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A Playlist For The Perpetually Sleepless

By Misty RaePublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 9 min read
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Life is ever-changing, an ever-moving, evolving, twisting, turning journey. In my 5 decades, I changed homes, schools, and jobs. I've changed my clothes, my hair colour, and my mind. Heck, I've even changed husbands.

But one thing hasn't changed. One thing has been with me for as long as I can remember. It was with me as a tiny toddler, exploring the world around her for the very first time. It was with me as an angst-filled, awkward teenager. It stuck with me through night after endless night of single motherhood. And now, in mid-life, hormones raging or waning, or whatever it is they think they're doing, it's still here, my constant, lifelong companion. Insomnia.

My name is Misty and I'm a bad sleeper.

I've always been a bad sleeper. I don't know why. My mind has always lit up as the sun went down. The silence of bedtime crowds my head with a flurry of mental activity. To cope with it, to drown out the noise of my own thoughts, I turned to external noise, music, audiobooks, anything that I can focus my attention on that isn't inside my head.

Perpetually Awake Preschooler:

Little Me

Some of my earliest memories are of me laying in bed trying to sleep. I'd toss and turn, sneak out of bed, play with my toys and rush back when I heard my father's footsteps.

I'd pretend to be sleeping. I'd even snore, "Korrrrr - zeeeeee." That was what snoring sounded like to me. It didn't fool my father and we'd have the same conversation every night:

Him: Why aren't you asleep?

Me: I'm not tired

Him: It's late, close your eyes.

Me: I did, I can't sleep.

Him: Why not?

Me: I'm thinking.

Him: Close your eyes, stop thinking and you'll fall asleep.

Stop thinking? Funny, that little tidbit of advice has been one that's followed my insomnia throughout my life. Who actually does that? Is there seriously a person alive who has successfully stopped thinking? If so, I'd like to meet them.

Anyway, then Daddy would tell me silly stories and sing to me to try to get me to fall asleep. His favourite lullaby was Hush Little Baby:

Sometimes it worked.

Torturous Teenage Nights:

Being a teenager is tough. Worries about school, fitting in, boyfriends, girlfriends, or the lack thereof all while trying to figure who you are and how you fit into this world - it's a lot. Add to that a propensity toward sleeplessness and you have a lot of long nights.

When I was 15, we moved to a different house. Rather than being 2 stories, with the bedrooms upstairs, it was one level. Any hope I had of ever getting any sleep ended with that move.

We were a loud family. I didn't realize how loud until I had to try to sleep two doors away from the living room where my parents watched TV and talked, at full volume.

Often, my dad, a huge boxing fan would be yelling, "Where the ruff- err-eeee!"at whatever match TSN happened to be showing. Not exactly the sounds of silence.

That first summer, I discovered white noise. I didn't know the term. I just knew that when I had my box fan on full-blast, it not only provided cooling comfort; its whirling hum also provided a steady stream of comforting sound to both relax me and block out the noise of the house.

But eventually, summer ends and the bitter chill that is maritime winter takes its place. Not exactly the kind of weather that's conducive to having a fan on. Besides, I wasn't allowed to have it after summer ended. My mother always took it from my room, cleaned it, and put it away until the temperatures trended upward again.

Without the fan, I needed something else to block out both my noisy parents and my even noisier mind. It didn't matter what it was as long as it was steady and somewhat soothing.

I tried the radio. That was fine. Until it wasn't. Usually, the voices of the DJs were strangely suitable to rest, pleasant, even, and filled with endless babble about nothing. Perfect.

Some of the music was good. I could sometimes feel myself drifting off.

But there were negatives and they ended up far outweighing the benefits.

First, the commercials. Uggg! Have you ever noticed that the commercials are always just that little bit louder than the main content? There'd I'd be, finally in that sweet spot, not quite asleep, but almost, and BAM - "The Hilltop Pub, it's the place...," or some other nonsense for local watering holes, restaurants, and furniture stores.

And I was wide awake again. Radio - 1. Sleep - 0.

And of course, not all music played by Fredericton's CIHI AM was supportive of slumber. The station played all the latest hits and let me tell you, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go isn't exactly a restful tune:

But I was a smart kid, even in my sleep-deprived state. So I made a mixed-tape of all my favourite sleepy songs. It took time. It took laser-focused dedication. Young people today have no idea what it's like to sit week after week, beside a portable stereo, one finger on the tape deck's record button waiting for Casey Kasem to count down the latest and greatest hits and to play their favourite songs.

But it wasn't that easy, Casey was a chatty sort and he often yapped over most of the opening bars to the best songs and ruined the recording. One song could take weeks, man, weeks!

This was our Spotify! And yes, I am saying this in a "back in my day, you kids don't know how good you have it," voice. Give me a break, I haven't had a decent night's sleep in 50 years.

By Kyle McLeod on Unsplash

I did create a playlist, but it was short. Here were some of the songs I remember:

Never been a huge fan of Gordon Sumner (aka Sting). He seems a bit arrogant for my taste. But he can sing and this is a perfect song to chill to.

Oh, come on, who didn't want to sleep with George?

Canadian cutie, Corey Hart's cover of Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love is absolutely dreamy, which was, for me, the point.

I'm sure there were other songs, but they don't come to mind right now. If memory serves, I had 10 or 12 songs on the sleep tape. But as anyone of my vintage knows, a tape lasts only so long. Eventually, it starts sticking and jamming and you have to break out the pencil... You either know or you don't.

Time marched on. Years passed. Other people slept. I kept trying.

Mamas Don't Sleep!:

That face!

Nothing ruins your sleep like a baby! Well, actually 3 babies. Feedings, changings, nightmares, there's always something to keep you up.

And wouldn't you know it, I had that child my mother wished on me years before. You know the one.

I hope you have a kid just like you one day. Then you'll see! HA!

And I did. My middle son. His curly locks were lighter than mine and his chubby toddler frame was more cherub-like, but he was me through and through, complete with sleep troubles.

In lulling him to sleep, I also lulled myself. I made a sleepy-time CD (this was the 90s, after all).

I put all my old standards on it but added a few.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. I mean come on! It's hard to get better than this!

I actually had no idea who this guy was until his song Closing Time became kind of a surprise hit in 1992.

I remember my mother admonishing me, telling me I didn't discover him. I never claimed to. I wasn't trying to plant a flag in the guy's ass and claim it as my own, I just discovered a cool Canadian artist, that's it, that's all.

She also pointed out, with a pride I'd not understand for decades, that he was Jewish. She was always telling me who was Jewish, who she thought was Jewish, who looked Jewish, who, by virtue of their surname, sounded Jewish.

Looking back, I suspect she knew what I had to discover through DNA, alongside the African and European, I have a significant amount of Jewish ancestry. She was trying to tell me something without telling me something.

But that's not the point right now. I was turned on to his music. I added it to the CD.

But my son loved another song. I noticed he'd settle and suck his thumb and just listen. It went on the list:

Menopausal and Wide Awake:

My boys are grown. My tastes have changed. Technology has made things so much easier.

I still love my playlists, but they're computerized now. No more pencils, no more cassettes or CDs. And I've added a few things.

Sometimes, I'm not in the mood for lyrics now. I get nostalgic and want to sing along. Nobody wants that. I couldn't carry a tune if you gave me a basket.

Now, I'm more into sounds and audiobooks. Depending on my mood, I might try to snooze by the sounds of the sea:

The problem with that is I still think too much. So, I'll put on an audiobook to shut my thoughts out and substitute those of another.

So, I turn to Stephen Fry. For the uninitiated, he's brilliant. Comedian, actor, author, host, and a pretty bitchin' reader aloud. If you've never heard his reading of George Orwell's Animal Farm or 1984, you are missing out! But don't try to sleep to them, they aren't sleepy stories.

But that's fine, the ever-industrious Mr. Fry, with his smooth voice that makes velvet feel coarse and inhospitable, has a solution:

Seriously, that man could read the damn London phone book, if that's still a thing and I'd listen!

That's what I have now. I'm spoiled for choice! I have music. I have stories. I have noises. The sea, the fan, rain on a roof, rain in the forest. Stephen Fry reading ...well, everything. Christopher Hitchens reading his own works. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata:

Still can't sleep.

The soundtrack to my lack of rest has been , ultimately futile. Daddy couldn't do it. Neither could George, Gordon, Corey, Leonard or Ludwig.

I think I'll go back to the sounds of the sea...let's see how that goes. I'm sleepy, It's going on for 4:00 pm. I can day sleep like a "cham - peen!"

I haven't had a decent night's sleep in at least a week. I don't want to ruin tonight's slumber, but hey, get it while you can...

Hey Leonard, how you doin'? Wanna get some zzzz's?

pop cultureplaylistclassical90s music80s music

About the Creator

Misty Rae

Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!

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Comments (5)

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  • Mariann Carroll4 months ago

    This is so relatable, Brilliant take to the Challenge playlist. Love it 🥰

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Superb sleepless story!!! 💖💖💕

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    Oh, I remember the pencil and cassette, and sitting with the finger on record. lol. Great piece. Love the nostalgia and humour in here.

  • Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I didn't listen to the entire 11+ hours of white noise & ocean waves, nor to the entirety of the story, just enough for a sampling. I wish you the sweetest of dreams, Misty. Excellent playlist. In seminary, my roommate & I would play classical music on his stereo as we were going to sleep. Beethoven's 5th doesn't work so well. Rimsky-Korsakov & Tchaikovsky don't work so well, either. Editorial note: In the second paragraph you have the phrase, "though night after endless night". I'm pretty sure you meant "through". "Often, my dad, a huge boxing fan would be yelling, "Where the ruff- err-eeee!"at" needs a space after the quotation.

  • Nice Article and I must agree Music Downloading is much easier nowadays‼️

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