Awake at Night? Let Your Imagination Sail
Insomnia is an all-night travel agency with posters advertising faraway places.
In my late teens and early twenties, I frequently stayed up all night to finish assigned books and papers and read and write for pleasure. I had more control of my time then, before career and family. If possible, I scheduled all my classes after 10 a.m. and preferably only Monday-Thursday. (Except for the groggy year I had daily German conversation class starting at 8 a.m., an hour when I am barely fluent in own language). I coveted the wakeful wee hours as a creative time when the booming speakers in my student ghetto would finally grow silent. Sometimes I thought could even hear the waves breaking on shore from my ticky-tack apartment many blocks away.
Maybe those surf sounds were all in my head, but hearing the ocean became more likely in the early morning hours, when I could listen to my thoughts and let my imagination fly free. In his book, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Virginia Tech History Professor A. Roger Ekirk explores historical and literary references to alternate sleep cycles. Chaucer wrote in the Canterbury Tales about a character going back to bed after her firste sleep, and subsequent writers referred to first sleep and second sleep. As Ekirk explains, people in Chaucer’s day and the pre-industrial ages that followed tended to think of this wakeful period as a gift: for thinking and even visiting with others taking nighttime breaks. He even cites a 16th century French doctor’s manual that advised couples to use this time to try to conceive, when “they have more enjoyment” and “do it better.”
Today, with e-readers, booklights and hiker’s headlamps (which I prefer), we all have the opportunity to reframe our mid-sleep insomnia as found time for reading and writing without getting out of bed. As reported by the Guardian, New York Times and many other news sources, researchers have borne out the literary and historical data with research indicating that a wakeful period during the night is part of our natural pattern. Many scientists now recommend that we try to control our anxiety about insomnia by enjoying the free time and letting ourselves drift off normally without sleep aids (which can be addictive and may even cause memory loss).
As I’ve written in previous Ship’s Log entries, brain research has also shown that a sleepy brain is more creative. So I’m going to advocate my carpe momentum rule again: If you want to tap your creative energy, keep a notebook (the old-fashioned kind) and a few pens and pencils by your bed and carry one or have one handy everywhere you go. You might even keep TWO by your bed, one for after the first sleep (in the middle of the night) and one for after the second (in the morning). Enjoy the moonlight time to read, reflect and let your imagination take flight.© Copyright 2013 Ellen Girardeau Kempler, All rights Reserved. Written For: Gold Boat Journeys