Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pro Tip: How to Sleep

Please don't tell my mom that I drink Diet Coke.

My mom isn't keen on caffeine, and while I am a grown-up, I love my mom and I wouldn't do anything to intentionally hurt her.

But I need to tell you that I sometimes drink Diet Coke, so you'll understand my situation.

When I can't sleep because I have had too much caffeine, I have found that only one form of relaxation works for me.

Counting sheep? No. Saying prayers? Not really. Mindlessly watching informercials? Nah.

I recount each detail of my favorite books and movies to myself.

The stories that I know backwards and forwards (Gone With the Wind, You've Got Mail, Atlas Shrugged, etc.) are extremely soothing to me. The burning of Atlanta isn't as traumatic when you encounter it for the umpteenth time, you know?

I usually lay in bed with my eyes closed, and I start at the beginning of whichever story I want. I describe the setting, the costumes, the tone—sometimes even the Technicolor gets a nod in my description. Summoning up these details does not activate my brain into alertness because all of them come so naturally to me; the benefit of seeing a movie a thousand times is that the images and words are seared into your mind.

The retelling of the particular tale goes on until I doze off. If I can't sleep for several nights in a row, I pick up where I left off the night before. 

The rise and fall of the characters' emotions, as well as the fictional situations they find themselves in, help my brain focus on something other than myself. If I am awake with worry, I can instead recall Joe Fox's hurting desire to reveal his true identity to Kathleen Kelly; even though I'm still dealing in a sad emotion, I know how his story ends. If my brain is racing with my to-do list for the next day, I instead zone out by listing all of the roadblocks between Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson in From Justin to Kelly.

Fiction is a beautiful escape, no matter what time of day it is or how much caffeine is coursing through your veins.

My parents taught me that things always look and feel worse in the middle of the night. I agree, which is why I have adopted this method of getting myself to sleep. I leave the problem-solving for the daylight hours.

We still can't agree on drinking cola, though.

You can't win 'em all.

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