Did you sleep through your youth?

I didn’t. Because insomnia.


During high school and junior high I would fluctuate from being unable to sleep to being uninterested in sleep.

I had a box of notebooks and loose leaf papers that I would go through and organize on a regular basis. I don’t know where it is now. It had letters, poems, artwork, and old school assignments. I would reorganize it each time I couldn’t sleep.

Sometimes at my dad’s house, I would read in the bathroom instead of in my bedroom. I thought it was easier to hide the light in the bathroom. Plus, if my dad or step-mom saw the light on in the bathroom, they were less likely to knock on the door and tell me to go to bed.

I remember sitting in my room bored late at night and playing with puff pants. Do you remember those? Are they still a thing? I started by putting paint on paper. I couldn’t find anywhere else to paint, so I drizzled it over my legs. I started with a glossy purple. Then a glossy blue. Then, a creamy green that would dry clear. Talk about impulse.

I snuck into the bathroom to clean up before it dried. Then, I went back to bed to read under a lamplight.

In my post, Teenage Sarah’s Published Novel, I talked about how I would sometimes stay up all night reading or writing and go straight to my early-morning bible study class without resting.

In fact, my senior year I was taking only about a half a day of classes. I left school three hours before the school day ended. I would come home and take a long nap, stay up too late, then sleep a few more hours until the morning. My sleep schedule was a sort of split shift.


But a strange thing happened when I got to college. My earliest class was 8:55a, and it was all I could do to make it there on time. Days where my classes started at 9:30 or 10:00 were doable, but that 8:55a two days a week felt so impossible.

In college, I downloaded guided relaxation mp3s and meditation music to try to fall asleep to. I had a playlist that worked, but one song was weirdly loud, and it would wake me up. I rotated through several rituals. For example: drinking decaf chai, eating toast with apple jam, and reading Harry Potter. Or, I went through a phase where I would put on Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, you know the ’90s movie with Leonardo DiCaprio?

Then, when I was home for breaks, I would fall asleep watching Star Wars on VHS on the tiny TV in my bedroom. Sleeping at home was so much harder. I would wonder why until one night I heard one of my mom’s geese honking, and I realized what was missing: the sound of NYC traffic.

During adulthood, meaning after college, I can no longer function if I stay up too late. And up late two days in a row? Forget it.

I still have insomnia, but it’s different now.


Do you sleep well? Have you always?

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