The Monkey on my Back

I’ve found it, the thing that’s going to be my greatest hardship relating to the WAND. It’s not aching muscles, thirst, insect bites, sore feet, sweaty feet, blistery feet, or anything that would qualify as enemy number one for a reasonable person.

It’s sleeping on my back.

I am a natural side sleeper. I HATE sleeping on my back. A few years ago, I tried to make the switch because it’s supposed to be the healthiest way to sleep. After many miserable nights, I more or less adjusted, but I never got fully comfortable with it. So I fell back into sleeping on my side, which may not be ideal health-wise or beauty-wise, but feels so heavenly on my memory foam bed.

On the WAND, however, there will be no memory foam. I will be sleeping on the hard ground, with only a relatively thin foam pad as cushioning. If I sleep on my side, my hip bone and arm will not thank me – they will make me regret it. So I’ve decided to switch once again to sleeping on my back, until our journey is over.

Last night I only lasted twenty minutes or so on my back before rolling over to one side, feeling like a failure despite what was genuinely a good faith effort. Trying to fall asleep on my back just feels so awful. I feel like I’m lying in a coffin or on a slab at the morgue, or like I’m about to do the Pilates 100. And what do I do with my arms? When I rest them at my sides, it increases the coffin/morgue sensation. When I put them on my stomach, they annoy me by going up and down with my breathing. The more I tried to relax, the more a panicky feeling welled up inside me. My body, almost in physical pain, cried out to make a quarter turn, and eventually I couldn’t stand it any more.

Will tonight be better? Does anyone out there have tips, or words of sympathy? Although I may seem like a whiner, making a big deal out of something small, even those twenty minutes didn’t feel small at all. But relearning to sleep on my back seems be a necessary ordeal. I simply won’t have space in my pack for a pad thick enough to allow me to sleep on my side night after night. I have no choice but to bite the bullet on this one.



About Gwen

Gwen is a Moorhead-based editor, writer, and musician. She owns Content & Contour, LLC ( and teaches french horn at North Dakota State University. She loves weightlifting, reading novels, spending time with her family and friends, and being a board member of the Moorhead Business Association. View all posts by Gwen

2 responses to “The Monkey on my Back

  • Jack

    I’m a stomach sleeper. I should try to switch too. I’ve been told that if I tie (somehow) tennis balls on my stomach, it will wake me when I roll over, and after a few days, the habit will be broken. A few people have suggested it to me independently of one another. Maybe it will work for side sleeping too.

    BUT, after a day of walking, you’ll be so tired, you’ll be able to fall asleep no matter what. AND, people on their back snore louder than side or stomach sleepers, so if you do mange to sleep, your walkmates may suffocate you while you’re out.

    • Matthew

      Hey Gwen- I’m excited about this adventure! Lack of sleep is no small deal for a trip like this. It will impact how the rest of the day on your feet will go. Look into maybe getting a Thermarest sleeping pad, many models and price ranges to choose from and depending on your load limit. Start sleeping on the floor! Maybe you are already. It’s a good way to get used to it. Bring some Nyquil.

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