Monsters in the Night

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Movies don’t lie: Boogiemen emerge after lights out.

Maybe not actual vampires and goblins. But the bugaboos of stress that we sweep under daily hubbub like to claw their way into the sensory deprivation of semidarkness.

When boogiemen snake into the brain, they keep a person awake with reminders of things undone—you neglected to send a promised report to your boss—that need doing—you’d better not forget to buy a birthday card for your mother tomorrow—and that you did wrong—a smarter and cleverer person wouldn’t have a coworker frustrated with her.

I've struggled with stress-induced sleeplessness.

Fortunately, after trial and error, I’ve developed coping mechanisms:

  • Electronics curfew: At 8:30 p.m., except on special occasions, I set aside all electronics, from the mobile phone to the tablet to the computer. Keeping away from devices detaches me from the worries of the day long before bedtime, letting my brain quiet.

  • Bedroom firewall: I don’t bring electronics into the bedroom—not even my tablet for reading. My curfew means I can’t reference devices before sleep, anyway. And if they sit by the bed, I’ll invariably reach for them if I can’t sleep or wake up in the night—nudging the monsters.

  • Dumping tools: On my nightstand, I have a notepad and pen. When the boogiemen emerge—as they still will—I purge the boogiemen into to-do lists (buy that card, send report to client boss first thing tomorrow with an apology) and brainstorms (blog post ideas, how to do something better next time). Once the monsters hit the page, they don’t fret me as much. I know I won’t forget them by tomorrow.

What worries you in the wee hours? And how do you cope?