I have trouble sleeping. Well, not the act of sleeping but shutting off my activities and going to bed. I think I’ve mentioned this before, on this blog’s previous incarnation (even asked the cat for some advice). Every day I delay my sleeping time, leading to a loop that ends up a few weeks later me sleeping at 8 in the morning. And then I reverse my cycle over a painful period of 3-4 days.
But I think I’ve figured out sleep. After so much of first hand experience with the sleep monster, I think I know pretty well what causes problems, and a few solutions. There’s a saying I could have used here but I just can’t put my finger on it.
All of this is knowledge based on my own experiences, and wherever I say you, I mean me.
Insomnia comes over if you stay up more than an hour after you first feel sleepy. It’s your mind forcing itself into a second wake cycle, but your body still wants its sleep. Essentially your body is too tired to work any longer, and your mind is actively thinking up new shit.
My first bit of advice is to go the fuck to sleep when you feel sleepy. Nothing better than doing that. I sometimes practice regular sleep timings, and for a week or two I manage a strict 12 a.m sleeping schedule. Those days I wake up fresh.
If you’ve lost your way for a few days and want to get back on track, it’s a little difficult sleeping before your new usual time. Drink lots of alcohol, or smoke up. Bound to knock you out at any given time. Be sure not to knock out more than 4 hours before your usual sleep time, because this will trigger a nap, leaving you wide awake a few hours out. That state is so twisted even I’m yet to figure it out.
If you do enter into a state of insomnia, get up, eat a lot of food. Don’t eat carbohydrates or things that will turn into sugar. Meat, eggs, milk are the good stuff; basically heavy foods. Eating cookies is the worst thing you could do at this point, tempting as they might be. Don’t do this every day though, as it’s bound to muck up your digestive system.
Your thoughts also need to be conditioned. Think of vague things. Don’t think of the thing you’ve just been working on. Those are the things that will keep your mind engaged and ruin your sleep. Think of improbable things that you could only dream about (see what I did there?). It’s time to bring up those unholy fantasies (though careful not to take them too far or someone else will wake up).
Never listen to music or read something while on the bed. This is one sure fire way to stay awake. Unless you’re really sleepy, and you’re sleeping at your regular time, music and reading will trick your body into staying awake in that position (unless it’s some vague dreamy music—though I still tend to pay attention). Reading is especially bad—Instapaper being the main culprit here—because when you’re done reading, your mind can’t just switch off. I know this, and have since done my reading while sitting with the lights on, or even standing, and only going to bed when I really mean it.
I regularly can’t fall asleep. I often can’t fall asleep even when I feel tired. Once asleep, I generally sleep through the night just fine. It’s nearly impossible for me to wake up early in the morning. Pulling an all-nighter is surprisingly easy for me. I generally direct my lifestyle to avoid morning commitments.
Lighting. Apparently there’s some warm light cold light shit going on. I read this article by Jason Freedman, which talks about bad light. Apparently, evolution has tuned our body to waking up with bright cold light, and falling asleep to warm dull light. And we need to model our environment accordingly. The first thing I do when I wake up, is walk the fuck outside. I get my sunlight units no matter what time of the day it is. This first of all flushes all the sleep out of me, and second, resets my bio clock to mark this point as the day’s beginning. Now what do we do about night? I’ve switched my cold flourescent tube with one that glows warm. I also use f.lux, which automatically warms my Mac’s display temperature; although I had been using it more because it’s soothing to the eyes. I don’t know whether this works, because I’m too darned stupid to follow a schedule, but it does make a lot of sense.
But the most important thing, is you can’t keep your phone or notebook, or iPad next to you. The motherfucker will ring in a new email, your cunt of a brain will want to check Twitter, and its back to square one. Being woken up just as you’re drifting asleep is the worst thing that could happen, and you’ll inevitably land up with another hour of tossing and turning. The best thing you can do at this point is wake up, do some work, and then reset your mind into going back to bed.
Even with all this knowledge, my sleep problems still remain, as I write this at 7 in the morning. God help me. Oh wait, I forgot, he doesn’t exist. But that’s a topic for a different story.