Learning to Sleep

I have a history of insomnia.

Insomnia that at one point got so bad, I stopped driving for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.


Instead of driving. I rode my bike up and down the mountain every day.


I was on a sleep restriction program during that time, and could only be in bed for 5 hours.


I had to get up at the same time every morning, even if I had fallen asleep only 30 minutes prior.


My time to be in bed was from 11pm-4am.


During those 5 hours, I was up and out of bed again and again since a large part of sleep restriction entails getting out of bed if you are not falling asleep after 10-20 minutes of lying in bed.


You are told to get out of bed and read, fold laundry, knit, etc until you are tired enough to go back to sleep.


The grueling discipline of being on a sleep restriction program was surprisingly exuberant, and dare I say, uplifting.


Ironically, it restored a sense of curiosity and wonder for me during a time when I had lost any recognition of myself in the world.


The program itself was brutal, but there was something about it that was profound.


I think it was the acceptance piece of it.


Cultivating trust for a process that retrained my body to sleep again allowed me to laugh at the absurdity of it, notice shifting patterns around it, and wonder about the whole gosh dang thing.


To be held, so tightly, by an exquisitely versed doctor who guided me through a period of excruciating exhaustion, only to lead me out the other side so I was eventually sleeping solidly for 8 hours a night?


That was a glorious thing.


That time of being on a sleep restriction program went something like this:


Glen would be sleeping soundly while I was in and out, of bed all night long.


I would climb into bed at 11pm.


Then I would feel that awful agitation and anxiety creep up on me.


I would get out of bed and clean the kitchen, sweep the floor, or dust the bookshelves until I could feel myself nodding off.


I would crawl back into bed and just as I was falling asleep, a jolt of anxiety would wake me up again, so I got out of bed once more.


This time I would tackle the bathroom or the closets or the attic.


(An aside:


I am a messy, messy person by nature.


During this period of time, my house was so clean you could lick pudding off the floor and roll naked through the halls).


I would finally fall asleep at around 3 or 3:30am.


My alarm would go off at 4am.


I would leap out of bed and immediately start doing jumping jacks so I wouldn’t fall back to sleep.


I would run until 5:30 or 6am every morning before getting on my bike and heading to town.


Moving my body and getting out of the house was the only thing I could do to keep myself awake during the day.


After the first 6 weeks, I got to extend my time in bed to 4:15am.


That first change to my sleep schedule called for a huge celebration, so Glen and I had a huge party at the house.


A few weeks after that, I got to extend my time in bed until 4:30am.


I slowly kept adding 15 minutes to my wake-up time until I was sleeping soundly for a full 8 hours every single night.


Sometimes I even slept for 10 hours a night.


I fell madly in love with the doctor who led me through and guided me out the other side:   The doctor who promised me that one day instead of saying “I suffer from insomnia” I would say, “I have a history of insomnia”.


This doctor is really good with boundaries, so when I told her I was in love with her and brought her a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates, she activated those well honed boundaries and declined my gifts -- and my proclamation of love -- with grace and care.


We parted ways, and there was good cheer all around.


I have spoken with her recently because I am struggling with sleep again.


It's not as bad as it was the last time.


I am currently struggling with a common sleep pattern that I have heard happens to many women my age whose hormones are fluctuating.


With one 15 minute phone call, she got me on another, much less rigorous, sleep program called Stimulus Control.


I am already sleeping more soundly, and for longer periods of time, after only 3 nights of participating in the program.


It feels good though, to be reminded of what happened all those years ago.


How dreadful it was:  not sleeping for all of those years;  how barbaric the sleep restriction program sounded when I first heard about it;   and, the surprise of tenderness, and honestly glee I felt at times, while moving through it.


It’s rare to find those kinds of doctors, teachers, lovers, friends, and leaders who walk us through the fire, and are then able to stand with us as we come out the other side, refreshed and fortified.


So here’s to those who are able to walk us through and who hold the line with respect and integrity.


Here’s to those who know that a firm but gentle hand is needed when the fire is burning -- white hot.


Here’s to those who know when we need a little push to get us through a bad night.


Your Dance Mission for the Week is to dance.


Just dance.


However you want, whenever you want to.

Sometime this week, make space to dance.


With Warmth and Vibey Jibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com Here are the PS’s for the day: Free Dance Classes Coming Up Soon! Tuesday, Sept 6th and/or Thursday, Sept 8th from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center.

Email me you plan on being there, and feel free to bring a friend along. Sign up to Dance with me in the fall  Fall session runs from Sept 13th-Dec 15th, 2016 Dog Dance: The 3rd Friday of every month starting in September. More Info Coming as we get closer to the start date.

xo jo