Monthly Archives: May 2014

Did Dante have Insomnia?

I recently came back from an amazing adventure in Europe. I’m so lucky I get to do things like this that truly feed my soul and are a passion of mine. However, I haven’t learned how to not overdo it from the sheer excitement of wanting to see absolutely everything I can while I’m there.

I went to Dubrovnik, Croatia, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Paris, France.

It started off similarly to all of my transatlantic trips: absolutely not a wink of sleep on the flight over “the pond”. Though the trips usually get in early morning, this one arrived late afternoon. It was a blessing as I had to stay awake just a few hours and then hopefully slip into a wonderful healing sleep.

Did I?

No, of course not. I was too keyed up about the adventure and woke up early.

Ever the optimist, I knew I’d sleep the following night. So I packed everything in that I could to try to tire myself out. Only my brain didn’t get the memo and again, up disgustingly early.

Much of the trip went this way, as they usually do. I don’t let it slow me down and I kept plodding along, eager to see as much as I could on my amazing adventure.

I flew home and was thrilled to start to drift off. Then the lady next to me poked me that she had to go to the bathroom. Twice. Twice I was drifting off to blissful nirvana, only to be wakened. So I made the best of it.

Returning was no easier. As exhausted as I was, even with the help of sleeping pills, I was still waking right on the dot at 2 am. Why? Who knows? I do believe however, that Dante missed this as one of the gates of hell in his famous work, “The Divine Comedy.” Maybe that’s the comedy of it, the oversight.

divine comedy.jpg Auguste Rodin, Gates of Hell

I decided instead of getting annoyed, that I would make good use of the time. I generally get insomnia for one of two reasons:

  • My sleep rhythm is tilted on its axis from a trip crossing multiple time zones
  • I have something on my mind, which could either be positive or negative

Counting sheep—doesn’t work for me. Nor does counting ceiling tiles. Here are some of the things I do to at least make positive use of the wee hours:

Catch up

Life gets busy, and I often have a stack of books, magazines and tv shows in my DVR waiting to be viewed. Believe it or not, 2 am is a great time to start going through and clearing out the buildup of a busy life. Instead of spending hours tossing around pissed off at the world, if I don’t fall back to sleep within fifteen minutes or so, I get up and get going. At this point, I’m wide awake anyways and the distraction is good.


I love writing, as you might expect. It relaxes me, distracts me and makes me feel good. And who doesn’t want to feel good at 2 am? Exactly. Though the light of a computer or television isn’t supposed to be conducive to getting back to sleep, I’m wide awake by this point, so what does it matter? Better to focus on something positive and make good use of the time. In fact, It’s now 4 am and I’m writing this blog post! I have been up since 2. I wonder how many novels were written by insomniacs trying to find a better use of their time in the early hours.


This one can be a double-edged sword but is worth considering. I get ‘busy brain,’ which I describe as having a monkey jumping around in my head. When I have a lot on my mind, my brain rushes about and I wake up when my body isn’t ready to. Maybe then it’s a good idea to start processing what’s causing my head to do acrobatics? Early morning when facing exhaustion often isn’t the best time to work through life’s problems though, but sometimes it can be constructive. Tonight is not one of those nights, so instead I write. Having options is great.

Snuggle a dog or your partner

Tonight I am joined by my dog, who wasn’t very interested in being snuggled at 2 am. Go figure. I found the same with my partner earlier this week. However, as an eternal optimist, I’m always open to trying. The good news is that I have other ideas in my bag of tricks and if one doesn’t work, another just may.

Replay the adventure

When my insomnia is due to jet lag, I find it a fun exercise (“fun” defined as: I have little better to do at 2 am so why the hell not?) to relive my recent adventure. I had an amazing time on the trip, saw some beautiful things I only dreamed of, and truly made the most of every minute. I left each city we visiting thinking, “I DID this town” and feeling that if I never go back, I will feel like I really got the town, the people and did everything that was top on my list.

I’m grateful for these wonderful traveling experiences. However, I think I’ll try to get back to using the wee hours to reliving my adventures in my dreams instead of while I’m awake.