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Oh Deep Sleep, Where Have You Gone?

Oh sweet, Deep Sleep, where have you gone? Why have you left me? How can I find you again? I used to fall asleep easily and wake up with the light. I would close my eyes, go somewhere far away, unknown, mysterious, and peaceful and wake up with the satisfying sense of having arrived safely at my destination.

For the past few weeks, my sleep has been regularly interrupted. At approximately 2 am every morning I jolt into a wide-awake state and I’m up for hours. It’s like a hectic layover in a crowded airport. I’m busy, distracted, and irritated. It feels loud and chaotic and relentless. I lie impatiently through the layover counting the minutes until I can get back on the plane to the final destination.

I finally do fall asleep again. Sometimes I’ll take myself on a guided body-sensing meditation. I’ll move from my eyebrows to the tips of my toes to all points around and between. Then I’ll go to my breath, my thoughts, my feelings, and sometimes back to my body until I drift off to sleep. Sometimes I’ll count backward from 1000 by threes or sevens. Sometimes I’ll choose a word and run-through of every word I can think of that starts with each letter of the word. Sometimes I give up any magical technique and take my book into the guestroom to read.

I always fall back to sleep eventually. I can feel it happening. I can feel the exact moment when I have crossed over and I am heading back into sleep. I’m aware of it. My body feels tingly. I can feel my grip on the chaos loosening. And then I’m back; back on the plane, safely buckled in for the night.

But it’s not the same in the morning. In the old days, the days when I rested deeply, I felt different in the morning. Just a month ago I laid my head down, settled into the familiar mattress beneath me, my favorite soft pillow, and fell deeply into another realm. I miss it — that sense of being swallowed by the darkness into utter stillness and peace.

I miss that long rest I used to experience, that powerful absence from the duties of my life. I long for that feeling of being neither here nor there. In Deep Sleep I was suspended, not in the day before and not in the day ahead.

I’ve been waiting for this phenomenon of interrupted sleep to happen. I’m 53. Menopause is breathing down my neck. I’ve heard countless friends talk about this exact thing. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts, prepared myself. But now that it’s happening, now that I’m here, I feel desperate. I took my nightly visits with Deep Sleep for granted and now that they are gone I am bereft, unmoored. I just want her back.

Where are you Deep Sleep? How do I bring you back? Will you ever return to me? Oh, Deep Sleep, how do I restore the wonder of your presence?

I can sense these last few weeks of estrangement from Deep Sleep is just the beginning. Somehow I know this time that my interrupted sleep is not a temporary pattern. It’s not stress or too much coffee. It’s bigger and I will have to address it.

I am going to have to do a little work to figure out a way to bring Deep Sleep back to my nights. On my list today is to talk to my new doctor. Maybe I need to start a little estrogen-progesterone cocktail. Maybe I have to cut out caffeine or stop eating sugar. Maybe blackout curtains will help. I’ll do whatever it takes.

I didn’t know how much I’d miss Deep Sleep until you were gone

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