Each night as I snuggle into bed, mold the pillow into shape, and close my eyes, a reckoning occurs. I know immediately if I’ll be able to go to sleep quickly. Most nights the answer is no.
My brain sees bedtime as space to create, think, and develop ideas.
Finally! Quiet time to ponder. It’s not that there wasn’t time during the day. It’s that I didn’t carve out time for my brain to play. If my brain doesn’t get a work out, it’s bonkers.
Not to say that I’m bonkers, just that instead of falling asleep, my brain will try to forecast the election, dissect the dynamics of patriarchy, or count the seconds between each of my husband’s breaths to see if, in fact, he does have a mild case of sleep apnea as I suspect.
Couple this with a lack of a physical workout, where my body isn’t tired either… I might as well get out of bed and get work done. (And sometimes I do.)
Mostly though, twist around, grab my phone, write a note to myself, and try to sleep again. New idea, new note. And another, and another…
Eventually, my brain will relent and allow some sleep.
This cute game we play has taught me something about myself and the way moms (and likely others too) structure their day. As a fellow bright mama, I’m sure you have creative projects and interests that are mostly unrelated to your kids or family. Maybe they’re related to work, but maybe not. The things you find fascinating, that you keep coming back to, and that you could talk about or work on for hours uninterrupted. (If that is a plausible scenario in your household.)
This I know: If I haven’t fed my brain something creative, stimulating, fun during the day, it’ll do it at night. And my sleep suffers.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not busy. There’s lots to do, online school to supervise, life and work to manage, but the daily ‘goings on’ aren’t as intellectually stimulating as one might think. I’ve often said that it can be good to have your daily life be boring in that sense that drama has no place. I’m not a fan of drama.
My challenge, which I’m guessing is close to YOUR challenge, is to carve out space for intellectual play, creation, and idea development during the day.
For me it’s usually writing. The mere fact that I’m writing this now will mean that I’ll be able to sleep tonight without much trouble. (It also helps to limit social media and catarophizing… which can be difficult these days.)
Perhaps you have a similar issue of not being able to sleep and maybe this will help. Also, I know parents have trouble getting their kids to go to sleep. Though I have no scientific proof of my theory, I know your kids have race car brains that want to create, consume, and be engaged in something.
Now, you might argue that your child is in school all day or reads a lot. And that might be enough. But the difference is:
Are they engaged in something that fascinates them? That challenges their brain to think and create?
School is often like a job to kids, especially gifted and twice exceptional kids who have different, intense interests that aren’t taught in school. If all their time is in the ‘typical’ subjects, there’s a good chance their brains aren’t tired.
I remember my first grader who loved electronics and circuits, asking when he’d get to do that in school. My answer sadly: Sorry buddy, probably not until high school, maybe middle school.But we did stuff outside of school for him, of course, but certainly not what he was hoping for.
Now, two things could happen here if you try this strategy on yourself or your children:
- You could get so enamored with your creative challenge or topic that you can’t be bothered to sleep anyway because you’re so excited. That’s not a horrible thing until the next morning when you’re exhausted.
- Your brain will be satisfied with it’s level of engagement and happily drift off into dreamland. Extra points if you ask your brain a question before you go to sleep to see what answer you get in the morning.
The second can actually help with the first, if you can convince your brain, or your child, that brains actually need that quiet, unconscious study time to integrate learning, solve problems, and weave information into new, creative solutions. Perhaps you could imagine a movie screen as you feel asleep of everything you’ve been working on that day, or have your child describe their movie to you as you try to get them to relax for sleep.
Being busy doesn’t necessarily make your brain tired: emotional and physical exhaustion feels different than a satisfied brain.
Creating space for heart-centered projects makes being ‘busy’ more fun. And you might sleep better too.