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Dealing with Insomnia? The Middle of the Night is a Great Time for Creativity

When insomnia began to ruin this happy sleeper’s nights, I tossed and turned for hours. After a few months of misery, I figured out it’s best to do what the experts suggest: Get up.

If I’m awake for more than 20 minutes, I throw back the covers and climb out of bed. Once I’m up for an hour or two, I’m usually able to go back to sleep.

So what to do during those wide-awake hours? Here are some creative suggestions for dealing with insomnia based on my experience.

Celebrate Kindness

Nothing can change your mood faster than spreading kindness. Get out your favorite notecards and write some encouraging words to someone who is shut-in, ill, lonely, or troubled.

When I was a teenager, I loved to decorate the back of the envelope after I sealed a letter. I’ve taken up that custom again. I use crayons, markers, or colored pencils and festoon the envelope with upbeat words and silly drawings.


In my early days of insomnia, I’d grab a handful of crackers, stand at the kitchen counter, and woof them down.

Here’s my snacking advice: If you decide to have a treat, put it on a plate, sit down, and enjoy it slowly, relishing the flavor. For a beverage, consider hot milk (my grandpa’s sleep remedy) splashed with chocolate chips.

Lists and More Lists

List making is a great way to engage your brain in happy thoughts. Jot down your favorite childhood foods, outfits you loved, kids in your seventh grade class, and the 20 most significant events of your girlhood.

Next, count your blessings. List the qualities you admire about each of your friends, your 50 favorite songs of all time, or the best books you’ve ever read. A festive notebook or journal adds to the fun of list making.

Creative Googling

I pick a topic I know nothing about and investigate! I’ve now studied why the sky is blue (to settle that issue for myself once and for all), the sex life of Victorian women, the invention of the vacuum cleaner, beach houses in Tahiti, and the life of Gloria Steinem (whom I respect for her brains and her grace).

The Junk Drawer

Straighten out that messy drawer. I’ve found a purple rubber worm, a pencil from the New York World’s Fair, tampons (haven’t needed them for over a decade), a pacifier (and my youngest child is 30), an expired driver’s license, a plethora of keys, the missing earring to a pair I adore, and my business card from 1998. What did I chuck and what did I keep? I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

If you are downsizing, why not use your sleepless nights to make some real progress? If you want some inspiration, these examples may help.

Appreciate the Night

Often, we’re so frustrated to be awake that we miss the joys of the night. Soak in the stillness. Study the sweet faces in the baby portraits on the wall or the elegant finials on your grandmother’s secretary.

Trace the pattern on the throw pillow with your finger; burrow deep in the softness of the afghan on the couch; note that the skin on your arm, despite your sixty years, is still smooth.

Sharpen. Polish. Straighten. Scrub

Sometimes a task that seems tedious in the daytime becomes a happy friend in the night. I’ve sharpened pencils, polished silver bracelets, and scrubbed the sink spotless. Best of all, I tidy up. When I come back downstairs the next morning, my kitchen and family room look a whole lot better than they did when I first went to bed, a refreshing reward for being awake in the middle of the night.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you dealing with insomnia? What are your best tips for dealing with the problem? What activities do you enjoy during those wide awake hours?

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Lani Powell

This is such positive advice. I started suffering from insomnia about a year ago. I awaken at 3:30 most nights and can’t get back to sleep. I love to read but I get too drowsy to read but not enough to go back to sleep. I love the list-making idea. I’ll start a journal of these for my grandchildren.

Colleen Cunningham

some great tips! Usually I sleep well but lately………I think it is just a transitional time. I like being on an even keel. Also, I think there are a few people I need to write “unsent letters to” to clear my mind. Thank you!


Over the years I’ve taken lots of steps to insure a solid night’s sleep. Often I wake up in the wee hours anyway but I refuse to get up. Sometimes I use the bathroom but head right back to bed. I recently created a little mantra for myself, 4 words repeated over and over, that express positive things I want for myself. Things like peace, love, serenity, courage, joy, etc. Sometimes my mind wanders, but I go right back to my phrase. I always go back to sleep.


I had never thought of turning this time into creativity. I usually am upset that this will ruin my tomorrow, that I need healing sleep and this isn’t helping, etc., etc. I will now turn from my negative thoughts and feelings into a positive. So simple – yet new for me!


I have issues with sleep as well. I finally get up come down and do a puzzle or read a little. Than within the hour I go back to bed

The Author

Barbara Younger writes Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause and Midlife Roller Coaster The author of over twenty books, she lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her husband Cliff. She’s the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to one adorable little boy.

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