In one of his early journals, the monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the experience of lying in his cell at night wide awake due to his insomnia. In those days monks did not have private rooms. They slept in dormitories where each monk had a “cell”. A cell was little more than a small bed with partitions around it. When I was a young man in the monastery one of the jobs I had was being part of the construction crew assigned to replacing these cells with actual private bedrooms. Yes, believe it or not I once worked in construction. Merton goes on to describe the experience of lying in his cell listening to the snoring of all the monks around him while being able to calculate exactly how much sleep he was losing based on the ringing of the monastery bells. In today’s world individual monks have private rooms and the bells do not ring all night. They do ring at 3:00 AM to awaken the monks for night vigils in the church. Whenever I have stayed at the monastery I usually got up with the monks. The time after these night vigils is my favorite time in the monastic day. However, I digress. Sometimes I think I, too, suffer from insomnia. I actually hate going to bed because I know it will be a struggle to fall asleep. Sometimes I complicate the problem with evening naps and an overactive mind. When I go home after a day’s work I usually feel brain dead and exhausted. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a tough day or an easy one. The only way to not take a nap is to remain continuously busy with chores of some type. If my mind or body is not engaged it’s off to La La Land. Thursday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM to heed nature’s call. I returned to my bed happy that I still had an hour and a half of sleep before my alarm would go off in order to go to work. I tossed and I turned. I started hearing rumbles of thunder and seeing flashes of light as a storm approached. I think I finally fell asleep at 5:59 AM. My alarm went off at 6:00 AM. I was not a happy man. Does anyone else have a problem sleeping at night? Is this a pattern for older people?
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