Sleep troubles: Countdown to morning

By Tammy Keith Published April 6, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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I never used to have trouble sleeping.

Then I hit 40, and everything went downhill — my eyesight, my knees, my sleeping. Ten years later, it hasn’t improved.

It’s not that I have trouble going to sleep — I’m asleep within 10 minutes of my head hitting my pillow.

But about 4 a.m., boom. Wide awake.

This morning, it was 3. I started calculating how much sleep I’d already had.

“OK, 4 1/2 hours. That’s not enough. I need to go back to sleep,” I told myself.

The problem was, I wasn’t sleepy, and I couldn’t turn off my mind.

I started thinking about all kinds of things. The fun we’d had at my husband’s birthday celebration the night before.

How it was nice to see some friends at the restaurant, like the Milton Davis family. I didn’t know who the young man was with them, until I realized it was Carson, Milton’s grandson. I thought that kid was still 6. How Jan, Carson’s mother, is pretty. Hasn’t changed a bit since I’ve known her.

This is what I’m thinking at 3:25 a.m.

I thought about the man, Maurice, whom I met at the restaurant, and how nice he was, too. I thought he was a bigwig businessman. He had that kind of voice of authority.

He called me over after we ate and asked if my older son was “the son who’s getting married.” I told him yes. He said he faithfully reads my column. What a great guy.

Then, when we left, Maurice was leaving at the same time. He almost backed into us with his truck, and my husband had to honk.

Sorry, Maurice, if you’re reading this. It was just a friendly warning honk.

I started wondering what I would have said to him if he had backed into us — some witty remark.

I started thinking about how we would have had to take my husband’s car to New Orleans on the trip we had planned last week to a conference he had to attend.

That led to thinking about what I was going to pack. It was supposed to rain.

Packing made me think about my son asking the night before why we didn’t let our cat, Ashton, sleep with us.

“They like to sleep in groups,” he said.

I told him it was because I’m actually allergic to cats, anyway, and I don’t want cat hair on our comforter.

From there, I started thinking about collective names of animals. A pride of lions, I thought; a murder of crows.

For some unknown reason, I wondered, “What do you call a group of ocelots?” Why in the world I thought about ocelots I do not know.

Go to sleep, go to sleep, I told myself. I calculated again. OK, I could sleep two more hours. That would be fine.

Or, I could get up and go to work. I could clean off my desk. (This is a common thought for me at 4 a.m., but I have never once acted on it.)

I felt so awake. I considered getting up and looking at my email, but you’re not supposed to get on a computer when you’re trying to sleep.

Finally, I felt myself nodding off. Then a seal barked. Or my husband coughed. We both have been sick, and he had a cough.

I made a mental note to get the cough medicine from our younger son, who probably gave us the colds to begin with.

I thought about how my younger son needed a haircut. I told myself, “He’s 20 years old. He can wear his hair long if he wants to. Don’t say anything about it. He’ll get it cut when he wants to.”

Man, I was tired. It was 4:30 a.m.

If I went to sleep, I thought, I’d have another 1 1/2 hours, and that would help.

I remembered I had a column due. What could I write about? I came up with something.

So, I settled in and fell asleep.

When I got to work today, I looked up ocelots. Scientists have not come up with a collective name for them. Just in case you wake up and wonder.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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