For most of my 20s I would struggle with bouts of insomnia that would stretch on for months at a time. This was at a time before the modern ideas of smart phones and social media existed, when people still mocked the geeks who had a handheld computer in their pocket. Over time and with the help of some exercises, the sleep problems went away. There would still be the occasional sleepless night depending on various circumstances, but the seemingly endless stretches of consciousness have been largely absent ... until recently.
Based on many of the books and articles I've read on the subject, leading doctors say the reason we sleep is primarily to resolve tiredness. There is a great deal more going on when we're laying unconscious in our beds, of course, but we've yet to fully understand the reason why so many animals all over the world need to dedicate so much time to rest. What I am curious to know is whether common sleep disorders such as insomnia are a physiological or psychological issue. While I tend to lean towards the latter, there's no reason why it couldn't be the former or a little bit of both.
If insomnia is mostly a physiological problem, then there could be some effective remedies created that would give people the restful sleep they need without the grogginess the next morning that generally comes from taking sleeping pills. If it's mostly in our head, though, then there's only so much a chemical cocktail for the mind could do without potentially causing damage.
I often wonder if my needless anxiety1 is what keeps me awake all hours of the night. Could it be a persisting desire for sugar in the form of chocolate or sweet breads? Are phantom memories of dreams the night before2 preventing me from sleep? Do I just overthink this crap and get stuck in endless
while loops that keep me awake?
Knowing me, it's a combination of everything and then some.
Usually around 2:30 to 3:00am I am feeling tired enough to sleep. From then I can get a solid four to five hours of rest before the boy wakes up and starts talking non-stop, vying for attention, and demanding breakfast. The puppy also has a morning routine that must be kept to, otherwise she gets impatient and starts pacing back and forth. One or two nights a week I am fortunate enough to fall asleep before midnight. One or two nights a week I am not fortunate enough to get more than a couple minutes of sleep as I lay awake in my bed, staring at the stars and clouds above as they make their way out of view.
Being tired all the time sucks. It makes a person edgy and combative. Neither of these attributes are very useful in the modern world. I really hope these 20-hour days come to an end soon.
- I know it's needless, yet it persists regardless of how unnecessary it is. There is nothing of consequence in my life to be anxious about, which is remarkable as this has rarely ever been the case historically. ↩
- Disturbing dreams are nothing new. Quite often I get to dream about working — doing my current job — in a very loud environment while people are running around and screaming at me to fix problems they created. So ... just like what I do during the day, but with more noise to really amp up the discomfort. ↩