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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

I Am A Nocturnal Nomad


Photo credit: Juan Gomez on Unsplash


When the night isn’t going well, I change venues.


Throughout my life, I’ve found that a change of place can often help me sleep. When the kids were sick, I sometimes moved them down to the couch. An hour or two of Sponge Bob in the middle of the night kept them occupied and let me doze from time to time.

When I was sick, I would seek out the same couch. It’s not that I would be coughing any less downstairs than upstairs, but sometimes I got some relief from being upright on the way. More likely, when I was alone, I didn’t have to worry about keeping my husband up while I was tossing and turning. Plus, watching a little TV took my mind off my germs/pain/hypochondria just the same as it did for the kids.


Hypochondria? Okay, I wouldn’t really say I’m a hypochondriac, but have you ever noticed how magnified minor maladies become in the deep of night? A minor toothache becomes a tumor that squeezes the life out of a nerve in the mouth. A cut or scrape that was a minor annoyance by day has become infected with a flesh-eating virus. Everything feels worse at night, both physically and mentally.


My remedy is to concede that I’m not going to sleep. I just chill out by myself in the most comfortable place I can find and do something soothing. I might watch TV, scroll through my phone, read a book, or play a game on my computer. This tactic has gotten me through the common cold, back pain, recovery from surgery, and just plain restlessness. The best part is that sometimes I get sleepy and fall into a restful slumber.


I thought that once I retired I would have left sleep issues behind. No more staying up late to prepare something for work and then getting up early. Wrong! As I’ve gotten older, I find that sleeplessness has become more frequent. I’d always heard that older people are early risers. As we age, the circadian rhythm that regulates sleep is disrupted by a decrease in melatonin. Also, there are more aches and issues to keep us up at night. We deal with more chronic health issues and the side effects from the medication that alleviates those issues. There are also social and life changes that add to anxiety and keep us up at night. This is just a fact of life that we have to deal with.


In my current triple-play situation — knee arthritis that aggravates my back and hips, a dog that has to go out twice a night and who loves to attach himself to my left leg, and the normal cares in life that keep me up from time to time — I have developed a semi-nomadic sleep arrangement in the past month. I have two beds: my regular bed, and the bed in the spare room. I prefer to start in my bedroom, but if I find myself awake, I move. I might sleep a little while, wake again, and go back to my starting space. And sure, it’s occasionally disconcerting to have to check my surroundings to determine my current location.


Early one morning, I had to laugh at myself. Just at sunrise, I thought my husband was getting into the guest room bed with me. I picked my head up to look at him and realized that I had moved back to the bedroom at some point. He was just coming back from the bathroom. I may have been momentarily confused, but my nomadic habits are helping me get a better night’s sleep.

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