in the middle of the night

I have this new nighttime routine called Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night To Worry About Dumb Shit. I fall asleep just fine but then I wake up to pee and — BAM — my brain leaps into high gear. 

Actually, last night was a little different. As soon as I stepped into the bathroom, my mind said, “Can you imagine if the house burned down?” (there was another equally horrid question, something about a body in the bathtub, perhaps?), but I was like, “Jennifer, are you freakin’ serious right now? Do not EVEN,” and then I fell right back to sleep. Miracles!

But an hour later I popped back awake to problem solve because that’s what my brain likes to do best in the dead of night: pick a problem and then worry it into submission. My brain switches on and, right on cue, my body tenses and I get to work think-think-thinking. 

Last night my brain didn’t shut off until nearly 4:00, but then I only dozed intermittently because my husband had entered his twitch-sleeping stage and kept waking me with all his involuntary jerks and shudders, one of which, at 4:44 am, yanked me wide awake, at which point I vocalized loudly, ripped off my sleep mask, and shot out of the room. 


When I was a child and had trouble falling sleeping (or didn’t want to fall asleep), my mother would chirp, “Think happy thoughts about Jesus.” 

One of my friends keeps five happy scenarios on tap. If she has trouble sleeping, she pulls one of them up and ponders it until she falls asleep. Which she does promptly. 

But my brain wants drama, terror, and angst. Tossing it a happy conundrum when it wakes ravenous for complications to detangle is ineffective and slightly dangerous, like attempting to satisfy a junk food craving with celery. Once the munching starts, it doesn’t stop. Watch out.


I have no solution. Some nights I treat myself to a Ibuprofen PM. About once a week, I’ll take some CBD tincture or Bigfoot Glue that a friend made. Once in a blue moon I’ll have a piece of the special chocolate that my daughter brought me when she moved back from Massachusetts. 

The lack of sleep doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, really. I drink my cup of coffee, take a Ibuprofen to ward off the no-sleep headache, and get on with my day.  

And some nights I sleep just fine. For example, two nights ago I dreamed the owner of an enormous cruise ship was in love with me and we were sailing up the Hudson into New York City. I’d never been on a cruise ship, in real life or in a dream. It was magnificent.

This same time, years previous: sex after menopause: Meredith, age 74, draft two, the great courses, collard greens, kitchen sink cookies, the quotidian (2.15.16), the quotidian (2.16.15), chocolate pudding, buses, boats, and trucks.


  • Thrift at Home

    You described it so well!!! My brain would like to keep doing this but I shut that sh** down with FOCL gummies with full-spectrum CBD! Had tried various things but taking half a gummy before bedtime takes me down a few notches and usually when I wake in the night to pee, I just pleasantly drift back to sleep. I don’t feel drugged, just calm. Occasionally I wake up too early – like 4am – and can’t always get back to sleep, but I am not in deep despair or rageful like I used to be. It’s THE BEST.

    I am pretty sure this sleep stuff is related to hormones/perimenopause. It’s hard to navigate!

  • Katie PNC

    I was going to comment about magnesium. It’s a lifesaver! I started taking magnesium glycinate every night because of anxiety and waking up at 2am every night for a month straight. It has helped tremendously (bonus- it helps you poop).
    Prior to the magnesium I would keep a happy scenario (a herd of horses emerging from a forest and running across a giant field) that I would try and focus on the hoof beats, their colors, the sounds. Also I find myself having conversational prayers , that helped the most. Just talking to God, stream of consciousness style, worked the fastest. Good luck to everyone with the overnight insomnia attacks!

  • Rebecca J.

    The middle of the night wake up could also be a symptom of perimenopause. I’m finding more and more symptoms that women suffer with are really common during this hormone shift. I’m 45 and have just entered this exciting world 😉

  • Betty

    My brain does that too! The solution that works best for me is to turn on a podcast (set on my iPad with an earbud by the bed). My favorite: A Way With Words.

  • FellowVirginian

    These bad thoughts happen to me, particularly when I am stressed but not during the night (thankfully). I might be on a bridge and think about what happens if my car goes off the edge, or what would happen if there was an emergency in my classroom. A counselor told me to tell myself, “It’s possible but improbable.” It took a little bit of me repeating this phrase to myself before it worked at shutting down the thoughts.

  • suburbancorrespondent

    I no longer try to get back to sleep if my brain starts doing that. I either make myself get up and do something (knit, read) for an hour or two or I put in earbuds and listen to a podcast interesting enough to distract me but prosaic enough to allow me to fall back asleep (Hit Parade on Slate is my current go-to).

  • Marcella Kottmeier

    Yes I like to call this intermission! I have had success with 5mg of Melatonin and now add 250-500mg of Magnesium…For some reason the magnesium is the key!

  • Norma

    This happens to me too – I ward off the perseverating thoughts with a podcast (something like Crowdscience from the BBC) using only one earbud and my phone. After a while, your brain gets the point that every time it hears the radio quietly at night, it just switches off and drifts off into sleep again for the next few hours. I choose listening to podcasts because they automatically switch off when they’re done (unlike tuning into a radio station). It’s much better than whatever strange scenario my sleep-fogged brain comes up with in the middle of the night!

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