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Why Can’t I Sleep?

Why Can't I Sleep?I was born a night owl. That’s not hyperbole. Soon after the lawyer delivered me to my parents, they began asking, “Why can’t she sleep?” and within a few years, I was asking (again and again), “Why can’t I sleep?” To be clear, I’ve never had a problem with the sleep itself, it’s the falling asleep and the waking up that have caused problems my entire life.

When I was two — and still in diapers at night — my big sister, Nora, and I shared a double bed. Regularly I got in trouble because I was keeping her awake. I still vividly remember lying in bed one night, with my legs straight up in the air, doing “bicycles.” I had mounds of energy and wanted to play. The pop, pop that my feet made as they kicked the plastic pants was so amusing. So much more fun than sleep. And I got in trouble.

When I was six-years-old, I talked incessantly about important things that first graders know and particularly about my teacher at Westmore, Mrs. Sutton. She knew everything and I needed to share it all. How could anyone sleep when there were so many fascinating facts to discuss? And I got in trouble. Again.

For years I’d kneel up on my bed and gaze out the window late into the night. I’d watch the Olsen boys riding their trikes around in the dark — sometimes in their underwear. (I used to be so jealous that they didn’t ever have to go to bed, but I admit it now seems a bit, um, odd.) I’d watch cars pass by or lovers out for midnight strolls. More than once I caught a neighbor kid about to ring our doorbell and run, or throw an egg. Spooking them in their mischief was quite a highlight.

Eventually, as a survival technique, Nora learned to go to sleep with her fingers in her ears. When she went to college and moved to “the French house” (a total immersion language house), she was teased by her roommates for sleeping that way. Habits die hard.

The older I get, the harder it is. I have more to think about and more that needs to be done and more worries and concerns. Why can’t I sleep? I can’t turn it off!

The only thing that really works, consistently, is a four-pronged approach:

  • Very cold room
  • Lots of heavy quilts
  • Consistent noise (preferably an old vaporizer or loud fan)
  • Deep tissue foot and/or head message
  • All at the same time, for the entire night

You see the problem.

So, here I am, 46-years-old, and I still can’t sleep. I’m typing this at 2:21 am. It’s a rare night indeed if I get to sleep before 2:00. Sometimes it’s 4:00 or 6:00. And, really, at that point, why not just make it an all-nighter?

I’ve tried exercising and not exercising. I’ve tried warm bathes and hot showers. I’ve tried warm milk and hot cocoa. I’ve tried keeping the lights low. I’ve tried reading and TV. I’ve tried melatonin and mild sleeping pills and sleep light therapy. Nothing works.

A couple of days ago, while reading some posts on Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life, I was reminded of Steve Aitchison’s How to Be an Advanced Early Riser course. I saw it a few months ago and toyed with the idea of trying it. But I was determined to lose the pregnancy weight first of all and not sure I could tackle two very difficult body goals at the same time.

This morning, I decided I’d had enough. Nearly 47 years of crazy sleep is enough for anyone. My (very slow) weight loss plan notwithstanding, I downloaded the course and began to read. Two life-changing, life-enhancing goals will just have to find room for each other.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be periodically updating you on my sleep transformation. Hopefully, I’ll never have to ask, “Why Can’t I Sleep?” again. If any of you want to join me following Steve’s How to Be an Advanced Early Riser program, grab a copy and start reading. The buddy system might help.

Have you ever had sleep problems? What helped you the most?

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Bev Bond February 17, 2011, 5:50 am

    If I were to say I have a sleep problem you would be able to hear my family laughing and howling from Virginia to Utah, because mine is completely opposite from yours. As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to sleep and as a child my parents would tell other people and doctors “she asks to take a nap.” Obviously as I grew older I did not have the luxury of sleeping as much as I wanted, because I had a family to raise so those sleep habits had to be put aside for many years, but I would always manage a nap or two during a long day. And during the 30 years that I worked I would jokingly say at 8 am for people “to just not talk to me until I woke up at 10” obviously that wasn’t the case but it made sense to me.
    I would say that we do have several similarities such as sleeping in a cold room, lots of crisp pillows, down comforter and I must have noise. For years it was a fan of some kind, or a humidifier until I discovered from my second son and his wife, the wonders of a white noise machine and now have them in each bedroom in the house. The white noise machine is almost an instant signal to you body that the minute you turn it on, it’s time to go to sleep and my little noise maker travels with me every where I go. (NOTE TO SELF – I should record the soothing noise on my Ipod to take with me on long trips, as they would be great for blocking out noise on a plane) And these wonderful little machines (not sure why they are categorized as machines since because they are very small) can be readily found on the internet. I believe, after doing a search that I purchased mine from a “baby site” which makes a lot of sense, they would be wonderful for an infant. (Why didn’t I think of that?) The average price on this marvelous invention is around $45 and it’s senseless to buy one with two speeds as low is not adequate, and I found this out on my first purchase. When I placed my second order for the other bedrooms, I saved some money buying the one speed version.
    Here’s to “sweet dreams!”

  • John February 17, 2011, 6:46 am


    My brother has sleeping problems similar to yours. He usually doesn’t go to sleep until around 4:00 a.m. Thanks for sharing your experiences and good luck on your sleep transformation. I think might check out Steve’s How to Be an Advanced Early Riser program.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 17, 2011, 10:22 am

    Bev, thanks for the comment!

    Besides the low probability of getting foot rubs for eight hours straight, Sam doesn’t like noise at night. He falls asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow and loves to get up early. But fans and other noise drive him bonkers.

    We are such a great match, but our sleeping habits are as far apart as they get!

  • Alison Moore Smith February 17, 2011, 2:54 pm

    Tami, hey to another homeschooler!

    I know exactly what you mean. It would change my life if I could sleep like a normal person. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. I’m going to write a full review on the program when I get done. Just putting out the info for anyone else who might want to jump in. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith February 17, 2011, 3:02 pm

    John, I’ll post again when I’ve completed the sleeping program. I hope it can help your brother. He can use it for 30 days and get a full refund if it doesn’t work out for him. Its worth a shot with no risk.

  • Tami February 17, 2011, 2:18 pm

    Wow … we are twin sleepers 🙂 I don’t know you but am a HSer too. Will you update as to how the program is working? I’ll let you test it out before I put that new pressure on myself as well … only so much a girl can do at once 🙂 It would be life-changing if it works!

  • Vivek Parmar February 17, 2011, 7:19 pm

    Sleep – si always a big question to me. As a freelancer i work according to my wish and sleep whenever i like and sometimes not able to sleep anymore
    Vivek Parmar recently posted…Hostgator Valentine Day Discount Coupon Code- VALENTINEMONDAYMy Profile

  • Bryan Thompson February 18, 2011, 7:34 am

    Alison, I know how that feels – I mean, I haven’t slept in about 6 years because my kids wake up in ungodly hours of the night. But before that, I was a night owl, too. I think creative types often are – we create in odd hours. That’s when our minds are awake. Lately, I’m exhausted all the time so that’s no good.

    I wish you the best on your journey to a good night’s sleep. Looking forward to seeing how you progress.
    Bryan Thompson recently posted…6 Surefire Ways to Persuade PeopleMy Profile

  • Farnoosh February 18, 2011, 11:24 am

    Dear Alison, I couldn’t help but read and be captivated by this although I am very sad that you have trouble sleeping. Gosh, I love sleeping, which is why early rising has been a challenge – I can fall asleep on a train, in a plane, in a car, everywhere….it’s awful really. I think you were meant to do something better with your time. My all-time dream has been to find a way to do away with sleep altogether…..and it’s nowhere near happening. I do hope you find a solution that works for you. Thanks so much for sharing! (I do like the massage idea very much :))!
    Farnoosh recently posted…The Whispers of the Pacific OceanMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 18, 2011, 1:51 pm

    Well, Bryan, if I can blame creativity for this enormous issue, I will!

    I have six kids. My youngest is now seven, so for the first time in a long time getting up at night with the kids is a rare thing. My dad just moved in with us, though, and he gets up a couple of times each night! So it looks like we might be starting over!

  • Alison Moore Smith February 18, 2011, 3:55 pm

    Farnoosh, I should have specified. I can fall asleep with any motor running. Doesn’t remotely have to be a vaporizer. 🙂 I’m like a two-year-old. Put me in the car and drive me around and I’m out cold. I think I need one of those baby crib devices that shakes my bed and makes loud noises. 😉

    That said, I’m totally with you. Abolish sleep! The sleep program I’m doing is supposed to help get you down to five hours and still feel good. That’s about the most I ever get anyway, but I wish I felt like I got a full night’s sleep with that. Here’s hoping it works!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Alison Moore Smith February 18, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Vivek, I hear you! The work is always sitting there, calling your name.

    We also have six kids, so I can’t just sleep whenever I feel like it. There are places to go and people to see and kids to feed. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting today.

  • Kelly Lester February 18, 2011, 5:42 pm

    Oh Alison…. this is bad! I have some of the same sleep issues but I hate to say you win here…. Our very busy minds don’t let us rest and I know for me, the more tired I am, the more I want to EAT. The two are directly related. My body looks for comfort, and if it can’t find it in sleep… Give it FOOD! If we could get our 8 hours, we’d be super models for sure! (over the hill ones, but super just the same). I wish you luck in your new quest for sweet dreams. Let me know if you get some!!

  • pcd2k March 6, 2011, 4:52 pm

    A glass of milk mostly always works, but if not, one or two paracetamol as well will seal me.

  • Jimi Jones March 6, 2011, 6:22 pm

    I hope you get a sleep pattern established. You’re just full of life, but certainly could use a bit more sleep. Seems you’ve tried most of the things that work for most others, just haven’t found THE technique for you.

    I sleep about 5 hours nightly, retiring between 11pm and 12:30 am. I get up without the use of an alarm (mainly) at 4:30 to 4:45am. This has been my pattern since my days in the Army. But even before then, I was an early riser. Love the peacefulness of the early mornings.

    Anyhow, hope this new approach works out for you, friend. Best of luck, keep us posted.
    Jimi Jones recently posted…The Sunday Seven WeeklyMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith March 6, 2011, 8:26 pm

    Jimi, your schedule would be an absolute dream to me. Dream, I tell you! And it’s pretty much what the author of the program does, too. (No alarm for him either.)

    Maybe I need to enlist…

    I was utterly terrible at this goal last week, but it’s a new week and I am determined. 🙂

  • Faissal March 7, 2011, 5:08 am

    I feel sometimes like i’ll never sleep when i think about something!! but when i stop thinking i fall in sleep
    directly 😀 hope the program will make your sleeping better and I’ll be waiting your update ^,^
    best of luck..!
    Faissal recently posted…Traffic Generation Blogging Contest- need your support!My Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith March 7, 2011, 12:04 pm

    My problem exactly, Faissal! I can’t turn off the brain. I went to bed EARLY last night (meaning about 11:00!!!). Finally, at about 2:00 am I gave up and blogged for an hour on another blog. Finally fell asleep just after 3:00. Got up just before 8:00. Another less than five hour night. Since I do this regularly, I’d at least like to make those five hours during the times I’d prefer!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 7, 2011, 1:37 pm

    Timo, how did you get up early when you stayed up? Was it one of those internal clock things or, like me, when you had things you had to do and had no choice?

    Thanks for chiming in. I’ll update the blog when I have more info.

  • Timo Kiander March 7, 2011, 1:00 pm


    Sorry to hear that you had so much trouble of getting sleep.

    My problem was a bit different. I became an early-riser, but at the same time I kept staying up late. I was tired all the time and that did effect to my daily life. I wasn’t able to remember things and my focus was lost.

    Things are getting now better, but every now and then I feel super tired, if I didn’t sleep well the night before (like last night). That’s when taking a quick nap in the afternoon puts me back to track 🙂

    Looking forward to read your experiences of Steve’s program.

  • Timo Kiander March 8, 2011, 1:57 am


    It was motivation that made me wake-up early 🙂

    I made a big change in my lifestyle some years ago and became an athlete. And in order to improve my results, I knew that I had work out more to succeed (one workout before hitting the office, the second one in the afternoon).

    At the same time I knew that working out twice a day and having a day job, my schedule would become too tight if doing everything after the work. So that was basically a reason for my early wake-ups.

    In fact, I’m about to write more about this on my blog (next week).

  • Alison Moore Smith March 8, 2011, 3:08 am

    I hope when you write about it, you’ll explain how you got yourself to get up for that workout, even when you were tired. That takes a great deal of self-discipline!

  • Timo Kiander March 8, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Thanks for the tip! I try to address this part as well!

  • Jeff April 6, 2011, 2:05 pm

    Hay there everyone. I’m sry I thought this would of worked with my sleeping habites but it didn’t. I’ve tried all the web site downloads you suggested but nothing work is there another site that I’m missing.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 7, 2011, 12:31 pm

    Hi, Jeff. Thanks for stopping by.

    I’m not sure what you mean by, “I’ve tried all the web site downloads you suggested…” Could you clarify?

    Did you see the help to sleep resources I posted? Let me know specifically what you have tried and how it worked, so perhaps I can help — from my very non-expert position!

  • Diane July 11, 2011, 4:27 pm

    Well I guess if you have trouble sleeping, good thing you took up writing since the internet is open 24/7. Are you thinking a lot before hitting the pillow? What are methods that you’ve tried? Chamomile tea, exercising in the evening, relaxing music? I’m sorry to hear of this struggle.

  • Annie July 18, 2011, 3:23 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your insomnia. We all need sleep in order to help our bodies rejuvenate and feel alert. Have you heard of the Iso-Cool pillow? It’s a pillow that cools depending on your body temperature and if you need the room to be cool, this could be your solution. Good luck!

  • Alison Moore Smith July 18, 2011, 11:48 pm

    Annie, I was just saying to Sam the other day that I wanted an ice pillow. I wake up over and over just to turn the pillow over to the cool side! I should have invented that, but I’ll sure look into it!

  • Alison Moore Smith July 18, 2011, 11:51 pm

    Hey! I found the Iso Cool Pillows! Thanks for the heads up!

  • Matt February 16, 2012, 2:28 pm

    I have a friend that has experienced the same program. He has told me that he has only been able to sleep 3-4 hours a night, max. I am wondering how frequently and how many different people this actually happens with. Have you come across others that have the same problems?

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