The Insomniac’s Guide to the Galaxy

Insomnia Fight Club

To know me is to know that I’m an insomniac. I don’t want to hear from the sleep preachers. I’m not interested in learning more about the benefits of valerian root or whatever new age shit everyone else has tried. Some of us just don’t sleep well consistently. I’m here to share my experience and how I’ve learned to not let that stop me from getting a good night’s rest if I can’t get a good night’s sleep.

Follow me, I’ll show you the way.

First, let me make something clear. I’m not a scientist or a researcher. I’m a writer and this article is based on my own experience. If you’re looking for something more clinical or data driven, you have strayed way off the reservation. But you should stick around anyway.

Let’s start with the shit you should be doing before bed. This isn’t about telling you to tinkle and brush your teeth. I’m not your mother.

Do not try to force yourself to go to bed at the same time every night. One, life won’t let you. Two, if you go to bed when you aren’t tired, you’ll spend time “trying” to fall asleep. That shit never works. More often than not, it will lead to a restless night and you’ll be worse off for it.

This doesn’t mean your range should be all over the place. For example, I’m normally in sleep or rest mode somewhere between 9:30 – 11 PM. The TV’s off, I’m done reading and laying my head down for a long winter’s nap. But I never try to force it.

If you don’t have blackout curtains, get them. They’re not expensive and totally worth it. These things were serious game changers for me. My windows face east, over my building’s parking lot, and with another streetlight making its presence known. I didn’t realize how much ambient light was sneaking through my blinds until I blocked it out. A huge thanks to my good friend Bryce for the suggestion. I only regret waiting so long.

After you install them, if you rise naturally at the same time each morning, do yourself a favor and make sure you have your alarm set for the next week or so to help wake you up. I had been naturally waking up between 5:45 – 6 AM for a pretty decent interval and the installation of those curtains scrambled that. A couple weeks with the alarm will help your system reset.

Next, make sure you set the temperature where you would sleep best. A lot of people I know keep the thermostat set at the same temp, day and night, day in, day out. Fuck that. My thermostat gets a fucking workout. Whether I’m writing on the couch, cooking and cleaning, or trying to sleep, each of these requires a different temperature.

I prefer it cold, like ice cold. Like running the A/C at night in the winter because I sleep at 58 degrees cold. Mr. Wizard says that’s good. Then again, a friend of mine keeps his at 80 at and sleeps like a baby. So, you do you. Just don’t think that what works during the day automatically works at night.

Also, make sure you have a bottle of water and either a Bluetooth speaker or headphones with you when you go to bed.

Congratulations, the first stage of your prep work is complete. Now it’s time to head to the bedroom and queue the Barry White while we have a conversation about sleepwear.

If you haven’t already, figure out what you sleep most comfortable in. Do you like the freedom of sleeping naked? Great. Want an old timey matching pajama top and bottom? Rock that 60s sitcom shit. Personally, I sleep in just a pair of pajama bottoms. I have no idea why.  Maybe being bare chested makes me feel manly. Maybe the hair on my chest serves as my t-shirt.

Next stop, sexy time. That’s right guys, gals and non-binary pals, your next task is to rub one out. I’m not fucking around. Fire up some Pornhub, relive an intimate dalliance that rocked your world or fantasize about Jennifer Connelly in Career Opportunities (or any movie really). But it’s time for you to truly do you. And the health benefits for both men and women when it comes to the manual override (yes that’s a euphemism I just looked up, thanks internet) are well documented so you’ll be ending the day on a healthy note.

While I have you in your happy place, have you every thought about your favorite position?  If you haven’t, do that. I may not be the best sleeper, but I don’t toss and turn at night. Thrashing takes energy, increases blood flow and creates a lot of frustration. All these run counter to both resting and sleeping. The position itself doesn’t matter, as long as you’re comfortable. Plus, by not thrashing around, when I do sleep, I sleep hard. I sleep deep. I milk that REM for all it’s worth.

Personally, I sleep on my back. Yes, it leads to snoring, a subject of much tension between me and the lady loves I’ve had in my life. I keep two pillows under my head and another under each arm. Yes, I turn myself into a fucking pillow fort. I am a man-child. I am not ashamed. Also a sore subject between me and the aforementioned lady loves.

Okay, now that we’re situated and sexually satiated it’s time for the last task before sleepy time. It’s time to bring in the noise. I don’t understand people that can sleep in silence. In fact, those people creep me the fuck out. The stagnation of dead air gives my demons way too much breathing room. I need noise. For some people nature sounds or new age music fills that void. Shit like that just makes me fidgety. Nope, as a man-child I want someone to read me a god damn story.

I prefer biographies, books or podcasts about historical events, true crime or mythology. What I’m looking for is something interesting enough to engage my brain, but not so interesting it distracts me from Mistress Sleep should she bless me with her presence. Once you find a few and know what you’re looking for, free apps like Overdrive and Stitcher provide endless possibilities.

I steer clear of fiction. I’ll force myself to stay awake if I get too engaged in character and story. I run into the same problem with TV or a book if I’m not careful. I’ll “just one more chapter or episode” my way into consuming until dawn if I get too immersed.

Non-fiction also has the benefit of providing steady, even toned narration. You don’t want a lot of violent and energetic highs and lows. You want just a few ticks above monotone. You want a Ben Stein with an actual pulse reading you a story. Because you’ll find a sweet spot on volume where you don’t have to strain to hear it but is soft enough to let you doze off should the spirit move you. Again, easy to find, and you only have to find it once.

All that’s left to do is set the sleep timer and a digital bookmark. Most people set theirs for an hour. I do 90 minutes.

Time for phones down and eyes closed.  Even if sleep doesn’t come, you have all tools in place to lie tranquilly in the dark, which will give you more rest than lying awake. Don’t even fucking think about touching that phone. Seriously, playing mindless games and scrolling through an endless newsfeed of cat memes, false game advertisements and political clickbait isn’t doing you any favors. I should know, I keep breaking my own rule.

There are only two cases where you should be picking up that phone all. One is if you’re still awake when your sleep timer goes off and you need to restart what you were listening to. The other is on nights when Mistress Sleep is too busy in the service of others to bless you with her presence, you should fill that void by rubbing another one out. In which case, Pornhub is your friend. Find one of your favorite clips (don’t lie, you have them) and take yourself back to bang town. Make it a sprint not a marathon. You’re trying to sleep, not prove your stamina to Sasha Grey.

Now turn your book back on and find yourself some sweet dreams.

4 thoughts on “The Insomniac’s Guide to the Galaxy

  1. I have also been a “problem sleeper” my entire adult life. I have also tried every supplement out there and found none work. I eventually discovered that copious (love that word!) quantities of alcohol allowed me to crash without having to listen to the white-nouse between my ears for an hour before sleep. (Of course, do that long enough and it brings on a whole new set of problems.)

    I am now 68 and retired. I can “sleep” whenever. A normal day is bed by midnight then up at 2 AM, back to bed at 5 AM for two more hours sleep. A midday nap helps.

    Every few weeks I sleep five hours straight and that makes me worry that something might be wrong!

    Worst stretch of sleeplessness I remember is nine consecutive days of less than 90 minutes sleep per day while working full time.

    The plus of all this is I get a lot more done per day than anyone else I know . . .

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  2. Great to hear from you my friend. I myself shed the traditional schedule awhile back and effectively freelance and drive. For me, once I started picking my own hours I started gravitating toward an early start. If I can start working and knocking everything out at 6-6:30 in the morning and work until mid-afternoon, the day opens up for me.

    But like you, I have also learned to work insomnia to my advantage. I’ve listened to a lot of great content and gotten some rest. And on nights where Mistress Sleep is gonna completely skip my house. I do get up, and brainstorm, and think and try to knock shit off the to do list that doesn’t relate to time of day.

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  3. Do it while you are young. I used to wake up as sharp as the proverbial tack, ready to dive into any project I left before sleep. Now, when I awaken at 2 or 3 AM, I have to slurp a mug of Cafe Bustelo while playing Freecell solitaire to get the old grey matter to focus.

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  4. Great read B. I am just one lucky asshole I guess. I usually don’t have sleep issues “unless” one of our visiting dogs decides to let out a 2 am cater wall, our neighbor lets their barking dogs out at 2 am so they can bark at every blowing leaf on our street that orients to our beds head, or my significant lovely lady can’t sleep and while she tosses and turns and reads her phone it sometimes wakes me up. When my head hits the pillow and I put the phone away whether I go to bed at 10:00 pm or 1:30 am I will fall asleep within 10-15 min. My body clock is set for wakey time from 5:00 am to 5:45 am naturally even when I go to bed late or have a late night of drinking with friends which can lead to some serious sleepiness. I have a really hard time getting back to sleep if awakened after only an hour or two of sleep. I also have difficulty taking naps unless I am completely exhausted. I wish I could nap more my brother can seriously take a nap anywhere anytime give that boy a 15 min cat nap and he is good to go. I cannot sleep with soft music, podcasts, or even a soft volume tv just too distracting and I am certain if I listened to a podcast the subject would worm it’s way into a dream in some contorted fashion.

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