, or a book with characters and a plot line that is soothing and happy.
2. Listen to music. Crack out your favorite tunes and lose yourself within some positive music. Heavy metal is not necessarily welcome at night - but if it makes you feel better, go for it.
3. Write in a journal. I have found that if I spend about 30 minutes before bedtime writing in my journal about anything that is bothering me, it helps me to avoid a night of circle-thinking. Writing can be therapeutic, even if it's creating a list of the things you need to do tomorrow.
4. If you suffer from chronic pain, obviously the things that help will differ. I have found that ice packs, Ibuprofen, prescribed medications and Icy Hot are all my friends. If your pain is keeping you up at night, certainly consider visiting your doctor. It is important to have some tools on hand to help you through the most difficult nights. I would also recommend getting online to find chat rooms or other supportive internet wonders. I am comforted by many of the people at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com - they even have a up all night chat room where you can connect with others who share your fears and concerns.
Even if you don't have a pain issue, there are plenty of places online that can connect you with others in the same situation.
5. Get out of bed and find any kind of distraction. Watch television, clean house, play with your nocturnal pets. Don't have a nocturnal pet? Get one!! My hamster is up all night long running on her clunky wheel and trying to escape her confines by chewing on the bars and pulling on her water bottle. This provides a great, yet annoying distraction. Just do whatever pleases you and doesn't wake up the whole house.
Obviously these tips are not meant to help you sleep. These tips are ideas on how to distract yourself from your inner pain, either physical or mental. Next time you are wide awake at night and hurting, thinking, worrying or planning, remember to use these tips. Use one or use all of them. Whatever you do, always remember that dawn is right around the corner and you are NEVER alone.