Wide Awake in the Middle of the Night

I’m well acquainted with odd times of night. When fatigue hits me hard during the day and I can’t resist a nap, I often wake up feeling a little better (or even a lot better). That’s the good news. The bad news is that I wake up at a really odd time, which screws up with my sleep patterns.

Nausea, fatigue and fever

Take today. I was feeling really nauseated and my stomach was upset, so I lay down around 5:00 pm. I started reading a new novel and, the next thing I knew, it was 8:00 pm and I was feeling mostly better and wide awake. Incidentally, 8:00 pm was the exact time my staff meeting at work was ending just a few miles away. I had missed the staff meeting because of my fatigue, nausea, and mild fever. (I sometimes “power through” fatigue and nausea, but the fever is what caused me to exercise an abundance of caution: it’s flu season, and I can’t risk getting my friends sick—especially those who work for me at my bookshops and need to report to work feeling healthy and strong!)

So now it’s midnight, and I’m wide awake when I normally would be settling down to sleep for the night, if not fully asleep already.

Waking up with chronic migraine

Several years ago, I wrote a short story about a young woman named Marley who dealt with chronic migraine disease. I published the serial story on migraine.com (installment one is here). The feeling I had tonight, waking up with all the lights on, two cats curled up on my lap, reminded me so much of what happens with the fictitious high schooler Marley:

Thursday, 4:18 AM

Marley wakes with a start, the blue light of the TV flickering, her mouth sour. It’s always disconcerting, waking up at this time of night. The streetlight outside burns orange and her desk lamp stark white. Her dad must have thrown the afghan over her when she passed out after school; now it’s scratchy and hot against her skin and she shakes it off.

She furtively looks around her as she wipes drool off her chin. Most of the pain is gone. Her stomach has stapled in on itself: hunger pangs pulled her from sleep and now dizziness is hitting her in waves. Marley stands shakily and creaks open her bedroom door, peering down the hall.

Aiming to minimize screen time

Waking up at 8:00 pm is far easier than waking up after 4:00 am, but I still have had the same disconcerted, “off” feeling I described in my 2012 story. I did Avid Bookshop work for an hour or so, but it felt strange to do that knowing it was dark outside and that both of my bookstores were closed for the day. I go through healthy sleep phases where I try to minimize screen time after 10:00 pm, but that rule goes out the window when I am the only person awake in the house and feel pressured to catch up on work I missed due to illness.

What do you do in this strange liminal space, the hours when you “should” be sleeping? How does waking up at an atypical time post-migraine affect the next day, and the week as a whole? What tips do you have for those of us not with “painsomnia” but post-pain-insomnia? Please share ideas (or simply commiseration) below! 

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