The Princess and the Pea: a True Story of Sleeplessness

nce upon a time, a beautiful princess lived in a golden castle where her only worry was not stepping in the sparkly rainbow poop left by her pet unicorns Dewdrop and Johnny. Life was pretty nifty for our fairy princess until she suddenly was unable to sleep through the night.

Months of investigation dragged on while monks chanted Gregorian cover of songs by The Who. Finally, a magical mayfly discovered a pea underneath the princess’ mattress. Yep, her sensitive nature detected the pea and kept waking her up every night.

Okay, the preceding paragraph is obviously not the real Princess and Pea fairy tale nor is it an exceptionally intimate view into my personal life. It is, however, a reflection of my life: sleepless and distracted by wrinkles in bedclothes or microscopic crumbs on furniture.

I will spend what feels like hours surreptitiously smoothing the bed sheet beneath me because my brain interprets a 1/8” wrinkle beneath my calf as a fist-sized rock. My own hair will wake me up if I roll over onto it and a heretofore smooth pillowcase becomes 24-grit sandpaper.

I’ll migrate to the living room in hopes of sweet sleep on microfiber, but then there’ll be a crumb about the size of a pin point – no, not the head of a pin with angels doing the Lindy, the smaller-in-diameter other end.

The darkened ceilings of my house and I have become great friends.

Do I really think I can’t sleep because my nerve endings are overly sensitive? No. I think I become hyperaware of any possible reason for not sleeping, which leads to … yeah, not sleeping.

I’ll get up a couple nights a week to read a chapter or two in a book in hopes of falling back asleep in the living room or distracting my mind enough so I can crawl back into a proper bed for the rest of the night. I’ll grab a glass of milk because that seems like a good idea based on something I read. I’ve even heated the milk to little avail. If antihistamines make you drowsy when you’re fighting allergies, I’ll take one when I’m not just for the drowsy effect.

At one point during a nocturnal wandering, I had a mug of rice krispies without milk and fell asleep soon after. So I’ll try the dry cereal trick now and then. It’s hit or miss. I refuse to watch television or play video games during the why-am-I-awake time because I don’t want to wake up more.

I rarely have caffeine so that’s not my problem. I’m no more stressed than normal people, and if anything, some stress has decreased lately. The sleeplessness isn’t that feeling of I’m tired and I wish the sheets would smooth and I had more bed space so I could fall back asleep. No, it’s more of a I’m wide awake and wouldn’t this be a good time to regrout the bathroom kind of thing. I have resisted most of the cleaning/house projects in the middle of the night since they make noise.

I just want a happily ever after filled with sleep. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

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