Knowing my frustration is not in vain brings rest, deep rest, to my soul.
Insomnia — the word alone is a 500-pound gorilla with a taunting yellow smile. Honestly, I hate to even say it.
I hate to have the subject on my mind because it messes with my mind. But since you’re reading this article, I don’t have to explain that to you. Only someone who has suffered from endless sleepless hours, tossing and turning only to wind up wide awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. … can understand the frustration.
We’re not alone. The CDC reports that one quarter of the US population complains of not getting enough sleep and that 10 percent experience chronic insomnia. See, there are many of us, and if you’re like me you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to do — avoiding late night screen time and heavy meals, settling down with soothing baths and valerian root tea (this actually helps me sometimes).
Many of us have sought professional advice, tried herbal remedies and sleeping pills that usually work, but often leave us hung over — or worse — addicted.
There is hope. I promise. While I’ve in no way wrestled my taunting gorilla into perfect submission, I have found a way to send him to the corner to sit a while. This plan doesn’t always involve getting more sleep — however, it often does.
Here’s what I do: I get out of bed, go to a quiet place and “offer it up.” I unite my sufferings with Christ’s on the cross, incomparable as they are, in a prayer of redemption for lost souls. I claim every sleepless hour, minute and second I just lost, offering it back to God as a sacrifice for a friend or a relative who has strayed from His flock.
Every once in a while, I even end up feeling a little of the “rejoicing” St. Paul mentions in Colossians 1:24, in which he “rejoices in [his] sufferings for your sake, for [he] fills up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on the cross.”
“Offering it up”: Is that still a thing?
The late powerhouse and founder of EWTN Mother Angelica had much personal experience with redemptive suffering, having survived a painful abdominal illness as a teenager, a spinal injury in adulthood and later in life, a stroke that left her partially paralyzed until her death at 92 in 2016.
She once said: “Suffering in itself does not make us holy. It is only when we unite it, out of love, to the suffering of Christ that it has meaning. Suffering without love is wasted pain.”
So don’t waste even one sleepless second, and don’t make light of the pain of insomnia either.
While it’s not an incurable illness, it’s suffering nonetheless. Turn your frustration around at 3 a.m. by welcoming some time alone with your Savior. Your Bible and rosary are waiting. After you’ve taken a moment to listen to His voice, offer up the past half hour you spent tossing and turning for the salvation of someone you love.
Next, request special graces to get you through the day should this loss of sleep leave you lacking in energy. In my experience, these specific prayers have a power to break the vicious “anxious about getting sleep so I’m not getting sleep” cycle.
Often, I stagger back to bed and drift into a dream. But when I don’t, when I continue to toss and turn, I also continue to “offer it up.”
And knowing my frustration is not in vain, but is actually being received by God as sweet intercession — well that’s a reality that brings rest, deep rest, to my soul.
On dealing with difficult things, teenage edition