A dear friend with expertise about sleeping explained to me lately that there's such a thing -- natural for people my age, and in winter -- called "second sleep." The idea is that you sleep deeply for a few hours of the night, then naturally wake up, get up and do some chores, and then go back to sleep when you're sleepy and enjoy a few more hours. Lately this seems to be working for me as I slowly recuperate from my long fall and winter when my body's immune system got so discombobulated and off balance. I am training myself in new habits, among them reframing the nature of my sleep routines.
There's a trick to it -- the creepiness of lying awake in some of the darkest hours, listening to the inventory of ghastly news on the BBC, and wondering endlessly "why I can't sleep" is replaced by something pleasant and, one could say, "normal." When I get up at 4 or 4:30 or 5 I microwave a glass of soy milk and sip it slowly, enjoying its calming warmth. I listen to the furnace. I sometimes check my email. I've written poems (perhaps this is how my friend Greg Rappleye came to call his wonderful blog "Sonnets at 4 a.m.") and worked away in little leisurely bursts at various projects.
And I've returned to bed when I'm ready, grateful for Ted's warm body. I'm lucky that my schedule allows me to sleep until 8:30 or so in the morning, so it's quite possible to get several solid hours of "second sleep."
I like this new routine, which takes the fear and angst out of not being able to sleep. Perhaps, in other words, there is a natural rhythm to it, and not simply an endless cycle of angst and despair. Looked at this way, 5 a.m. is not so bad. In fact, I am beginning to look forward to these quiet hours. Why should 5 a.m. have such a bad reputation?
Not a hero
5 years ago