Military Wives: A Society of Chronic Insomniacs


I was glad my husband didn't come home from his recent TDY assignment in the dark. Otherwise, he would have tripped over a few things. That's because I couldn't go to sleep because of the family crisis that wasn't. I didn't need computer work or reading. I needed busy, do-stuff-with-your-hands, gritty labor. For me, that meant rearranging the furniture in the house. And we've only been here two months, so I was hardly tired of the layout. That didn't much matter, though. I experimented with various versions of furniture arrangement in four rooms and kept my hands and my mind occupied with something other than cancer.

I rarely go to bed at a decent hour when my husband is away, but this time, I didn't go to bed at all for over 24 hours and when I did go to bed, it was for two-hour spurts here and there.

My husband approved of the new arrangement, but asked me what prompted the re-re-re-arrangement. "I thought my nephew was going to die and I couldn't sleep. I couldn't just sit there, either, so I made busy work for myself."

My husband knows I don't take care of myself as well as I should while he's away. Those late night, early morning emails tip him off every time. I know I'm not alone in this category, either. We've heard from many of you who say your sleep patterns are severely interrupted during a deployment. See here and here.

I understand why I didn't allow myself the sleep I needed while I was worried sick, but I started thinking about my lack of sleep when my husband is TDY or deployed. There's no bad news (that I know of), he's just gone. So why not sleep? If I'm sleeping, that's time that my mind is not allowed to focus on "what ifs" or missing my husband. Unless I have a bad dream, intrusive thoughts don't enter my head. Seems to me that sleeping would be a good way to shave some time off of the deployment clock, and take care of myself in the process.

I've used my deployment insomnia in both productive and unproductive ways in the past. I've cleared work off of my plate, organized stuff, purged and finished projects that needed to be finished. But I've also piddled around the house for hours being busy but not accomplishing a single thing. Anything to keep me from going to bed.

So, I wonder why sleep is so elusive to so many of us when our spouses are gone, and I wonder why we often concoct things to do just to avoid climbing between the sheets? And when we do get between the sheets, sometimes sleep eludes us even though we're exhausted. Practically speaking, it seems sleep would be better for us in all respects. But no matter how practical this sounds, I know the next time my husband leaves, I'll be up at 3:00 a.m. watching bad re-runs and inventing tasks that just must be done.

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