Thursday, July 23, 2009
Sleep, Or Lack Thereof
For the past several months, I've been waking up in the very early morning, generally between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. It's neither apnea nor one of those gradual things where you slip from slumber to wakefulness. No, this is like being dashed in the face with a glass of water, except there's no water. Unpleasant, irritating, exhausting, frustrating. Luckily, I admire Dale Carnegie--really, I do--so I follow his advice: "If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep."
So I've learned to get up, fix a cup of decaf, get some work done and then return to bed and read something non-taxing for a bit. At times slumber returns but mostly it does not. Yesterday's concerns instantly become today's fears, and today's fears occupy a lot of time and volume. It's a bad cycle that I've been trying to break with only measured success.
Sleep, we know, is commonly defined as the fundamental anabolic process practiced by all life forms, plant and animal. In animals, the sleeping state is distinguished by a minimal degree of consciousness and decreased response to one's surroundings. Sleep is a period of rest for the body and mind, during which will and awareness are in partial or complete abeyance and most bodily functions partially suspended. It has also been described as "a behavioral state marked by a characteristic immobile posture and diminished but readily reversible sensitivity to external stimuli." It fascinated the ancients who gave it Morpheus, a god after whom a nasty drug is named. Hmmm. That doesn't help much...
Sleeplessness, or insomnia, when not related to bodily pain, is caused by stress and anxiety. Anxiety and sleeplessness are causally related in people who remain excessively worried about some coming event or problem. Depression also plays a role, since a depressed person cannot stop worrying and is living in fear. Insomnia sets in and the physical strain on the body weakens the mind and body. And of course there's alcohol consumption... Oh wait, that's one I don't have to worry about since I don't drink. Another Christmas miracle!
A bunch of people I know take various drugs to sleep: Lunesta, Ramelteon, Triazolam, Ambien, Sonata... This is all fine except that some of these are habit-forming (read 'addictive') and the side effects include constipation, dizziness, facial swelling, headaches, prolonged drowsiness, severe allergic reaction, sleep-driving and sleep-eating, blurred vision, and weight gain. In other words, I will become a fat and sleepy constipated somnambulist writer with swollen features and serious allergies. Some of my more cruel friends may say the change would hardly be noticeable, but I think this does not augur well at all. Still, I'm working on it,
Oh, and for those of you who may have read the July 21 post, the speech fast continues; I'm still not talking... Writing doesn't count.