When the Whole Wide World Is Fast Asleep.

By: Jen Shoop

I have been sleeping well.  Soundly.  Like a log, some might say — another phrase I hate for some reason; it feels indelicate.

I do not take this for granted.  I have struggled with sleeplessness throughout my adult life, starting with my first year of college, when I could not, for the life of me, adjust to sleeping in such close quarters with a stranger.  A kind stranger — a smart, talented stranger — but, nonetheless, a stranger.  Does it strike anyone else as bizarre that, owing to collegiate customs, for a year of your adult life, you are asked to sleep within a few feet of a complete stranger?

“Start with your toes — my pinky toe is asleep, my big toe is asleep, all my toes are asleep.  Then, the top of my foot is asleep, my ankle is asleep, my whole foot it asleep.  My shin is asleep…”  my mom instructed me, pragmatically, on the phone.

“I need something else,” I informed her a few days later, the bags underneath my eyes taking on an as-yet-unseen blue-black hue.

“OK, then — are you hungry? thirsty? cold? hot?” she asked, rattling off a checklist to use when battling sleep.

“I need something else,” I whined, urgently, a few days later, frayed.

“When I can’t sleep, I don’t let myself stress about it,” interjected my father.  “Just know that the next best thing to sleep is letting your body rest.  So just lay there, awake, letting your body rest and your mind wander.”

This suited me better.  I would lay awake, traveling the familiar constellations of  imagery that comprised my adolescent daydreams: what would my husband look like?  (Hot, blond, tan.)  What would my children look like?  (Adorable, blond, tan.)  How would I dress them at Sunday Mass?  Etc.

I would still not fall asleep — the sound of my roommate’s breathing and turning agonizingly unwelcome interruptions.

I’ve suffered through similar patches of sleeplessness more recently — while awaiting mini’s arrival, while launching and sustaining the business I built with my husband, while fussing over the move to New York City.

And so, when it dawned on me the other morning that I have been sleeping soundly, sleeping well, I thought two things, simultaneously: “Tsk, tsk.  How quickly we forget” and “Praise God for this stress-free time, when the coordinates of my life feel more or less set, and I can focus on the here and now versus the unknown of tomorrow.”

But — I thought I’d write this post because I know how lonely and defeating sleeplessness can be, and I thought I’d share how I’ve passed those many red-eyed nights, striving for “the next best thing to sleep”: letting my body rest and my mind wander.

Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep.*

+Try to remember every classmate in your high school homeroom.

+Say a novena to Mary.

+Imagine what your children will wear to Easter Sunday in 2030.

+Scroll through Instagram.  Go deep.  So deep you accidentally click on your own name for liking someone else’s post.

+Start Roseanne, from Season 1.  (Believe me, you won’t regret it.)  If that’s not your cup of tea, try Downton Abbey or Gilmore Girls — something with duration, with multiple seasons, with fairly complex plot-lines, but nothing so serious that you’ll stress yourself out.

+Make chamomile tea.

+Count to 10,000.

+Make cinnamon toast.

+Imagine the perfect party — down to the hors d’oeuvres and napkins and music playlist.

+Download a beach read to your Kindle.

+Imagine you’re being interviewed by Bazaar for one of those “24 Hours With ____” features and go through your day, hour by hour.  What products would you mention?  What would your average day look like?

+Fill your Sephora digital shopping cart with a whole new makeup regime and imagine yourself looking like Bella Hadid afterward.  (All of these are in mine.)

+Have a glass of wine.

+Try a white noise machine.  People rave about this one.

+Put on When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle.  Nora Ephron is chicken soup for the sleepless soul.

+Take a bath or shower.

+Eat saltines, standing up, at your kitchen counter.

+Put on Norah Jones or Stacey Kent.

+Re-start your bedtime routine: re-wash your face, apply lotion, put on new pajamas, etc.

+Read the archives of Grubstreet Diet.

+Download the Shopbop app and heart all of the things that tickle your fancy.

+Create a Wunderlist focused on to-dos or worries so you can put all of the things running through your mind down on paper.  Digital paper–but paper, nonetheless.

+Listen to a soothing podcast, like The History Chicks’ podcast on Jackie O., or What It Takes featuring Oprah.  Oprah’s voice is like butter.

+Say the rosary.

+Text your sister in London when it comes to be an appropriate hour.

+Change into more comfortable jammies — something warmer, something cooler, something softer.  Sometimes just a change of jammies, period, does the trick.

+Adjust your pillows so you’re more elevated.

+Empty your inbox.

+Lower or raise the temperature in your room.  (I always sleep best when I’m a little cold.)

+Put on socks.

+Take off socks.

+Create a new Pinterest board focused on street style and pin aspirational fashion-forward looks.

+Download “Churchill Solitaire” or “Threes” and gradually fall asleep to the mind-numbing interactions of these stupid but addictive games.  (I’m sorry.)

+Remind yourself that the next best thing to sleep is rest.

*From a non-expert, obvi.  If you have serious trouble sleeping, turn to the experts, as I’m fairly certain all of them will tell you to remove your TV from your room and place your phone on a different floor, drastic measures to which I was never able to commit.

Sleep-Related Wishlist/Picks.

+The new lavender-trimmed bedding from Hill House Home.

+Goop swears that this bath cube “can put anyone straight to sleep.”

+New jammies in an appropriate “midnight” print.

+Lavender body oil.  This brand is the ultimate in luxury — and lavender is known for its relaxing qualities.

+My favorite overnight facial.

+These pillows got great reviews from multiple sources, but a reader suggested these, and their reviews are even stronger.

+This down comforter gets rave reviews — 854 five star reviews, to be exact (ZERO bad reviews?!)

+I’ve mentioned this a bunch of times, but Yves Delorme’s Etoile towels are the fluffiest, softest towels known to man.  I first discovered them while staying at a hotel a few years ago and I was so obsessed with them, I tracked down the brand and ordered myself a set.  My one gripe with them is that they lose color quickly when washed.  When I order my next set, I’ll stick with white and be done with it.

+Just downloaded two books to my Kindle: this one, which everyone I know is reading, and this one, given my recent obsession with Jackie O.  (Thanks, Hitha, for the rec!)

+On my bedside table: a glass carafe with water, my Kindle, three framed photos (one of mini and I the day she was born; one of Mr. Magpie and I the day we were married; one of my mom and I when I was about four); Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream (magic — cures all); a trinket dish for my everyday jewelry — I love these valet trays for the same purpose, though; a candle (<<love this scent right now); and, when I’m lucky, a small bouquet of flowers.  I have long lusted after these ones from Jonathan Adler, in the lavender colorway.

+This is my all-time favorite tea.  I give it to pretty much everyone — when they’re sick, when they’re pregnant, when they need some comforting in general.  I’d love to drink it out of these elegant mugs.  And, ICYMI, this is THE BEST electric kettle.  We use it daily for coffee and tea.

+This is our bed.  I love it so.  These are our bedside tables, and we have one of these double gourd lamps on each.  I would love to eventually buy one of these framed Paule Marrot fabric panels to place over our bed (this is my favorite), but we are not investing in any artwork until we buy our next place.  Instead, over my bedside table, I have a framed, hand-calligraphed quote from a Van Morrison song that has particular meaning to my sister and I and that I custom ordered from here (my sister has the same one in her apartment) and a small, vintage ceramic plaque I found on Etsy that has the image of Mary and reads Mater Misericordiae underneath it, to remind me to pray.  (It actually looks a lot like this, but it’s bigger — about 3 x 5.)  I have a special devotion to Mary; I tend to pray to her first in times of need, as you might have gathered from the above.

+Pillow spray.

P.S. I just re-read this note to Mr. Mapgie and I could have written it yesterday.  He is LE best.

P.P.S.  Guyssss, I promise, a new book post is forthcoming.  I have been so slow in reading this past couple of weeks.

P.P.P.S.  PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Stunning Alexandre Birman sandals, ON SALE.  And a cheap thrill: a darling sandal for under $20.  (I like the chambray stripe.)

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11 thoughts on “When the Whole Wide World Is Fast Asleep.

  1. This is so helpful and I’ve bookmarked it for the future! I have struggled with serious insomnia at a couple of different points in my adult life, and it is LE WORST. Prolonged lack of sleep really makes me a zombie, and I am fortunate (knock wood) that I have been sleeping regularly, deeply, and happily over the past few years. Going to keep these fantastic suggestions in mind!

    1. I’m in the same boat — happily snoozing through the night — and am thanking my lucky stars! xo

  2. Thank you for this list! I have the worst time falling asleep (and then waking up because of it) and have to take a sedative to help me relax enough to fall asleep lol. When that doesn’t work I will be revisiting this lovely list.

    1. Yay! Glad you found it helpful! Also, check out the comments — some other great suggestions here! xo

    1. Ooh! That’s a good one — I just remembered my Dad said that when he couldn’t sleep, he’d play an entire 18 holes of golf on his favorite course…! Love the idea of tracing something that’s comforting and relaxing to you…!

  3. My favorite methods for falling asleep are to work on my meditation practice (I love the Calm app and have found it to be really helpful!), or to try to remember every scene and action, in order, of the last book or movie I enjoyed. Those usually do the trick! Another favorite is to remember that “You can’t worry when you’re counting your blessings” – I love making lists of things I’m appreciative of to soothe a frantic mind.

    1. Woah, greatttt suggestions! I especially love the counting your blessings — I can imagine that you’d eventually get sidetracked thinking about happy things and fall asleep…! Also, checking out that app! xo

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