We all know that a woman’s brain is wired like a super highway system with dangerous corners and intersections, where the minimum speed limit is somewhere around 90mph. We are supposed to have off-ramps and rest stops that allow us to do that re-fueling thing called sleep. But most of us seem to have a challenge with taking those exits successfully on a regular basis – even if we manage to get off the highway, we somehow mess up and hop right back on again.
These road blocks seem to come in two pretty darn annoying formats. The first one is good ol’ fashioned insomnia. This is the classic case of jumping off the highway and shutting down right away, only to wake up again somewhere between 2:00 – 4:00am (because nothing good ever happens during those hours), seemingly for no reason at all. Insomnia can happen for a multitude of reasons, like stress, life changes, and – my favorite – menopause. Our brain doesn’t really care why, it only cares that it no longer has to come up with those pesky bizarre dreams and says “oh, hey, great, you’re perky. Let’s worry and think too much.”
The second road block is our bladder. The middle of the night get-up-and-pee syndrome. As women, we train ourselves to develop a delicate and difficult skill: to accomplish this task without becoming fully awake, and more importantly, without letting that brain engage. If we are lucky, we crawl back into bed and tell our minds “ssshhhh, all’s fine…think of fluffy clouds and waves….that’s a good little brain….back to the rest stop…” If however, we miss that itsy bitsy tiny window of opportunity to not poke the beast, there it is again “oh, hey! Great! Let’s ruminate!”
The stretch of highway that the brain chooses to travel during those hours is totally out of our control. The most common roadway is Worry Street. Did my son do his homework? Oh, I have to remember to finish that project at work. I hear the dog wheezing, is he ok? Will the fires in CA stop? Geez, I hope I turned off the oven…wonder if I should check. Am I going to get a call from the hospital about a loved one? Why can’t I sleep, I need sleep, I’ll be a mess tomorrow. What time is it now? This often heads us over to Irrational Concerns Drive, where literally anything horrible can happen because it only makes sense at 2 am. I had a headache today – do I have a brain tumor? My partner is restless and snoring, is he planning to leave me? If I have one hour’s notice of a natural disaster, what would I pack in the car? Could we have an earthquake?
This time of year we can also expect a detour over to Holiday Stress Avenue. Should I have bought an extra ham? What am I going to buy that person who is impossible to shop for? Ugh, I still need to get wrapping paper and ribbon and boxes. If I ship gifts on the 21st, will they get there in time? I really need to finish decorating. Where did I put the mistletoe ball? Should we have a party? Will 10 different types of cookies be enough?
And finally, the route that can drive us the most crazy when it happens, but makes us all laugh when shared with other R.W’s later: Totally Random Road. Should I change the curtains in the living room or go with a valance? Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar, where is Zanzibar? What time is my dental appointment? Did I miss it? Wait, did I flush? If I start tomorrow and consume only water and carrots, I think I could lose 20 pounds by Christmas. What was that noise? I should paint this room blue. Maybe I should get up and go clean the kitchen… I mean, I’m awake, may as well be productive.
A couple of my BFFs and I have agreed that some night we should just text or call each other, because the others are likely awake as well, ruminating, worrying, or solving the world’s problems. Or just having really bad night sweats. We are not alone in our late night sleepless cruising.
Maybe, just maybe, Santa will bring us what we want for Christmas – a full night’s sleep or even a good nap. Besides, who do you think came up with the cookies for Santa tradition? Every real woman knows it is important to pack road trip snacks to share.
I read that one of the reasons that we wake up between 2:00 -3:00 AM is that our blood sugar is at it’s lowest point. There is some weird tea that you can drink that is supposed to help with that, but then tea before bed is just another bathroom break waiting to happen!
Hang in there, you are not alone. #melatonin!