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?