Writing Prompt: Being Unable to Sleep

First night, second night, third—nights piling upon nights, hours upon hours, a mountain of lost time. Each hour of lost sleep is compounded by the hour before it, a perpetual […]

May 31, 2017 // Tara May // 1 Comments // Posted in Daily Prompts

First night, second night, third—nights piling upon nights, hours upon hours, a mountain of lost time. Each hour of lost sleep is compounded by the hour before it, a perpetual wheel of spinning time.

My mind attaches to it like a leech, this notion that “I must get some sleep.” Worry builds upon anxiety, builds upon helplessness, builds upon the minutes ticking by. I don’t want to look at the clock, don’t want to know what time it is, how little time I have until I have to get up, have to give up this struggle for the night.

Hyper sensitive, ultra conscious of my body, is that my heart racing, what’s wrong with me? A body lacking sleep, nerves on edge, mind racing, imagining scenarios, writing stories, dialogue, rambling on. In the clutches of wakefulness, the muscles are tense, the mind alert, the eyes heavy, but not with sleep. Falling, rising up, into sleep, awake again.

Anxiety about turning off the light, maybe if I stay awake a little longer I’ll finally be able to sleep.

And then when sleep finally comes, a night full of it, such sweet relief, the embodiment of contentment. The anxiety recedes and I remember what it feels like to sleep through the night. I return to myself. I’ve always been an active sleeper.


  • Tara May
    June 6, 2017

    An entry by Kelly Greenwood: Unable to Sleep

    A light rain is falling on my tent. A soothing sound, and yet I lie awake, staring up into nothing. A cascade of worries had enveloped me like a cloud of insects and picks away at my peace. Did I tie the tarp up well enough? Is the stove getting wet? If the wind picks up, will these old tents hold through the night? There are twelve teenagers sleeping in tents next to me whose safety and well-being I am responsible for this week. If they don’t stay dry enough, fed enough, warm enough, how will they be able to learn the lessons we have come out here for? Today we began discussing copper levels in the Puget Sound and what that means for wildlife. The copper levels in the water sample we tested were above EPA standards. They seemed only fleetingly interested. The smiling goldfish they snacked on were more a species of concern to them than the salmon who refuse to return to a stream contaminated by copper. I lie awake and imagine what copper might smell like to such a sensitive creature. I imagine the metallic tinge in the water, growing stronger, unbearable. I imagine papers being signed in far away offices that reopen copper mining in the North Cascades. Safe in my tent, dry against the rain, I imagine disasters, big and small. Will I be able to make coffee tomorrow? Will salmon return to the rivers this fall? Will sleep ever come, and give me reprieve from this world of worries, this beautiful and complex and impossible to understand world-not unlike the dream world I finally fall into.

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