Stage 1: Superstition
This is the first stage of the night. First you recall that night last Tuesday when you got into bed and dropped instantly into a deep and dreamless sleep and awoke the next morning with a stretch and a smile. You attempt to repeat everything you did that evening. If you ate yogurt last Tuesday, you eat yogurt tonight. You wore socks to bed last Tuesday, you wear socks tonight. Brushed your teeth before washing your face? That’s what you do again. My friend calls this being a ‘sleep wizard’. It is as if all your actions are the incantation that is summoning the magical sprite known as sleep.
Stage 2: Hope
When your head hits the pillow, you imbue yourself with positive thoughts. You think of all the advice you’ve read in magazines and thus commence deep breathing, skip counting backward, drawing a square in your mind, visualizing a calm and peaceful place. You willfully ignore the voice in the back of your consciousness that says, “You know all this voodoo never works.”
Stage 3: False Casualness
It is now apparent that the tide of a full night’s sleep is receding. The waves will lap toward you, but as soon as you approach unconsciousness they will beat a fast retreat and you will snap awake. So now you do your best to act nonchalant about the whole thing. “That’s cool. It’s pretty relaxing just to lay here and decompress after a long day. You know what? I don’t even care that much if I sleep or not.”
Stage 4: Hatred
Your husband, who has experienced approximately four sleepless nights in his entire lifetime, has been fast asleep next to you during all of your efforts. At first his snoring is rhythmic and comforting, then it is just loud, but at this point it really takes on a strong stench of smugness and every snorting, sawing in and out breath is a reminder of your wakefulness and the fact that tomorrow you will have dark circles under your eyes and you will be forgetful, snappish and completely ineffective. So you elbow him. It is, of course, only because you want him to stop snoring and not because you hate him for sleeping so soundly. No, certainly not.
Stage 5: Pollyanna
Tonight is not your night. The harder you chase sleep, the faster it’s going to run, so you’re going to put some lipstick on this pig. You will use this time for education and edification, so you read. You get through an entire New Yorker and a few chapters of a novel that is not really that great, but it’s all you’ve got. You are hungry because it is the middle of the night and you are not asleep, so the reading is mostly to stop yourself from going into the kitchen and pouring yourself three bowls of cereal.
Stage 6: Sleep (At last!)
A few hours shy of sunrise you finally drop into sleep. Because your mind is cruel and twisted, you dream that you are awake and unable to fall asleep, resulting in extreme doubt as to whether you slept all.
Stage 7: Good Morning
The alarm goes off just as you are drifting into true restfulness. You stagger into the kitchen, so tired that the simple act of making coffee seems an insurmountable challenge. While you stare at the water and coffee beans, trying to remember the processes required to meld the two elements together, it hits you: only 14 more hours until you get to try the whole thing again.