Sleep: An Over-Determined Problem

When I found myself awake at four in the morning today with my mind active and the feeling of caffeine from sweet tea still coursing through my veins more than ten hours after consumption, I figured that yet another post [1] about my struggles with sleep was in the offing. However, rather than merely complain about not sleeping, I wanted to at least examine why the problem of sleep in my life is so profound, so much so that it is more or less a daily subject of conversation and reflection, even if it (mercifully) does not show up every day on my blog (even if sometimes feels like that to me). In doing so I will talk both about those areas where I contribute to my own sleeplessness, and have some actions to take, and areas where I simply have to deal with my sleep being impacted by that which I have little or no control over.

My first thought about waking up this morning was that if a couple of glasses of iced tea is enough to give me a caffeine rush for about half a day that I must cut out any kind of caffeine after lunch, and even lunch might be a bit risky. I don’t tend to drink caffeine any time other than dinner, since I tend to drink water during the first half of the day (and I never drink coffee or energy drinks in the morning). Drinking any kind of caffeine in the afternoon or evening, though, appears to be setting up my sleep schedule for epic failure, and given that sleep is enough of a struggle on other grounds, it appears that it is simply an unacceptable risk to make sleep more difficult on me by the use of any sort of stimulants, even as sweet as my iced tea, in the course of the afternoon or evening. Having my heart race simply by such chemical means early in the morning long after the tea has been consumed is not a pleasant experience.

Of course, that was not my only thought about sleep. One thing I wonder is the extent to which it is possible for me to sleep well and consistently on my own, unaided. Considering that I have not had consistently good sleep in quite a few years, with the exception of a few days at a time at most in very specific circumstances, my state of sleep is probably at a fairly serious state already. I don’t know what kind of long-term effects it will have, but suffice it to say that I regularly get six hours or less of sleep even when allotting far more time to it. This is true for a variety of reasons, including my own personal makeup and the general stresses of life. A tendency for nightmares and the fact that it is hard to wind down after getting wound up during the night also has made sleep difficult for my entire life, and it seems rather foolish to predict that such matters will be easily solved.

There are some ideas that I have, though, about finding out information about the sleep that I have. For one, I think it might be worthwhile to invest in finding out more about my sleeping patterns, including the length and depth of sleep, so that I can keep statistics on it in a more formal way and deduce if there are any patterns that could be affected to personal behavior that can be tweaked. Anecdotal evidence is nice, but if one wants to know something in depth and be able to make oneself an experimental subject in one’s own sleep studies, one needs a lot of data. And since I have so much data in other areas of life, it would make sense to have it about sleeping and exercise habits so I can tie it to my diet as well. So some way of gathering good sleep data is on a list that includes new glasses and an epi-pen on my list of somewhat urgent health concerns.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons in why I do not sleep well that I have little control over. For example, the same gift of having a mind that thinks quickly and deeply about things is the sort of mind that can very easily keep one so worked up that one cannot rest, especially when one’s sleep is interrupted by being a generally high strung person who tends to find peace of mind a bit elusive. That is something I can definitely work on, although it is often a challenge early in the morning, and easier in the main course of a day. Nevertheless, our time asleep, or near sleep, is particularly vulnerable, and we have to be at least somewhat ready to handle what happens at those most vulnerable times of life, to make sure that we set the tone well for the sort of days that we want to have. Let us hope I can do that better in the future than I have managed so far.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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